Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Weather Report

It's snowing right now. It started early yesterday afternoon with some of largest, fluffiest flakes I've ever seen. Like feathers, really. By dinner last evening, my backyard was buried and my Pomeranian was loving it. It changed to a finer, steadier snowfall overnight...and it's still coming down. The skylight above my desk is completely covered and it's making my room quite dark this morning.

Of course, two days ago, I was sitting in the park behind City Hall and admiring those fuzzy white buds on the trees...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Architectural Detail

This bit of Gothic style over the door of a vacant building at the eastern end of the decaying Wellington Row always catches my eye. I can't remember what this building housed when I was little, though I've passed it at least once a week since childhood and recall other businesses along this street very well, such as the Chinese restaurant that used to be a door or two up from here.

I love the stylized letters, the heraldic-style shields, and the fine details on the columns.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Closed For The Winter

Or so the sign says. But I walked across yesterday...and the day before. Of course, the sign is a needed warning. The marble platform of the Empire State Plaza can be quite slippery when covered with winter's snow and ice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Beaverkill - Part Five

Since I've been exploring the gully in Lincoln Park with its hidden (and, sadly, malodorous) remnant of the Buttermilk Falls, I've regretted that there are almost no images of the Beaverkill in its original state.

There are hundred-year old postcards showing the area after it became Beaver Park and the Beaverkill does appear in an 18th-century painting of Abraham Wendell. In the latter, the falls are obscured behind one of Wendell's mills. But that painting does show the pool at the base of the falls and gives at least an inkling of the original height of the cliffs around the falls.

So, I have to rely on imagination to picture this place as it looked two or three centuries ago with the unrestrained falls tumbling and foaming through the stone pass.

On a recent venture into the gully before the recent snows, I was pleasantly surprised to find a miniature waterfall of sorts. Not an actual waterfall, but a small frozen cascade where groundwater had forced its way through a weak point in the shale.

For the previous entries on the Beaverkill, see the links below.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Winter In The Beaverkill

Friday, February 19, 2010

From Maiden Lane to Corning Place

The little stretch of street running up from the Crown Plaza Hotel, past the imposing bulk of the Masonic Temple, and along the south side of City Hall is now called Corning Place as a tribute to the late Mayor Erastus Corning who is also memorialized in a tiny park, a riverfront preserve, and a soaring tower.

Previously, this was part of Maiden Lane. The Lane is one of Albany's older streets, being one of the originals inside the 17th-century stockade. Today, it runs from the modern Corning Preserve uphill, through what is now the Crown Plaza, and alongside City Hall to Eagle Street.

Parts of lower Maiden Lane - below North Pearl - are narrow, paved with stone, and still populated with small businesses, mostly eateries.

Years ago, the whole of Maiden Lane was a mix of businesses and residences. This lovely brick building with its old-fashioned storefront now housing some sort of office stands opposite Corning Park and gives a hint of what the Lane might have looked like in the past.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coffee In A Cardboard Cup

"The trouble with the helter-skelter life we lead is coffee in a cardboard cup. The trouble, the psychologists have all agreed, is coffee in a cardboard cup...

At least that's how the song goes. I actually love my coffee to go in cardboard cups or my travel tumbler...and I love this cup.

I'm not sure what business it came from, but I spotted it on State Street just across from the old Wellington Row and the design really clicked with me. I like the stylized lady sipping coffee (from a real china cup, too) with elegant curls of steam forming a heart.

I'll take mine with half-and-half and two sugars, please!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ladies Entrance

I like this sign. It's shabby, rusty, and points to a narrow alley next to a bar called The Library Lounge. Its lights are long gone, with only holes marking where the neon tubes would've been attached. Still, it had a certain seedy retro charm to it.

The sign clearly predates the current bar, but I don't know what used to be here.

It's also a bit similar to a sign in working condition on the South End Tavern in Troy which once used to distinguish the entrance to the restaurant from the one to the less-ladylike bar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crow Feathers

Albany has a problem with crows. There's thousands of them. For a time, they were roosting en masse just off New Scotland Avenue near the Albany Law School. Attempts at crow "dispersal" - scaring them away with noises and lights, etc. - haven't made much of an impact. The crows have simply found new places to roost.

I've seen quite a few more crows in the Center Square since the most recent round of dispersal efforts. In the evening, I see hundreds of them flying and cawing over my house and, for the first time, there's crow droppings in my backyard.

These crow feathers were photographed in the Beaverkill Ravine in Lincoln Park.

Crows are said to be very intelligent birds. Also, they are capable of differentiating human faces, have good memories...and hold grudges. I don't dislike them. In fact, they're handsome birds. But in such great numbers, they're rather scary.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Summer Buff

A couple of weeks ago - before I spotted the Catskill brick - another brick caught my eye on a facade near the Burger King on Central Avenue. I was waiting for my partner-in-crime to finish a phone call and noticed words stamped on the ends of some of the pale yellow bricks.

On a cold winter day, the phrase SUMMER BUFF seemed a little ironic.

It refers, of course, to the color of the bricks which are also stamped with the manufacturer's name, Hanley. Hanley bricks were used in the construction of the iconic Chrysler Building, as well as the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China, also in Manhattan. The company, based in Summerville, PA was founded in 1910 and acquired by Glen-Gary Brick in the mid-1980s.

The Majestic Receiver

I think this is one of the cutest things ever. It's a small cast iron receptacle set in the wall next to the door of an old house near Albany Law School. It's not the first time I've seen one, just the first time I've seen one up close.

This ad in a 1920 issue of Architectural Record has a lengthy description of these "silent, automatic servants."

I don't get many packages and I don't get my milk delivered (though the local Meadow Brook Dairy still sells milk this way and it's well worth it). But, still, I want one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Not Quite Spring it whatever catchy or silly name you want, there's been a lot of snow this winter.

Except here, it seems. I know my friends from NYC to the Carolinas have gotten a LOT more of "the white stuff" than usual. Their Facebook and Twitter posts have been full of weather commentary.

But Albany has had far less snow than usual. We've only had to shovel our front sidewalk twice this year. All these big storms just miss us or leave only traces.

And, yesterday, in Washington Park, I found buds on some of the trees.

Of course, this being the Northeast, winter isn't over yet. I can remember some huge snowfalls as late as April. It's not quite spring.

Seeing Stars

I was on my way to the Concourse of the Empire State Plaza yesterday afternoon when a little glimmer caught my eye. Lying on the low crumbling stone wall along Madison Avenue was a cheap silver-colored plastic badge...the sort that kids play sheriff with.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Chesterlee

I rather like buildings with names. Aside from the obvious ones like hotels and large public buildings, it just seems both a little elegant and a little quaint to come across a building with a name. Like this one - The Chesterlee - a small apartment building at the corner of Dove and Chestnut Streets.

The name itself sounds just a bit whimsical and I love the style of the lettering on the plaques.

(I'm acquainted with a man who lives here. He makes figurines out of duct tape...they're a clever bit of folk art and have been displayed around town, most notably twice in the window at the Daily Grind on Lark Street.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Catskill Brick

On Monday, my partner-in-crime and I had to drop off his friend at the Double Happiness Chinatown bus stop. While we waited for his NYC-bound coach, I tried unsuccessfully to photograph a small stained glass window on a nearby building. Unfortunately, the light was wrong and tree branches were in my way.

And then this brick embedded in the grimy, rock-salted encrusted, cigarette-littered sidewalk caught my eye. It's not the first time I've noticed bricks stamped with the names of their fact, there's some pale yellow bricks further up the Avenue that need to have their picture taken, too.

The town of Catskill...not to mention much of the Hudson Valley...has long been a center of brick manufacturing. A bit of quick research at a brick collecting web site (yes, people do collect bricks) shows about a dozen such companies. I believe this one came from the Catskill Vitrified Paving Brick Company.

There's a stack of old bricks in my garage. I'm just a little tempted to go out and see if they have any interesting markings. But it's snowing and I don't feel like venturing off the back porch.

Friday, February 5, 2010


This photo of the Wellington Row on State Street was taken in the spring, shortly after I began this blog. In the nine or ten months since it was taken, the scene has changed as workers spent the summer, fall, and winter dismantling these deteriorating, but historically and architecturally significant buildings from the inside out.

Of the two buildings shown above, only the facade of the lower floors remains on the Wellington Hotel (left) and the stabilized facade of the Elks Lodge (right). The building to the right of the Elks with its distinctive metal bay windows is also now just a stabilized facade.

For previous posts about the demolition along Wellington Row, see Down To The Bones and Almost Gone.