Friday, July 20, 2007

Albany's Welllington Row - Updates

Wellington Row Developer Building Support

Plan lauded for "remarkable level of preservation" of historic architecture during key meeting in Albany

From Times Union

By Chris Churchill, July 20, 2007

ALBANY -- Preservationists and city officials are cheering the latest plan for the redevelopment of Wellington Row, the forlorn but historically significant string of buildings near the state Capitol.

The new proposal from Columbia Development Cos. -- the Albany firm wanting to build a 14-story office tower on the site -- meets the demands of historic preservationists by mostly retaining four of Wellington Row's five buildings while keeping all of the buildings' facades.

Under the $60 million plan, the buildings on either side of the former Wellington Hotel would be rehabilitated, with retail at ground level and apartments on upper floors.

The Wellington itself would be demolished, but Columbia would rebuild its facade on a new structure that would serve as an entryway to the mammoth, 400,000-square-foot office building.

"Given the circumstances, it's a remarkable level of preservation that Columbia has taken on," said architect William Brandow, a Historic Albany Foundation board member.

Wellington Row has long been an irritant to city officials and downtown boosters, who have watched the prominent site decline into a boarded-up eyesore at the heart of the city center. It has been hard, after all, to argue that downtown is succeeding with a key State Street site in such disrepair.

Columbia raised hopes when it bought the site for $925,000 last November from London-based Sebba Rockaway Ltd. But preservationists quickly objected to a Columbia plan to demolish most of the row and build an office tower immediately behind the historic facades.

Preservationists said the plan reduced the building fronts to window dressing, and they lobbied Columbia to reconsider.

The firm did so, and this week brought its revisions to the city's Historic Resources Commission, which reviews projects in historically significant areas.

"The purpose of the meeting was to make sure we're on the right track," said Columbia's Mike Arcangel, who is overseeing the Wellington Row project. "And it seems to be. It seems we've passed a litmus test."

The proposal has many hurdles to clear. It still needs a host of approvals from the city, and some preservationists are quietly questioning the size of the proposed office building, saying it may overwhelm Wellington Row and other area buildings.

"There's going to be a lot of details to review," said city planner Richard Nicholson. "We're at the big concept stage, which I would say was well received."

City officials are particularly pleased Columbia has added apartments to the project, a move that could further a long-stated goal of having more people living in the city center.

"What's nice about this is that is has all the elements," said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. "You're going to have residential as well as retail and office."

Jennings called Wellington Row critical to downtown redevelopment. "There's no reason for us to have buildings that look like that and have them 100 yards away from a beautiful state Capitol," he said.

While four of the site's buildings will not be demolished, it is unclear how much of their interiors will be saved. Some have decayed beyond repair -- that's especially true of the former Berkshire Hotel at 140 State St. -- while others have elements that may not fit into Columbia's redevelopment plans.

Susan Holland, executive director of the Historic Albany Foundation, said the former Elks Lodge, at 138 State St., has a magnificent ballroom. But that space likely will be lost under Columbia's plan, she said.

Rebuilding the Wellington Hotel facade on a new building is the most unusual component of the Columbia proposal, and preservationists said they were awaiting details of how that segment of the project would proceed.

Arcangel said Columbia would carefully remove the facade, catalog and store its pieces, then rebuild it. Yet it wouldn't be a replica: The "new" facade would be several feet higher, as Columbia wants to increase the building's interior ceiling heights.

Such plans have raised hackles in other cities. In Chicago, for example, preservations objected to a plan that reconstructed the facade of the historic McGraw-Hill Building on a new hotel.

Some have called the increasingly common practice a "facade-ectomy."

But in Albany, preservationists say they acknowledge the state of decay Wellington Row has fallen into, and say they are pleased the developer has agreed to save much of what is significant about the site.

"Given the obstacles," Brandow said, "it's a good preservation project."

Albany's Wellington Row plan detailed

From Times Union

By Ryan Hutchins, July 18, 2007

ALBANY - Representatives of Columbia Development Cos. detailed the Wellington Row project tonight night before the city of Albany's Historic Resource Commission.

The plan includes a new 14-story building of about 409,000 square feet fronted by the facades of four existing buildings.

In the center, the Wellington Hotel would be replaced by an eight-story building that would resemble the historic hotel, with pieces of the original building incorporated into the new facade.

As well as the facades, about 40 to 50 feet of the buildings behind the facade would be kept standing. Some of the space might be rehabilitated for residential or special retail use.
Columbia Development Cos. bought the properties for $925,000 from London-based Sebba Rockaway Ltd. The original plan was to demolish the entire row.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

City of Troy's Inaugural Chowderfest

Clam chowder anyone? Mayor Harry J. Tutunjian joined with local restaurateurs, including Chef Larry Schepici from Tosca Grille to announce the inaugural Troy Chowderfest, set to take place on August 18th, on River Street, Troy.

"In the last few years, we have had some wonderful restaurants open in the City of Troy, and they go along great with the fabulous eateries that are already here," Tutunjian said. "Chef Larry had this idea to start a Chowderfest, and believes it will be a great time and be very successful. It will serve as a wonderful option for people looking to not go to Saratoga."

Prospect Park Family Concert Series

The Friends of Prospect Park is proud to announce its second Family Concert Series. The concert, which are free and open to the public, are held in Troy's Prospect Park. Performances include:
  • Tuesday, July 31, at 7:00 p.m. - The Zucchini Brothers - A favorite among local children, this band attracted over 200 people to Prospect Park last summer. Originally from Saratoga Springs, but now living in a clubhouse in ZucchiniLand, the Zucchini Brothers are well renowned for their work in schools, theaters and festivals throughout the country.
  • Tuesday, August 7, at 7:00 p.m. - The Empire State Youth Percussion Orchestra - The most advanced area high school and middle school percussion players will delight the audience with vibes, electric bass, drum set, and an electric piano. The Hamilton Hill Arts Center Steel Drum Band - The group hails from Schenectady's Hamilton Hill Arts Center. A part of the center's innovative music program, they are the only youth-based steel pan group in this area.
  • Tuesday, August 14, 7:00 p.m. - Andy "The Music Man" Morse - His program is high energy and interactive and he delights young audiences with his lively blend of sing-a-longs, dancing, play-acting and storytelling. A percussive rhythmic guitarist, mandolin player and songwriter, Andy creates an environment in which children feel comfortable and encouraged to participate. His concert in Prospect Park last summer drew 125 people and dozens of dancing children.
  • Tuesday, August 21, at 6:30 (Note early start time) - Either/Orchestra - A ten-piece band from Boston, the jazz ensemble (two trumpets, trombone, three saxophones, piano, acoustic bass, drums, and congas) combines the agility and freedom of a jazz combo, the raw power and subtle coloring of a jazz orchestra and the deep grooves of Afro-Latin music. The concert is co-sponsored by The Sanctuary for Independent Media, a local community arts organization committed to promoting independent artists.
Prospect Park is located on Congress Street (Route 2) in Troy. For more information about the concert series or the Friends of Prospect Park, call 266-1433. All of the concerts are held rain or shine.

If you do head to the concerts, bring a picnic and blanket, or stop for dinner beforehand at one of Troy's great nearby restaurants, including Anselmo's (95 Ferry Street), Minissale's Wine Bar (14th Street), Muza Diner (15th Street), or Fisher's Pizza (Congress Street). Of course, there are many more -- check the sidebar at right for a few more ideas, or stop by the RiverSpark Visitor Center for a business directory with map, and other suggestions from the helpful staff. And if you want to learn a bit more about the historic Mt. Ida neighborhood that surrounds Prospect Park, visit the Historic Mt. Ida web site our BCon students developed this spring (FYI - The site's content is currently being moved from RPI servers to a new internet home, but should be available soon).

Historic Osgood neighborhood showcased - "A Touch of Heaven in the city of Troy"

Kudos and many thanks to our energetic and tireless neighbor, Claire Davis, the "force of nature" behind yesterday's tour of Troy's Osgood neighborhood. For those who may not know, Claire is also the force behind Troy in Bloom, which organizes an army of volunteers every Memorial Day weekend to plant flowers throughout downtown Troy, and is an active volunteer with many other causes. THANKS, CLAIRE, for all you do to make Troy a better place!

From Troy Record

By Robert Cristo; photograph by Tom Killips.

TROY - While spending a sunny Saturday afternoon enjoying a tour through South Troy, partakers were also exposed to the pride residents are taking in what is now considered an up and coming neighborhood.

Throughout the House, Garden and Church Tour organized by resident Claire Davis, participants not only got an opportunity to view architectural treasures of the Osgood Neighborhood but also witnessed a bevy of residents sprucing up their homes and gardens.

"Instead of moving back to New York City or San Francisco, I'm more interested now in living here and being part of an up-and-coming community that's working to save their beautiful architectural history rather than tearing it down," said Carin Upstill, a transplant who now calls Third Street her home.

During the tour of 16 local sites, which included Davis' renovated Roman-style home on Third Street, the Osgood Firehouse and St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church, groups were impressed to see that so many homeowners were out painting their facades, doing home repairs and tidying up around their properties.

One of those property owners, Richard Hennessey, pointed out that economic development interest in South Troy has picked up, evidenced by the sheer number of properties that have been purchased recently.

"There's no doubt in my mind that South Troy is coming back big," said Hennessey, while painting the façade of his Ida Street home. "I see a tremendous amount of development in terms of old homes getting cleaned up.

"I first noticed it about three years ago with the whole Little Italy thing. ... Sometimes it takes only one spark of enthusiasm to create a domino effect," he added.

One of those sparks many local residents point to is Davis, who they dubbed "a force of nature" with boundless energy in advocating for the re-birth of South Troy.

Since moving into her once dilapidated yellow and white trimmed home topped with a V-shaped façade and Roman style columns in 1991, she has transformed it back to its original luster, both inside and out.

"When I bought it, everything had to be redone from the basement up - the foundation and to the roof - but I saw the potential," said Davis. "It had the right look and feel - good bones - but it needed a little tender loving care."

Davis said she organized the tour to showcase the potential of the neighborhood in hopes that more people will continue to invest in a community she considers a jewel. Those who took the tour said they couldn't agree more with Davis' assessment.

"The tour gave me the opportunity to go inside these grand homes I've only got the chance to see from the outside when I walk around the neighborhood," said Upstill, who once lived near Central Park in Manhattan.

"This is were I want to live now. ... It's one of the few areas in the capital region I love just strolling around in, looking at the historic architecture and seeing people hanging out on their stoops. ... Being from New York City that's something I missed," she added.

In addition to Davis's restored 19th Century home, the tour featured many unique features of the neighborhood. "Everyone knows about things like beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows at St. Joseph's Church, but they often don't know about the artifacts and paintings at the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church," said Davis. "That and so many other things make this area a touch of heaven in the city of Troy."

"To me it has a history that just speaks to says take care of me and make me beautiful for the next generation and beyond to appreciate,' said Davis.

Besides her own home, Davis hoped people who went on the tour also took time to appreciate the homes, gardens, churches, restaurants and fire-houses that make up what is known as the Osgood Neighborhood.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Internship Opportunities - Howard Hall Farm

The following internships are available at the Howard Hall Farm Restoration Project:

All of the internships take place on the site of a 220-year-old Federal style home in Athens NY, which serves as a classroom and laboratory. The site offers a unique environment for hands-on learning and offers specific restoration challenges that are distinctive to this region.

(Students will learn and practice techniques passed down
for centuries using historic lime mortar as in days of yore)
Duration: one week
Accepting 3 Interns

Interns will engage in hands-on repointing and stone rebuilding work using traditional methods of approach for masonry restoration. They will learn directly from Reggie Young, the founder of our historic restoration/green technology project, who studied brick and stone pointing with John Speweik of the U.S. Heritage Group of Chicago. No experience is necessary. This internship is designed to give participants a taste of this ancient process and is ideally suited for anyone interested in getting their hands dirty and learning a bit about the history of these ancient techniques.

When applicable, HHF will work with your school to make sure you can receive class credit for your studies here.

Duration: one week
Accepting 3 Interns

Students will learn the benefits and processes involved in using historic lime plaster instead of more modern techniques. By using these ancient, environmentally friendly materials, structures are actually given "room to breathe", and can last much longer than buildings treated with more contemporary methods. Students will be trained by our plaster expert, Sean (also trained in the line of John Speweik's internationally renowned processes) to learn the multifaceted uses of this visually luscious material. No experience is necessary. This internship is designed to give participants a taste of this ancient process and is ideally suited for anyone interested in getting their hands dirty and learning a bit about the history of these ancient techniques.

When applicable, HHF will work with your school to make sure you can receive class credit for your studies here.

For more information, or to apply for an internship, call 518-945-1253
or email:

Just send your name and a sentence or two letting HHF know which internship interests you, and why, and your contact information.

To learn more about HHF, visit:
or find them on Myspace

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Architecture & Preservation in the News

Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut officially opened to the public on June 21. Tickets are pretty much sold out for the forseeable future, but here are a few articles to whet your appetite for this unique site:
A few other recent articles of interest include:
  • The 'Great Love' Of a Collector Of Old Mansions (by Kathryn Matthews, New York Times, July 6, 2007) - about Richard Jenrette and his collection of fantastically restored historic houses, including Edgewater in Barrytown, New York; includes photographs and a multimedia slide show.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Founder's House Is a Self-Help Landmark (by Lisa A. Foderaro, New York Times, July 6, 2007) - about Stepping Stones, the Westchester County home of Bill and Lois Wilson, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al Anon. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and was recently added to New York State's Women's Heritage Trail. Tours are available by appointment, seven days a week. FYI - Stepping Stones is currently seeking an archivist to "continue the work of cataloguing the Wilson's possessions, including the most significant items, now in storage, like the first copy of the Big Book to roll off the press.
  • Restoring the Past to Improve the Future (by Fred A. Bernstein, New York Times, July 1, 2007) - About the rehabilitation of the historic Attucks Theater in Norfolk, Virginia (constructed in 1919, but unused since the 1950s) by the Norfolk Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which has successfuly used New Market Tax Credits to restore the theater and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.

Troy Doings: Midweek Farmers Market, RCHS Members Night, Movies, and Music

Troy's Weekday Farmers Market

Those who have been missing Troy's Wednesday Farmers Market -- located for years along the south side of the Uncle Sam Atrium (Broadway between Third and Fourth) -- will be pleased to know the market has been relocated to Riverfront Park. Although it is much smaller than the Saturday market, there will be 4-5 vendors with produce and other goods. The market will be open from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every Wednesday through October. Be sure to check it out. FYI - for other farmers market days, times, and locations, check the listings in Metroland or the Times Union (online)...I think Watervliet has one in Hudson Shores park on Tuesday and one is located near Hudson Valley Community College on Thursdays.

Rensselaer County Historical Society Members' Night

The Rensselaer County Historical Society will be hosting its next Members' Night on Thursday, July 19th from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at the Carr Building, 57 Second Street, Troy. Members (and their guests/"aspiring" members) are invited to enjoy fine wine, cheese, and informal but informative discussion of the late 1830s Howard-Hart Curtain Quarter Coach, a rare American made vehicle purchased in New York City by William and Rebecca Howard, parents of Betsey Howard Hart. With velvet seats, elaborate decorative trim and hardware, original lanterns and coat of arms on the doors, the Howard-Hart Coach is a stunning example of a high-style town coach. Only four of these coaches are known to survive and you will hear about the rediscovery and acquisition of this important piece of Troy history from Douglas G. Bucher, RCHS Board member and preservation architect and Stacy Pomeroy Draper, RCHS Curator.

The acquisition of the Howard-Hart Coach has provided RCHS with a wonderful opportunity to be able to use the vehicle to interpret both an aspect of family life at the Hart-Cluett House and discuss a wide range of themes related to Rensselaer County history, but it has also presented the organization with a complex preservation challenge. A detailed look at the Carriage House and the role it played in daily life will round out the evening. Refreshments will be served in the Courtyard of the Hart-Cluett House, weather permitting.

Members' Night is but one of the new members' benefits we plan for 2007 to increase the enjoyment of being part of RCHS. We hope to see you there, and we encourage you to bring a friend.

Little Italy's Cinema Under the Stars

Little Italy reports that this summer's first Cinema Under the Stars event was a success. Over 50 people (with their chairs in tow) enjoyed watching a young Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart in Fellini's award winning movie "La Strada." Join Little Italy for the next movie, on Friday July 27th, 8:45 p.m., at the MarketPlace, Hill Street between Liberty and Washington, for Vittorio De Sica's "The Bicycle Thief." In case of rain the event will be held in the Gasholder House on Jefferson and Fifth.

FYI - This event is part of Troy Night Out, held on the last Friday of each month. Plan to spend the evening in Troy, browsing in shops and galleries, dining, listening to music, and watching a movie!

Troy Cinema & Visual Arts Group

The Troy Cinema & Visual Arts Group, which is a grass-roots group working to bring a movie venue back to downtown Troy, will be presenting "The Assassin," produced by local actor and producer, Kevin Craig West on Wednesday, July 18th at 7 p.m. in the Arts Center. For more information, check

Riverfront Park Concert Series

Collar City Live presents their summer concert series in River Front Park. Here is their schedule (in past years, folks have been known to picnic around the pavilion in the park).
  • Sun., July 8, 6PM - Georgie Wonders Big Band
  • Sun., July 15, 6PM - Nightingale
  • Sun., July 22, 6PM - Sonny & Perley “Brazilian Romance”
  • Sun., July 29, 6PM - Taineri – Latin night
  • Sun., Aug. 5, 6PM - The Lustre Kings - Rockabilly
  • Sun., Aug. 12, 6PM - Blind Mice
  • Sun., Aug. 19, 6PM - The Ron Cremisio Band
  • Sun., Aug. 26, 2PM - Take Me To The River Blues Fest (Featuring Danny Kalb)
And for the kids:
  • Wed., July 11, noon - Peter, Paul & George Family Dance
  • Wed., July 18, noon - Sensemaya for kids
  • Wed., July 25, noon - Tom Winslow
  • Wed., Aug. 1, noon - Ivy Vine Players
  • Wed., Aug. 8, noon - Cranberry the Clown
  • Wed., Aug. 15, noon - Tales ‘n& Tunes
  • Wed., Aug. 22, noon - Hamilton Hill Steel Drum Band
Other Music Outdoors

Powers Park Concert Series 2007 (Lansingburgh, 7 p.m.):
  • July 7 - Country Night: North 40 Band
  • July 14 - Billy Joel Tribute: Stormfront
  • July 21 - Neil Diamond Tribute - Al Bruno
  • July 28 - Classic Rock/Funk: Wylder
  • Aug 4 - More Classic Rock/Funk: Vehicle
  • Aug 11 - Spectacular 50s Night - The Greyhounds
  • Aug 18 - Classic Rock/Funk: Groov e syndicate
Rumor also has it that concerts will be held in Prospect Park, but I do not have details.

Osgood House/Garden Tour

And, last but not least, the Osgood Neighborhood of South Troy will be presenting its annual house and garden tour on July 14th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and the tour starts at 324 Third Street.

Of course, there's far more going on than I can include here, so check local newspapers, the city's web site (, and the Washington Park Association and Little Italy newsletters.