Albany Public Library is happy to have recently joined NY Heritage! Though our collection will grow over time, we have already made some very interesting objects available. We would like to highlight “A Bicentennial of Albany Views: 1963-1967 and 1974-1975 Compared.”
This album of photographs was handmade by Florence L. Powell, a Historical Research Assistant for the City of Albany, in 1976. Urban renewal is a blanket term for programs, largely initiated by the Federal government, which demolished and rebuilt large sections of America’s urban environments. Highways, office buildings, parking structures, and civic centers often replaced historic buildings, low-rise housing, and private businesses. In Albany, the construction of Interstate 787 is the most visible and lasting evidence of urban renewal. The commensurate destruction of older buildings and reshaping of streets is documented in Powell’s work.
In the mid-1960s, Powell was a resident of the Clinton Square neighborhood of Albany, the area where North Pearl Street and Broadway meet Clinton Avenue. By 1963, demolition of buildings had begun as part of the urban renewal projects initiated across America by the federal government. Powell said she felt that, “one of these days there would be those who would want to know what the old area had looked like, and that there should be a permanent record of the area.” With this impetus, she “began in leisure moments and at weekends” to take photographs of the streets and buildings in the Clinton Square neighborhood.
In 1975, Powell covered the same ground with her camera and her dog, a collie named “Blackie,” and took photographs of the same locations- where those locations still existed. The effects of the urban renewal projects in Albany, which changed the character of neighborhoods, are shown in the side-by-side images of Powell’s album. At the urging of future NYS Assemblyman Jack McEneny, Powell assembled the pictures into an album and distributed five copies. One of those albums now resides in Albany Public Library’s Pruyn Collection of Albany History and online at NY Heritage.
For any researcher or layperson seeking to understand the effects of urban renewal on a neighborhood, Powell’s album is a must. And as Powell notes, “Besides being historically interesting, the whole project has been a most pleasant pursuit for me, and of course for my collie, ‘Blackie,’ who was my guard in isolated places making the entire project possible.” We hope your time on Albany Public Library’s NY Heritage Collections is a pursuit as eye-opening as Powell’s.
If you are interested in seeing what this part of Albany looks like today, mark September 13 on your calendar for a walking tour this fall! The Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, Albany City Historian Tony Opalka, and staff from the Pruyn Collection of Albany History at the Albany Public Library worked together to create a walking tour inspired by Powell’s photo album.
Before the walking tour, we’ll examine the dramatic streetscape changes captured by the photographer, Florence L. Powell, a historical research assistant for the city of Albany, and learn about the buildings and entire city blocks demolished in the process. We’ll then go on a 30 minute walk to retrace the footsteps of the photographer, learn about the neighborhood today, and note any new changes that have developed over the last 40 years.
This tour group will meet inside The Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center; 25 Quackenbush Square, Albany, NY 12207 (Corner of Broadway and Clinton Ave.) Please register by calling 427-4303 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Photo Album Walking Tour – The Demolition and Renewal of Albany’s Clinton Square Neighborhood
September 13th (Sat) at 1pm (Rain Date is Sunday September 14th 1pm)
The tour group will meet at The Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center;
25 Quackenbush Square, Albany, NY 12207 (Corner of Broadway and Clinton Ave.)
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