Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin muffins and buttermilk biscuits...just waiting for the turkey to be set on the table!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Vault Lights

Last year, I was excited to discovered vault lights in sidewalk along Lancaster Street. Since then, I've been looking to find more of them. Over the weekend, I finally noticed this pair of old cellar doors on Washington Avenue. As with the smaller vault lights, glass prisms are embedded in these metal panels to illuminate whatever dark basement lies below.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Groovy State Symbols

When I was little, I spent a lot of time exploring the then very new Empire State Plaza, inside and out. But it wasn't until I was in my teens that I realized what the point of these rainbow-hued panels near the Plaza's north end represented. Previously, I'd just never noticed the little symbols amid the waves of color...the State flower (rose), the State animal (beaver), the State bird (bluebird), and the State tree (maple).

The almost psychedelic colors have faded a great deal and the symbols are becoming harder to see. And the panels, which are directly behind the Legislative Office Building, look rather dated now. Very 70s, but still rather groovy in their own way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Out of Season

Confused, perhaps, by weather that fluctuates between blissfully mild and just plain cold, yellow flowers struggle to bloom on a blustery day near the old Alfred E. Smith Building.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vintage Sign

A fading tin sign on a weathered old carriage house in a cul-de-sac off of Dove Street. The sign announces the availability of General Electric tubes, along with repair services. I wonder if the tubes inside my old Philco radio came from here....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Urban Scarecrow

This odd little figure caught my eye...or rather, slightly startled me...while walking over Dove Street a few days ago. I didn't have my camera with me, but I just had to come back for a photo.

Made of children's clothing stuffed with leaves, it sits on a doorstep not far from the house where gangster Legs Diamond was shot to death.

I doubt the little fellow would be very effective against the hundreds of crows that have been invading the neighborhood each evening. It's wearing a Giants hoodie; perhaps it's meant to frighten away fans of opposing teams instead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sinister Grafitti

During the summer of 1998, the arrest of antiques thief and serial killer Gary Evans was big news. His escape from a moving police car and death leap from the Troy Menands Bridge was even bigger news.

The Albany Rural Cemetery figured in the sinister story of Evans and his many crimes. He famously stole a massive marble bench from one grave and hid the guns used to commit some of his murders in along the secluded streams (one of which is, rather appropriately named Moordenaerskill or Murderer's Creek).

A year or two after Evans' arrest and suicide, I came across his name scratched into the back of a 1936 monument not too far from one of the streams. This summer, I found it again.

For more on Gary Evans, take a look at his story on Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day

A fife-and-drum band marches down Washington Avenue during the annual parade to honor Albany's veterans.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It snowed yesterday. No, it wasn't the earliest or worst snowstorm I can recall. It was just a day of large, heavy wet flakes that turned into thick slush. And, by today, this was all that was left.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Contrasting Monuments

An elegant white marble columbarium forms the backdrop to a much small monument in Albany Rural Cemetery.

Designed by Marcus Reynolds, the columbarium was patterned after the ancient Roman tombs that lined the Via Appia. The interior features beautiful blue tiles which give its domed ceiling a bright sky-like feel.

The smaller monument in the foreground has eroded badly over the years. The carved face is almost featureless and the inscription is illegible. The main portion of the monument has shifted and seems balanced very precariously on its base.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Three downtown buildings viewed from the Empire State Plaza. From left to right, the Legislative Office Building, the Old State Education Building, and the New York State Capitol.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fire On State Street

The headline that really caught my attention yesterday morning was the one about the fire on State Street. I immediately recognized the building as a part of the old Wellington Row; it's located immediately to the left of the former Wellington Hotel itself.

I remember that a Chinese restaurant occupied the ground floor of the building until at least the mid-1990s. I don't think I ever ate there, but recall passing the window with its faux-rock display very often.

I knew the building appeared to be historic...or, at the very least...quite old. But with its much simpler style, it was overshadowed by the other buildings in the Row like the ornate Elks Club a few doors up and the intriguing Chatham on its left.

A bit of quick research told me that the burned building was built in 1832 and is called the John Taylor Cooper House. It's also one of the oldest buildings on State Street, along with a pair of earlier buildings directly across the street. Born in 1798, Cooper was a wealthy and well-connected attorney.

I took a walk downtown at noon yesterday to see how much damage had been done to the building (which was already gutted by contractors as part of the stabilization of Wellington Row). Fire trucks were just leaving and clean-up crews just arriving when I took the photo above.

Of course, I also wanted to check and see if the stone faces on the adjacent Chatham had been damaged by the fire or hoses. Fortunately, they're just fine because I really like those mysterious faces. Especially the one on the right.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

End of The Season

The leaves are changing color fast and the nights are turning quite chilly. And the lunch trunks are vanishing from Washington Avenue. During the warmer months, they're a noon entire row of them along the West Capitol Park with savory smells and long lines. But it's November now and these three trucks are the last of the season.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Miss Albany Diner

I'm very fond of the Miss Albany Diner, though I don't get there as often as I'd like.

It's a quirky old school prefab "Silk City" diner that was shipped from the Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Company in Paterson, New Jersey to Albany in 1941, complete with counters and stools ready for hungry customers. Erected on the former site of a small lunch cart, it was first called Lil's, then Elaine's, the Firehouse, and the Streetcar.

The diner was finally renamed Miss Albany after being restored and used as a filming location for the 1986 movie Ironweed.

(There was a previous chain of Miss Albany diners in the 1920s. I've found the ghost sign for one on the rear of the building that forms the point where Washington and Central Avenues converge opposite Townsend Park.)

To this day, it remains filled from one end to the other with original details and Art Deco charm. There's a cow's head on the roof, too...and I remember where it came from!

As for the favorite is their really good grilled ham-and-cheese. I like it with an iced coffee on the side.

I took this photo of Miss Albany about six weeks ago and hadn't decided what to do with it. Until today. According to a post on the diner's Facebook page, Miss Albany's owner passed away this morning. I never met Clifford Brown in person, but I always admired him for respecting his diner's history and keeping that intact over the year. My condolences to his family and everyone at the iconic little diner on Broadway.

According to Mr. Brown's wishes, the diner will be "open for business as usual."