The story of your house

Elm Street row houses in AlbanyOne of the interesting things about the Capital Region is that there's history seemingly everywhere. Maybe even in your own house.

This Saturday (June 1) at the Albany Public Librarian's main branch there's first part of a two-part workshop on researching the history of your house. The how-to session features a solid lineup of experts:

+ Tony Opalka, Albany city historian
+ Ellen Gamache, APL local history librarian
+ Cara Macri, director of preservation services at Historic Albany Foundation
+ Akum Norder, writer of the Times Union "A History of Here: Life in Albany, Past and Present" blog. (Akum has been doing extensive research about the history of her house and the Pine Hills neighborhood. She's posted a research guide online.)

The workshop is 2-4 pm in the library's large auditorium. It's free.

The second sessions -- "An Uncommon Cape: Researching the Histories and Mysteries of a Property" -- is June 8, same place and time. More details post jump.

From APL:

Part 2: "An Uncommon Cape: Researching the Histories and Mysteries of a Property"
June 8 (Saturday) at 2-4 pm, Main Library
Eleanor Phillips Brackbill, author of "An Uncommon Cape," bought an ordinary Cape Cod-style house and was inspired to research its history. It took eight years and the unraveling of several mysteries to unlock the secrets of her home, and the parcel of land it occupies, which dates back to Colonial times. Brackbill shares how she traced the history of her property and offers practical suggestions on how to do a similar project for your own home. A book signing follows Brackbill's presentation.

Yep, the APL has advertised on AOA.


Frankly I just want to know who it was that thought it was a good idea to paint all of the wood trim and doors teal, put up chicken wallpaper in the kitchen and shiny diamond wallpaper in the bathroom (all found during a remodel). I met the previous owner so I at least know who was responsible for the horrible top layer of wallpaper layer that came with the house in 1998.

wallpaper is the devil's own invention.

the previous owners of my ~140 year old house were in competition with each other to see who could put the most flat white paint on everything. fortunately, i love refinishing wood.

I didn't even know chicken wallpaper was available. That's a life changer for me!

Tim, maybe you were thinking chicken wallpaper could be a good thing, but it's not. This isn't a great picture, but I wasn't trying to do something artistic in capturing the essence of the chicken:

Also, for anyone interested in more Albany history, here are the shiny diamonds:

And the horror on top of the chicken nightmare:

I wish houses came with diaries that you could pass from owner to owner. The link to Akum's guide is pretty cool.

i believe that is a cock and not a chicken ;-)

Valerae: You must have a fairly low "Horror" threshold. That striped wallpaper isn't bad, and the chicken & flowers pattern would have been very stylish kitchen paper in the 50's. In the 60's my mother's kitchen had paper with an Italian cooking theme and the bathroom had Paris street scenes (we're a German-American family).

It's too bad they're not doing this for houses in Troy. I'd be intrigued to learn the history of my bathroom, which was remodeled in the 1970s and features fake rock walls, brown ceiling tiles, and an irregularly shaped piece of linoleum on the floor that seems to have been nailed in place. Quality craftsmanship, clearly worthy of historic preservation.

Not a day goes by when I don't line up the previous owners of my bungalow before an imaginary firing squad for crimes of bad taste, shoddy workmanship, failure to do basic maintenance, and poor landscaping decisions I now have to live with or eradicate.

And yet I know in the future I'll join that rogues' gallery in the minds of subsequent owners for the exact same crimes. ("My god, what was she thinking picking out "Coral Boomerang" formica for the kitchen!")

When I do run into the last owner of the house, he asks me with veiled contempt how "his" garden is doing, more than conveying that he's driven by and thinks the yard looks like hell.

I like the cock wallpaper!! Very retro...

I still don't like the cock wallpaper, but thanks, Colleen, I'm totally never calling it the chicken wallpaper again. :-)

Valerae--you're welcome

Frank--i live in Troy as well (Eastside). my bedroom has a drop ceiling, a "big lots" quality faux fireplace that looks like someone shot at with a bb gun, and the piece de resistance: what appears to be some 1970's fancy particle board paneling that is warped and doesn't quite make it to the drop ceiling in some places. because the panels don't go all the way behind the radiator, i can see some wallpaper that appears to be fabric with gold metallic flowers; I "can't wait" to start rehab on that room. The 1970's in Troy must have been a very special time.

Be forewarned. When I did this research on my house, I uncovered a story about a resident who was shot and killed by his 18-year old stenographer. I now know that my ghost's name is Franklin.

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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