Plan for the Capital City; What Might Have Been

In June of 2014, All Over Albany, expanded upon a tweet we had about a defunct plan for the city of Albany that was unveiled in 1963. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Empire State Plaza’s cornerstone ceremony, the New York State Museum recently put a large scale model of the city on display in their main lobby. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s the same one devised from the Albany: Plan for the Capital City commission report. Below is the map of the commission’s grand plan of Albany by 1980.Albany Plan for the Capital City Map

With a quick glance you’ll notice much of downtown Albany along with the Arbor Hill and Center Square neighborhoods would be razed in place of 1960s era buildings. Most of this plan was never realized, and fifty years later it appears that the city dodged a deadly bullet. While the Empire State Plaza gutted 98 acres of neighborhood in the downtown area, it looks like child’s play compared to what was proposed.

Below is a series of pictures of the scaled model of the city’s plan. The gray colored buildings are already in the Albany landscape while the white ones would’ve been new construction. That’s a lot of white. A few things didn’t translate from the plan to the model due to constantly changing ideas. For instance, in the map the South Swan Building is no where to be found but in its place is a series of curved apartment buildings. Speaking of housing, Sheridan Hollow is completely devoid of any housing and is replaced with what appears to be a park.

If you haven’t had a chance to get down to the New York State Museum to see it, it’s definitely worth the trip. You could easily spend 20 minutes on this model alone deciphering what survived and what could have been. It’s also enormous. The pictures don’t do justice to the size of the model. The exhibit is on display through January 17, 2016 at the New York State Museum.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 01Notice some of Center Square and most of the Lincoln Park neighborhoods have been wiped out with apartment buildings.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 02Running between the VA Hospital and Hackett Middle School was the proposed Washington Park Arterial. That never materialized either.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 03
Albany Scale Model circa 1963 04Much of downtown Albany was wiped clean. A slew of hotels and office buildings would’ve popped up all along Broadway and State Street. This is also how the Dunn Memorial Bridge would have looked if it was completed to its original potential.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 05A view of downtown from North Albany

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 06This was the proposed Convention Center on lower Hudson Ave, around the spot of the Van Ostrande-Ratliff House. Albany’s oldest building would have gone down with the ship.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 07Here’s Sheridan Hollow, completely lacking any residential, but the Hawk Street Viaduct survives, and even has a new companion; “The New Eagle Street Viaduct.” In the foreground are footbridges to the Creative Arts Center and marina.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 08The Riverfront Interstate, or as we know it now, I-787. Named for being in front of the river, AKA why everyone hates it.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 09The view of Albany from the area around the Patroon Island Bridge. Even the planners knew they couldn’t get rid of that monstrosity of a cold storage building. It still stands, along with the Livingston Ave Bridge.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 10
Albany Scale Model circa 1963 11
Albany Scale Model circa 1963 12Notice the D&H Plaza? It’s been chopped in half and Hudson Ave would’ve extended right to the D&H Administration Building.

Albany Scale Model circa 1963 13
Albany Scale Model circa 1963 14