Posted by: David Giacalone | August 22, 2020

at the Corner of Clinton & State

It’s temporarily a vacant lot now, but I’ve been wondering how the northeast corner of State and Clinton Streets has changed over time. (above is a Google Maps aerial shot of the location) This posting tells the gist of what I have learned.

CitBk-State-Barrett-001

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . (2019) empty Citizens Bank Bldg., with a For Sale Sign, looking west from Barrett St. . .

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. . demolished, June 30, 2020

. . coming at 501 State St.:

The deserted Citizens Bank branch at the northeast corner of State and Clinton Streets was demolished at the end of June, 2020, to make way for a Redburn Development Partners multi-use complex with 49 apartments. There was a minor kerfuffle in June over whether the unadorned, blank-faced brick bank building was an “architectural blunder” (See Pete DeMola’s Gazette article and Letter to the Editor by Gloria Kishton). That got me wondering what had been replaced by the building designed by the local team of Feibes-Schmitt for Albany Savings Bank, when the ABS branch was erected in 1972, and how folks had reacted to the new bank building at the time.

My curiosity was more than satisfied, thanks to the insightful comments and eye-opening images presented by Carl Johnson at hoxsie.org and by Christopher Patrick Spencer in an MIT masters thesis published at schenectadyhistory.org. See: The Lorraine Block and a little more Stanford history” (April 17, 2019, by Carl Johnson); and Chapter 7 of  Shovel Ready: Razing Hopes, History, and a Sense of Place: Rethinking Schenectady’s Downtown Strategies , (1999, 2001, by Christopher Patrick Spencer).

  • The Johnson and Spencer pieces are so well-done, that I am reluctant to quote them at length, but urge you to click the links above for your own enjoyable edification.

Here are two images of State Street from Barrett to Clinton Streets before Feibes and Schmitt designed the replacement building for Albany Savings Bank in 1972:

 . . LorraineView1

. . above & below: the Lorraine Block prior to 1972  . . 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before the three-story addition was created on the Barrett Street side in 1923, the corner location was graced by the original “Lorraine Block”, which was a source of much civic pride as a symbol of the City’s affluence when built in 1902 by Welton Sanford. Here is a postcard from 1907:

. . and one from 1906 viewed from the east.

For decades, the Lorraine was a premier business address. The Hoxie article by Carl Johnson gives a history of its sales and tenants, including quotes from Larry Hart. Despite a foreclosure in 1940, the sale in 1944 of the Lorraine Block, 505 State Street, made news as the “largest transaction of its kind in Schenectady in many years.” Hoxsie.org also adds details about its original owner, Welton Sanford, and his prominent family.

Tidbits:
  • The Cowhorn Creek had to be diverted to build on that spot, causing problems for other properties.
  • For many years, it was the only structure in the downtown area with two passenger elevators.
  • It was perhaps the highest assessed building of it type for decades
  • At the time of a 1954 sale, tenants included Walker’s Pharmacy, the Lorraine Barber Shop, Debs Clothing Shop, Perfection Shoe Repair, dentists and a podiatrist, and lawyers and insurance and real estate brokers.

Adjacent to the Lorraine Block to the north, had stood the BARCLI Theater (from Barrett and Clinton Streets), which was originally called the New Strand, and had seen many famous artists in person and on film.

Carl Johnson tells of the demise of The Lorraine Block and fears for the future of Schenectady’s downtown:

“[It] went into bankruptcy in 1971 and came to an end in 1972, when the Albany Savings Bank bought the Lorraine Block, the former Illuminating Company building, and the site of the former Strand Theater [BARCLI] to build a branch office. By then, the Lorraine had fallen into the state of shabbiness that prevailed in downtown Schenectady at the time, and it must have seemed that any sort of modern building and new business was a welcome improvement.

“But, wow, what a piece of 1972 junk they built there – a faceless, brick-clad wedge in place of two of the more lovely buildings ever to grace the street. A Gazette editorial lamenting the loss of the Lorraine foresaw what was going to happen “as many old structures are either biting the dust or getting a face-lifting.”

The following collage (click on it to enlarge) includes a pointed text by C. P. Spencer about the replacement of the Lorraine Block by the new Albany Savings Bank, pictured to the right, and local reaction.

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By the way, here’s a look at that corner of Clinton St. (then called White St.) and State Street before the Lorraine Block was constructed at the start of the 20th Century. As mentioned above, Cowhorn Creek had to be diverted to build on that spot, causing problems for other properties:

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If the history of this one corner piques your interest, I recommend spending time with “Shovel Ready: Razing Hopes, History, and a Sense of Place: Rethinking Schenectady’s Downtown Strategies”, (1999, 2001, by Christopher Patrick Spencer). There is a lot there to contemplate as our civic leaders attempt again and again to offer solution that a promised to rejuvenate our Downtown.


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