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RT and ST's Mansion Neighborhood Row House

Open House Mansion Row House composite

By Nicole Lemperle Correia / Photos by Paul Gallo

For RT and ST, choosing to buy a home in Albany's Mansion Neighborhood made sense on many levels: convenience, commitment to the neighborhood community, availability of historic homes, and an area they'd grown fond of as renters.

Their home is full of historic details, with their children's toys and colorful artwork set against beautiful exposed brick. They've carved out a sweet family life within a bustling and diverse neighborhood.

Photos

There are photos at the top in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

Interview

What part of your city/town do you live in?

We live in Albany's Mansion Neighborhood.

How long have you lived here?

We bought our house in 2013. We moved from an apartment around the corner, so we've lived in the neighborhood since 2009.

OpenHouse MansionRowHouse exterior

What brought you to this corner of the Capital District?

R grew up in Voorheesville and moved back to Albany after graduating college in Western Mass. S is from Hudson and moved to Albany. We met in Albany and decided to start our life together here.

We moved here when we were expecting our first baby because we were lucky enough to find a beautiful, sunny apartment that we could afford and which met our needs. We wanted to be in the city where we could make a smaller ecological footprint. We are a one-car family, dense housing is typically more energy efficient, and the Hudson Valley is an ideal place to live if you want local, low-impact food.

S walks to work in the Corning Tower and R works around the corner for the Family Life Center, Albany's oldest independent childbirth support center.

Now we're hooked on Albany City School District's Montessori Magnet School, where our oldest child is thriving and our younger kid will probably start in universal pre-k next year.

What is your neighborhood like?

In a word: diverse.

This neighborhood is steeped in the kind of melting-pot history that defines American cities. It was an immigrant community for generations, with waves of people coming from overseas, from down South, from the countryside, until the 50s and 60s, when suburban sprawl took off and white flight shifted the cultural landscape. Then the Empire State Plaza was built and 98 acres of downtown Albany were seized for the project. Our neighborhood is what remains of a larger scene.

"We've got more than our fair share of abandoned buildings, it's true. You can't miss the symptoms of poverty or its intersection with systemic racism. It's a cruel irony because we also have some of the most beautiful and grand historic buildings in the city, which harken back to some mythic gilded age."

We've got more than our fair share of abandoned buildings, it's true. You can't miss the symptoms of poverty or its intersection with systemic racism. It's a cruel irony because we also have some of the most beautiful and grand historic buildings in the city, which harken back to some mythic gilded age.

But city dwellers have always known the gold is only for certain people. The city is the place where the haves, the have-somes, and the have-nots have always coexisted. So the people who co-exist in our neighborhood are middle class and maybe higher, and working class, and living in deep poverty, or maybe just landed here from Iraq or Myanmar with refugee status. And I hear sometimes the Governor stays over in the neighborhood, too.

But beyond all the labels, this is a neighborhood where folks knock on doors during snow emergencies to make sure cars don't get towed. This is a place where people live.

What's your favorite part of your home?

The kitchen. When we bought the house, R knew she was going to update the kitchen to meet her snobby standards. She has several years of experience in food service, as well as several years of experience in design and construction. We closed on the house at 11 am and were demolishing the kitchen by 2 pm. We moved in a few days later.

Open House Mansion Row House kitchen

We're still finishing up details, but we replaced the cabinets, countertops and appliances and created a larger dining area by ripping out the pantry. We tiled our own back splash. We also hung a suspended ceiling to provide some sound insulation, since our kids' room is right above the kitchen, and the underside of their subfloor was totally exposed. We cook a lot as part of our effort to keep that ecological footprint low (and live within our means), so we spend a lot of time in here.

And the biggest challenge with your home? (or the space around your home)

It's a toss-up between the back yard and the lack of closet space. The house was built in the late 1850s, which is a time period we now think of as the Pre-Closet Era. So, that's a challenge because there always seems to be stuff everywhere and nowhere to put it.

"Living in a row house, we have no back yard access. We had to have a sick elm tree taken down two years ago and we had to walk it through the house, piece by piece. It took us 18 months to get rid of all the wood."

But the bigger challenge is the back yard, which needs a lot of love and money. Living in a row house, we have no back yard access. We had to have a sick elm tree taken down two years ago and we had to walk it through the house, piece by piece. It took us 18 months to get rid of all the wood.

We have a few problems in the back that need to be dealt with. First of all, we need to grade the soil away from the house. We're relying on Albany's ancient sewer infrastructure to carry the storm water away from our foundation, and if you're familiar with Albany's infrastructure, you'll know why that makes us nervous. Also, we live on a hill, and we're receiving erosion from uphill in two directions. You can see signs of it all over, from the broken glass that surfaces in the yard after every rainfall, to the fact that our yard is actually 18 inches higher than the retaining wall built by the homeowner downhill from us. So we know that the hill is sinking into our house and that our yard is probably starting to sink into the yard next door. We also have reason to believe that the soil is contaminated with lead, so we really need to establish grass and other plantings to keep that down in the ground and out of our kids' bodies.

It's a mess and we're still trying to figure out how to tackle the problem, but this is the year.

Has anything crazy/weird/scary/funny/notable happened in or around your home while you've lived here?

Well, we've had some adventures on the Flat Roof Learning Curve. We learned the crappy way (yup, pun intended) to bail water off the side of the building BEFORE unclogging the roof drain. If you let many, many gallons of water down your roof drain pipe too fast, the escaping air bubble will shake your house violently and cause the storm water to rush back up your toilets, bringing sewage with it. Not a good scene.

If you were selling your home, how would you pitch it to a potential buyer?

We wouldn't. We would let the house and neighborhood speak for itself. We want people to move here because they understand the gravity of stewarding a home in this neighborhood from one family to the next. There's no pitch for that. The next owners will have to fall in love, like we did.

"We want people to move here because they understand the gravity of stewarding a home in this neighborhood from one family to the next. There's no pitch for that. The next owners will have to fall in love, like we did."

If you could buy any work of art for your home, what would it be?

A native stone retaining wall system in the back yard. We believe the house already is a work of art, the kind that lives and breathes and changes through many generations, and we're just lucky enough to play our part.

That said, R would love to own a piece by Rosy Sunshine.

OpenHouse MansionRowHouse street row

What is the best thing about the space (yard/street/neighborhood/you pick) around your home?

The best thing about our neighborhood is the people. We have some awesome neighbors. There are loads of families who have been in the same house or on the same block for generations. The Albany Free School is around the corner, and there's a whole community swirling around that, but also throughout the whole area. There's always someone to say hi to when you walk somewhere, and there's always someone nearby if you need help.

What would you change about your home (or neighborhood or city) if you could?

If we could wave a magic wand and make every house and yard a smidge bigger, I'd stay here forever. It's hard to feel like we have enough room with two energetic little kids. Maybe a cut-through from our yard to the park behind us would help...

What is your favorite memory (or more than one) of living here?

R gave birth to our youngest child here. It was rad. We had a small pool in our bedroom and our first born got to greet his baby brother and witness his arrival. Loads of neighbors dropped off dinner and wished us well over the next few weeks. Homebirth is not for everyone, but it was just what we wanted, and a really wonderful experience.

Nicole Correia is a non-profit communications professional by day and freelance writer by night. She enjoys writing about the Capital Region, parenthood, food, and the places people call home. She can be found on Twitter and on https://nicolemcorreia.com/">her website.

Some of Paul Gallo's photos are at No3rdW.

More Open House
+ Laura's hometown home in Cohoes
+ Sarah and Brianna's apartment on the park
+ Apartment living in downtown Albany

Comments

no closets.

My favorite Open House yet! I love when people's authenticity is reflected in their living space. These folks are clearly committed to their lifestyle ideals, and it shines through beautifully. And not in a showcase-y nor ho-hum home design magazine sort of way, thank goodness. We need more stewards like them in our fair city.

Love these row houses....and check out that exposed brick! Well done.

Next time, clean out the dish strainer, sink, and straighten those haphazardly placed wall of knives. ;-)

This is a delightful and informative snapshot of the owners and their beautiful home. Thanks for the work that everyone put into this!

Sharon Springs resident.

So did I spy a demijohn of fermenting red wine in the kitchen picture? :-)

nice people, nice house----the mansions neighborhood really needs more respect!


I really appreciate these glimpses into homes in various neighborhoods. Very intriguing Please keep it up!

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