Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day Trip to Albany

Yesterday, Elizabeth and I took a day trip to Albany, the capital of New York. We haven't been there in ages, so we decided it would be a nice place to explore on a nice sunny day. They have an incredibly beautiful State Capitol building. charming housing stock, and a fascinating history. We started in downtown to examine the city's civic buildings and skyscrapers, all top-notch. We more or less had the entire district to ourselves - we saw maybe 2 or 3 people over the course of the first hour. We talked to a nicely-dressed older gentleman who has lived in Albany since 1954 and he said it's always like this; empty. Either way, we were very impressed with the architecture, public spaces, walkability, and surprises around every corner. We took a quick tour of the Albany Institute of History and Art to learn some more about how the city, it's history, culture and to also see some mummies.

After a quick stroll through one of the city's many urban parks, we made our way up to Lark Street. There were a handful of people walking around up this way. We stopped at Crisan Bakery & Edible Art Gallery for some tea and pastries - the cafe had a clean modern interior with some touches of Romanian folk art. After that, we walked a few miles up and down the residential streets of that district. I must say, this city has some of the most beautiful, vivid, historic housing stock out of any Northeast city I've been too, especially for it's small population. Endless blocks of lovely rowhouses. Most of the buildings are the same turn of the century townhouses you'd find in NYC - brownstone, stoops and elegant cornices galore!

We also stopped in Troy, a neighboring city. From the highway, the city looks like your ordinary run-down industrial city, but once you get downtown it's a completely different story. I was completely blown away with the townhouses that surrounded Washington Park. There are tons of eclectic buildings throughout the historic district. Just ask the New York Times, they claim that Troy has "one of the most perfectly preserved 19th-century downtowns in the US" - and to that, from what I've seen, I strongly agree. Although, we saw many vacant storefronts, it seems that many new businesses were opening up. Similar to Albany, we only saw a handful of people walking around the city. Where was everyone on this sunny Saturday afternoon? Hopefully next time we visit, we'll see more life on the streets.


Elizabeth said...

I just checked out the info about the central historic district of downtown Troy on wiki-the architectural styles are exquisite! My fav is gothic revival, the ones on 2nd street :) I can't wait to visit again!

Anonymous said...

Never been, I will have to check these places out next time I'm out that way.

Rob said...

those are some nice stoops right there!

Anonymous said...

I love Troy. The architecture--all of those cast iron facades--is amazing. Albany is fab too, but when we have visited there we have noticed a lack of people on the streets, which is odd. There's a nifty arts org (grand street community arts, that is in Albany and in the midst of renovating an old church. Apparently the city let them use the building as is (without heating) for 3 seasons last year, and now they are able to undergo the renovation. I like that adaptive-re-use flexibility (however you would correctly phrase that idea!) where the city is willing to work with organizations and get these abandoned buildings up and running again.