The Wellington Hotel

wellington bathtub

A bath with a view

The latest stop on Sebastien's Urban Decay Tour of the Capital Regionâ„¢: the soon-to-be-no-longer Wellington Hotel in downtown Albany. From Sebastien's photoset page:

We pay a visit to The Wellington Hotel in Albany. One of Albany's once famous landmark, this slim 10-story building designed by Albert Fuller and completed in 1905 on top of State Street Hill has been empty for more than 20 years. Dust, old paint, graffiti, porn, World War II paintings and playing cards glued to the walls whisper the story of fairly strange inhabitants.

There's a lot more info posted there. B also has a photoset from the building -- it includes a lot of graffiti.

The Wellington is slated to be demolished this year.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Abandoned train in Glenmont
+ The Starlight Music Theatre
+ Central Warehouse

photo: Sebastien B


LOVE these abandoned photo series...Keep them coming! What about the First Prize building?

When I was a student at UAlbany in the early 80's, the school used the Wellington for overflow housing, mainly for transfer students. A few of my friends lived their for a semester or two, thought they didn't have such wide open views of the city back then.

Thanks guys, we enjoy sharing the photos.

@Mark: I'll put that on the TODO. I've seen photos of the place already, it felt like one couldn't get in, but we can try; I drive by every day pretty much. We don't break in building though, so if it's really locked, we will pass :)

@Barold: interesting! Did you guys had access to the roof?

In anybody has suggestions, feel free to send them to me. sebastien dot barre at gmail dot com.

Mark, as has been mentioned, the First Prize center is not exactly "abandoned" per se, or at least not all of it. It... complicates things.

I thought the Wellington's facade was going to be preserved- are they taking the whole thing down?
I walk by this to work everyday, it really makes me sad, you can tell it was once beautiful. The drive-in entrance on the front is so cool- cars used to be able to fit through that!

@ Sebastien: Wonderful! I've been dying to know what the inside looks like forever! How did you get in there? Isn't it dangerous?

Dude. Litt1leMinx beat me to my comment; I thought they were keeping the facade? It'd be a shame to let the whole thing come down and ruin that historic row!

The facades of 132-134, 138 and 140 State Street (including the Berkshire Hotel and the Elks Lodge) will be stabilized and preserved. The facade of the Hotel Wellington, at 136 State Street, will be dismantled, and parts of it may grace the front of a 14-story office building planned to rise behind the old facades.

Curious what the front elevation will look like?

Some more info on the hotel, and pics of the garage.


Incredible. As always.

You might want to take a photo tour through Oakwood cemetary sometime. There are some really incredible sight/vistas there.

Summer: Sebastien and I both accompany the photosets with disclaimers, to answer your safety question in a roundabout way.

@Litt1eMinx, @Kim: see @daleyplanit. The facade is to be moved. At the bottom of the photoset page I list references to articles I found, dating 2003 to 2009 (Metroland, TU,, etc.); they are full of interesting photos and factoids about the Hotel. I need to take a picture of the facade actually. It looked cool in 2006 and 2007

@summer: we "walked" in there. Is it dangerous? It's all very relative. As an amateur photographer, I can see the photo blogs buzzing right now with stomach wrenching pictures taken in Iran. So next to that, us "climbing" a 2 feet tall wall is... well.. you know. On the other hand, please see the DISCLAIMER at the bottom of the photoset page. This structure is not totally sound, and you should not "visit" unprepared. That and the feral cats.

@komradebob: thanks!, and I did take photos of the Oakwood cemetery last year, with my old small Point&Shoot though. The photos are here; follow the tags to find shots of more talented photogs.

I thought they got all the cats out? Uh oh.. :(

Thanks for posting that link with the pictures from Iran. Those were...amazing.

The feral cats aren't the problem; it's the colony of man-eating pigeons you have to watch out for.

As -S says, this isn't a war zone; then again, if you do something stupid, you're going to hurt yourself.

Barold---I was a visiting Fellow (Rockefeller Institute) in the fall of 1982 and my housing was in the Wellington, along with a lot of other students. It was pretty run-down and the steam heat was oppressive. We weren't supposed to cook anything in our rooms, but I had a little water heater to make coffee (and I put a towel against the door in case of smell of fresh coffee got me in trouble). I remember it as a pretty dismal semester.

There is something quite unattractive about sticking historic facades onto a modern building. I hope there is some depth behind the facades to the highrise behind. Can't tell in a straight on elevation.

The Wellington was the Motel6 of it's time. I was in pretty much all of the "grand" (at one time) hotels of Albany, and it could never be compared to the Ten Eyck, Kenmore, or Dewitt Clinton.

The Wellington's lobby had 9' ceilings at best, the rooms all mostly shared a bathroom down the hall, instead of a restaurant, it had a small breakfast cafeteria, and a bar that could fit in your living room.
It never had room service, ever.

When I worked there in the mid 70s, the only cool parts left in the place were the marble subway connecting the two buildings, the old WABY radio studio, and a top floor penthouse belonging to a lawyer who's name escapes me.

What WAS palatial, was The Elks lodge, next door. But after a fire many years ago, the water damage done to the (nothing short of stunning) woodwork, was irrepairable, despite the efforts of many people that had the means to do so.

@Tommy: thanks for the memories. The hotel looked pretty nice in 1937 judging from the postcards: overview, drawing, lounge, dining room, garage. I guess somewhere in the 50's or 60's the hotel was transformed into something a little less lavish :)

Though I somewhat appreciate the more artistic side of Sebastian's photographs, I wish he'd step back a few feet and take shots of a room, a lobby, an elevator. Let us see the building. The litany of macroscopic shots of doorknobs and wires does not provide any story or voice to the building.


Unfortunately, due to various circumstances wider shots were not easy to capture. The space itself is very cramped; the rooms are about 10'x10' (if that), making it not very possible to "step back" in a literal sense. The lighting was poor at best; windows are only on the east side of the building and we visited in the afternoon, when the sun had already passed overhead. This meant shooting at the widest aperture possible, which in my case with an 18-55mm zoom lens also meant the shortest focal length possible. While that does give a wide angle it also means a significant amount of barrel distortion, the effect of which tight shots tends to minimize.

I believe Sebastien was shooting with an f/1.4 50mm prime lens, and his camera is full-frame. So, in his case, he is locked to one focal length and is at the whim of the space he is in when determining what shows up in the frame. Again considering the cramped space, there's not much to be done; I can tell you that for some photos he was literally up against a wall.

Today there is not much of a "lobby" left in the Wellington. I don't presume to speak for Sebastien, but when I shoot these buildings I try to balance documentary with an artistic aesthetic. As all art is subjective, I understand that you may not appreciate what he or I see in these photos. But rest assured I (and I presume he as well) attempt to capture the voice and story of these places; in this case, there is a very strong narrative left by one particular inhabitant by which we were fascinated, and much of our work there was focused on this. Perhaps I failed in this respect -- I don't even pretend to call myself a "photographer" and readily admit that I have much to learn -- and if so I appreciate your criticism and will use it to work harder in the future.

Hi Steve. I answered to your comment Saturday, but as it sometimes happens when I write a comment, I either closed my own window, or there was a glitch in the Matrix, in any case it never made it here :) B addressed most of it. Let me add this...

Point taken Steve, thank you. I don't think I shot any door knobs though, that's B's fetish, mine is paint :) We didn't find the lobby, and the elevators were too dark to shoot. Most of the rooms looked the same (it's a hotel, after all), but I'm pretty sure I shot more than a few rooms and corridors (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), as well as the building exteriors (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

If you check back the photoset page, I collected a few references to articles that might be worth reading. This building has changed a lot; my feeling is that the cards, the graffiti, the weird paint jobs, all of this is definitely part of the hotel's story as this point in time, and that's what we tried to share.

I started taking photos a little more than 2 or 3 years ago with a small Point&Shoot, and since December with a real DSLR camera; this is definitely a work in progress, but I like the journey so far. There are things I was literally not willing to try in the past, like shooting up close, and I guess that's what I'm "exploring" at the moment, successfully or not. At some point I know I will take a step back; playing with the distance to the subject is something I think about a lot.

Anyway, as B pointed out, there are also technicalities we can't much escape, though they make for poor excuses, right? I was actually using a pretty versatile 24-105mm f/4.0, but at its widest (24mm) I still need to be up the wall to capture small hotel rooms. I'm a big guy; leaning against decayed walls is not something I want to do too often, I already have a lot to deal with the rabid pigeons. The windows have been ripped off the walls, leaving huge, bright holes in otherwise relatively dark rooms; large dynamic light range are hard to capture, and require more post-processing work to bring back what your eyes can "see" (like here).

My approach is similar to B, in that I usually keep shots I like (and that often nobody else like), and shots that I think will help put the piece in context if I am to show it online. It's a struggle, in that I want to share my photos and the whole experience, yet I feel like if I want to ever follow an artistic path, I should probably compromise less and just stick to what I like, hoping this is some reflection of my "sensibility". In that respect, presenting 60 photos was too much, and I hope to trim it down to 40 or less. I'm also very much attracted to photojournalist work, which I tend to see at the other end of the artistic spectrum (debatable, I know)...

This is all very verbose but as usual I suggest anybody to pick a camera, start shooting, and see if they share the same tingly feeling :)

Thanks for your good work - really rings nostalgic for me. I worked at the Wellington in the early 80s as a desk clerk and night auditor till the place closed down. So sad to see the collapse and the deterioration from years of neglect. I loved the old place and its history (Cuomo and many other politicos lodged there - Bob Dylan stayed there in the early 60s - the original Albany Patroons CBA basketball team were occupants - their coach was Phil Jackson). Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes fame came thru many times to visit the Dudleys, who resided in the penthouse apartment. Mr. Dudley was a famed architect - I still have some Christmas cards from the Dudleys with his sketches of historic Albany scenes. I always was saddened over the years by the neglect of the old place - I always felt that something great could have been done there. Condos, shopping, offices - its a shame. There was a unique mix of full time residents, SUNY students and transient guests. Made friends with quite a few of the students and the residents. It was a good job in an interesting setting.

I lived in the Hotel Wellington and attended SUNY Albany from 1981-1983. I LOVED it there. The first year, I had one little room, the second year I had two adjoining little rooms, both with my own bathroom. Had great friends there, lots of parties, lots of studying, would catch the bus right out front to go to school or do laundry in the town. Sure do miss those days!

My parents actually stayed there on their way home from their honeymoon in 1961!

I dormed there from 1979-80..had my own bathroom as well....the wiring was hilarious..if too many people blew dry their hair at once the fuse would blow and someone would run out in a towel and turn it back on. I hear Mario and Andrew Cuomo lived there in the hotel itself same time as me. There is a pic of the curved stairway and I remembeer there was a newsstand there on the left at the bottom of the stairs on the way to the annex. Free buses to school. Lots of interesting buildings to look at on aimless walks around the neighborhood.

I too was a SUNY student who lived in the annex as a transfer student in the fall of 1983. My mom tells me know how weird she felt letting me stay there. I distinctly remember that rooms only had phones for incoming calls and that students had to walk down the passage way to call from the phone booths. My room did have a great view of the plaza.

I saw that the annex was imploded this morning.

I lived in the annex as a SUNY student the first year it was used as a dorm. It was terrific! Exciting stuff happened that fall semester in 1975 - a bank robbery and the robber ran down to a diner down the street which was visible from my room and held he held hostages and the FBI was all over the hotel and in our rooms. Another time there was a fire in a print shop next door and there was danger of the place blowing up because of all the chemicals..
We had delicious meals every week night from the restaurant made just for us on the meal plan. We named our experience "The Wellington Experiment" a copy from the Harrad Experiment. That was Fun!

I dormed there as a SUNY student from '81-'83 and I loved it. Unlike dorms on campus I lived alone, had my own bathroom and maid service once a week. The free (big green) buses took me to campus and back to The Well when I had enough of campus and needed some solitude. It was great living downtown. Lots of restaurants, shopping and Washington Park. Eventually I even got a job at the Plaza and Capitol as a tour guide.

I would love to hear from anyone who lived there at that time. I took some photos of downtown that I wouldn't mind sharing. But I didn't take too many of the hotel itself. if it were safe way to share, I'd like to know.

Mr. Moderator, is there a way?

I also had a room at the Wellington hotel when I attended SUNY Albany. I was there 76/77 and 77/78. It was great to have my own room and bathroom. When I was there, I do not recall maid service or meals at the hotel. The first year, I had a meal plan (dinner only) at the Uptown campus. During my senior year, I opted to find/make my own meals.

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