Monday, March 29, 2010

The Old Mission

This 19th-century building stands across Hudson Avenue from the Post Office and just around the corner from the Times Union Center (sometimes, I almost still call it the Knickerbocker Arena).

For a long time, 50 Hudson Avenue housed the Capital City Rescue Mission, one of the area's leading homeless shelters. The Mission has long since moved to a more modern facility on South Pearl Street.

Before becoming the City Mission in the 1950s, this building was home to a succession of seedy establishments including a Chinese laundry, a grocery store, an opium den, a brothel, and a tavern patronized by notorious gangster Legs Diamond during Prohibition.

In 1987, a cache of morphine vials (labeled morfina in Spanish) was found packed into a suitcase wrapped in a burlap potato sack and stashed in a high crawlspace here. The brown leather suitcase, filled with wax-sealed amber vials was discovered above the third floor during roof repairs. Authorities were able to date the find by newspapers concealing the vials...the drugs were tucked away, probably by a dealer, in 1921. Just who owned the illicit bottles and why he (or she) never returned for the suitcase is just another mystery...

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