Friday, June 01, 2012

Still going...

I hope I'm not boring you with my vacation photos. At least you don't have to sit in my living room and watch a slide show. And yes, I've done that. That's one of the nice things about the blog: I can share my photos and people can look or not, comment or not, spend as much or as little time as they like. Or not.

The Empire State Plaza, looking south with the capitol at my back.

For me it's a little like recording events in a journal. I can look back on what I did and not have to wonder if my memory is fuzzy (which it is). The pictures provide a record of what we did and when. Of course, not everything is in these pictures, but they help jog the memory just the same.

The Egg, home to two beautiful theaters. I wish I could have gone inside to take photos.

Long-time readers will recognize these photos of the Empire State Plaza. It was the brainchild of then- governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, who, as the story goes, was embarrassed by the capital city when he hosted the visit of then-Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands in the 1950s. He ordered that the decaying slums south of the capitol be demolished and replaced by a gleaming, modern complex of state offices and public spaces.

Corning Tower, the tallest building in New York State outside of New York City.

Building this was a bold move. The architectural style contrasts with everything around it. It's big. In your face. Winter winds make the outdoor plaza unusable six months of the year; there's a large underground concourse the length of the plaza that provides access to all the buildings and the parking garages. The concourse includes banks, restaurants, and other services in addition to a substantial collection of modern art paintings and sculptures.

Corning Tower on the left, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the center, trees on the right.

Many people bemoan the loss of the old building stock that was demolished to make way for the plaza, as well as the displacement of the thousands of people living there at the time. But the reality is that the neighborhood was suffering blight as were many urban neighborhoods of that era. Suburbanization and "white flight" left the poorer residents to fend for themselves in a decaying neighborhood with dwindling services.

A glimpse of the imposing Cultural Education Center, home to the New York State Museum.

Right or wrong, the politics and the "urban renewal" movement of the time came together to remake this section of Albany. It has not been wildly successful, and the ten-year construction turmoil did as much to destroy downtown business as suburbanization did. But there is life downtown, and every time I go back I see more evidence of it. On this trip I saw a new condominium project under construction in the old theater district, right next to a brand new hotel building. And more and more of the city's old townhouses are being restored. That's a good thing.


  1. At least it remains impressive looking (in photos anyway, which don't always reflect the reality). Some of these grand schemes don't stand the test of time visually.

  2. Those are pretty impressive buildings.

  3. Wish we could have gone up in that tower. Albany's beauty was a surprise to me-the combination of the old with the new works well.

  4. Walt, my first look at this reminded me of the Worlds Fair, for some reason. Did you go to the NYC one in 1964? My parents took my sisters and me, and also went for a day by themselves (we lived in northern NJ). Mostly, I remember that it was super hot, and we dangled our feet in the pool of a fountain, and I remember that there were big dinosaurs that moved. I think we saw the futuristic stuff in the GE exhibit, too. But, these buildings remind me of it, too.

  5. Oh, and p.s.: Happy other anniversary!

  6. Walt, when you sign a lease together, it's serious. Congratulations on taking that first big step 29 years ago.

  7. The same is true in many cities in the USA, including Seattle & Portland.

    Congrats, again, on your recent nuptials. What a handsome couple you make.

  8. It reminds me of Neimeyer's Brasilia design. I like the look and layout of the buildings, BUT I think it would have been more successful at the edge of the city.

    Even though the neighborhood it replaced had declined, the same was true of Society Hill in Philadelphia and the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Both of these are now gentrified and are wonderful pedestrian areas with lovely homes.

  9. I have never seen the Egg. Your photo with the dramatic storm clouds behind it is majestic!

  10. You've provided me with a whole new attitude towards Albany, Walt. I never knew it had these buildings or the beautiful churches.

    It might be interesting to hear the back story about Beatrix. Does anyone know it?

    Mary in Oregon

  11. Next time you're in Albany, go see the train station. I believe it's been quite spiffed up in recent years, and the style puts it in the general period of the Capitol, although not as grand.

  12. susan, so true. Although I think, while this one does have its problems, overall I think it has stood up well. I'd better hope that, the place is almost as old as me! LOL

    morningaj, I grew up while they were being built. They impressed me then and still do.

    evelyn, I know! We were 5 minutes too late! Ken and I went up the following week and took some photos... stay tuned!

    judy, no, I didn't see the fair. It would have been great!

    carolyn, thanks!

    stephen, thank you, kind sir.

    diogenes, from what I've read, Brasilia was one of the places Rockefeller had in mind when he sketched out the idea for the plaza. I understand about the neighborhood, but thankfully there is still plenty of the old city left. Unfortunately, Albany has neither the population nor the economy of a Philadelphia or a Baltimore--both wonderful cities in my opinion. I love the old northeastern cities.

    mitch, I used to be an usher at one of the theaters inside. It's spectacular.

    mary, the only thing I know is that she's now queen of The Netherlands.

    emm, I've been inside Union Station since its "renovation" in the 1980s. I don't particularly like what was done on the inside, but at least the exterior has been preserved.


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