The University Club of Albany has received notice from the National Park Service that it has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States’ official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The designation took effect on May 11. (http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/listings/20110520.htm)
To celebrate, the Club is reviving a tradition from Albany’s past.
On Monday, June 13, the University Club will host A Pinkster Day Celebration from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., honoring Albany’s rich history with readings from scholarly and popular publications documenting the people and places of New York’s capital city. The event will feature a cocktail reception with light fare and open bar as well as celebrity readers.
Readings and readers for A Pinkster Day Celebration were selected to illustrate the long arc of Albany’s history, and the evening’s program will include excerpts from:
- Rum Punch and Cultural Revolution written and read by Justin DiVirgilio; The Northern Star & Freemen’s Advocate published by Stephen Myers, read by Paul Stewart;
- Southern Life, Northern City written and read by Jennifer Lemak;
- Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma written and read by Paul Grondahl;
- Thirty Years of Smoke, Heat and Hell written by Warren Abriel, read by Executive Deputy Chief Warren Abriel, Jr. of the Albany Fire Department, who was elected President of the University Club’s board of directors on May 20; and
- Six and Eleven written and read by Ed Dague.
Since 1901 the University Club has occupied only two clubhouses (with temporary use of the Fort Orange Club and the former Albany Institute building on State Street while various construction projects occurred). The first location was at 99 Washington Avenue roughly across the street from the current Fort Orange Club from 1901 to 1907.
In 1907 the club purchased the Victorian-era Queen Anne style home of the late George Amsdell (1825-1906), a local brewer and proprietor of the Amsdell Brewing Company on Lancaster and Jay Streets, the largest brewery in the area at the time. Located at the corner of Washington Avenue and Dove Street, the house was fully renovated in 1914 when the Club added a modern extension off the rear to house a restaurant and additional sleeping rooms.
Less than a decade later, in November of 1923, a fire resulted in the demolition of the Amsdell home. The present clubhouse was constructed in 1924-25 to the design of Albert Fuller & William Robinson.
The University Club is one of the four component buildings of one of Albany’s most architecturally compatible and imposing intersections. The red brick building in the Colonial Revival style was the last major commission Fuller, a prolific Albany architect. The main entrance to the Club, on Dove Street, features an entry porch with 4 sets of paired columns surmounted by an architrave, a cornice, and a decorative iron balustrade. The main interior spaces on the first floor are large, formal and elegant, and largely unchanged from the date of construction.
“This is a tremendous distinction for the University Club, and recognizes our important role in Albany’s history,” said Colleen Ryan, elected Vice President of the Club’s board of directors on May 20. “We are delighted that our clubhouse will take its place on the National Register, a list that includes Albany City Hall, Cherry Hill, the Ten Broeck Mansion, and our neighbors the Harmanus Bleecker Library and Albany Institute of History and Art.”
The nomination was prepared by Kimberly Konrad Alvarez of Landmark Consulting in Albany, and was recommended for National Register listing on March 9 by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
The celebration of Pinkster Day was outlawed by Albany Common Council on April 28, 1811, with a resolution that read in part, “No person shall erect any tent, booth or stall within the limits of this city, for the purpose of vending any spirituous liquors, beer, mead or cider, or any kind of meat, fish cakes or fruit, on the days commonly called Pinxter...” Club members requested that the Common Council repeal the ban, and the prohibition was lifted on May 16, 2011.
The University Club was founded by a distinguished group of prominent citizens of the Albany area in order to “establish and maintain assembly rooms, promote social activities among the members and cultivate and maintain university spirit in the City of Albany.” One hundred and ten years later, this tradition endures. The University Club continues to attract the best and brightest from all walks of life and to offer services and facilities that respond to the current social and business needs of a diverse and distinctive membership. For more information, visit www.universityclubalbany.com .