Al-Tro Park: the Capital Region getaway in Menands

al-tro park street scene

Al-Tro Park: "Pleasure Island" in Menands.

By Carl Johnson

A century ago, Albanians looking for summertime fun didn't get in the car and drive for hours to a Six Flags or a water-park.

They got on board a trolley car or steamship and headed to Menands to find the finest in 19th-century entertainment.

For a while, the little sliver of land between the Hudson River and the Erie Canal was known as "Pleasure Island," then "Dreamland," then "Lagoon Island Park." But it is best remembered under its least romantic moniker: "Al-Tro Park."

roller_coaster_gif-1.jpg

Al-Tro Park, opened to great fanfare around Memorial Day, 1907. With an investment of $100,000 (say, $1.8 million in today's dollars), the park manager declared that his park would eclipse Coney Island. A board walk and colonnade with thousands of dazzling electric lights stretched the length of the "island." An amphitheater seating 4000 patrons was said to be one of the largest in the state, and it featured the 40-piece Banda Roma orchestra each afternoon and evening.

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The dance hall (every resort of the day had one) had a floor of white maple, and the Troy Record promised "an orchestra of several pieces will be in attendance regularly and the best order will prevail." There was also a roller skating rink, a roller coaster, "flying airships" and other amusement park rides, a pony racing track, a miniature railway, and a full complement of acrobat and monkey acts. The park even inspired a "March and Two-Step" whose sheet music, "Dedicated to Manager Rosen," has long outlived the park itself.

Alto Park Sheet Music.jpg

Folks would get to Al-Tro Park via trolley to Menands, or by steamboat from either Albany or Troy. The swells would ride their carriages up Broadway and down Garbarance Lane (now Simmons Lane) and across the canal.

Al-Tro only lasted into the twenties, when Mid-City Park was built on Broadway in Menands. A far less grand establishment it still had a roller coaster, roller skating rink, merry-go-ground, and a swimming pool, and was next to Hawkins Stadium, home of the Albany Senators. After the Senators folded in 1959, the park and stadium were done. Today the former amusement park is home to the Mid-City Shopping Center and the State Workers' Compensation Board -- where it doesn't look like anyone's having much fun at all.

The only remaining evidence of Al-Tro Park is a sign along the bike path, and a few rare postcards collected by Colonie historian Kevin Franklin and housed at the Town of Colonie website.


photos: Thanks to Kevin Franklin and the Town of Colonie

Find It

What was Al-Tro Park
100 Broadway
Menands, NY 12204

Comments

File under: Things Albany Needs

Al-Tro park was named for Albany-Troy. Had its own police force of 15 uniformed officers. A boardwalk extended the entire length of the "island". P.S. Coney Island is coming back - lots going on there.

Another great article. My dad used to tell me about this place and the Mid-City park...

Thank you so much for writing about this! I've heard bits and pieces about some place in Menands being the hip spot way back when, but other than that, not much else. I'm so glad to have a little gap of history filled in!!

Fascinating stuff. Thanks AOA!

Awesome. I'm glad somebody wrote this up. I did some research on Al-Tro Island Park a few years ago, but some of these photos are new to me. I love the stick built roller coaster. It's hard to believe all this stuff existed when there's just absolutely nothing there now.

Also, I was pretty sure the State Workers' Compensation Board used to be a skating rink. The huge arch over it looks so out of place.

The Al-Tro Park was situated on the west bank of the Hudson River roughly behind what is now the Albany Felt Company on the Menands/Albany City line. The map on this web page shows Al-Tro to be where the NYS workers Compensation building is on the West side of Broadway across from present day Simmons Lane. The Mid City Park, not Al-Tro was located there (hence the name Mid City Shoppers Plaza). The park stretched from Wards Lane south where it bordered with the old Chadwick (later Hawkins Stadium) baseball park.
The Al-Tro was probably destroyed or so seriously damaged by spring freshets of the Hudson River in the early 20th Century that it never opened again(?). Mid City Park and later Pool, operated from circa 1930 to about 1960-61. The Mid City Pool and it's parent company, along with the pool manager Henry Finn were sued in the late 1950's by a young black female who was refused entry to the park. The matter ended up in court with both the Mid City park and Finn being found guilty of discrimination by the court which ordered the admittance of blacks to the park (case is on the Internet). It was shortly after the court decision against Mid City Pool and Mr. Finn that the facility closed. The Workers Compensation building once housed the old Topp's Department Store. The first Topp's had a metal arch across the front of the building but the store burned to the ground in the early 1960's and was re-built with a wooden arch (which is still there). Topp's eventually closed and the building was occupied for a short time by a venue named the "Spirit of 76 Mall" during the mid 1970's, until that too closed and the Workers Compensation Board moved into the building. Kevin Franklin, Historian, Village of Menands and Town of Colonie. 782-2601 office

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