The Elouise and milk bottles

Elouise apartments aerial overhead

The Elouise is at the corner of South Lake and Western / photo: Tim Jackson

By Justin Devendorf

At South Lake Avenue and Western Avenue in Albany stands an eight-story building. Built in the late 1920s in the Classical Revival style, it's a landmark of the Pine Hills neighborhood, surpassed in height only by the Royce on the Park apartment building on nearby Hudson Avenue.

Outside the building a bronze plaque that greets all who enter simply reads: "Elouise Apartments 11 So. Lake Ave."

A growing city

The Elouise is within a stone's throw of Washington Park, along with many other historic brownstones, row houses and other private residences that line South Lake Avenue from end to end. This is no coincidence.

When Washington Park opened in 1872, the area that would become South Lake Avenue, then-known as Perry Street, was undeveloped land. That all changed in 1875 when the Albany Common Council approved the expansion of horsecar service from Madison Avenue to New Scotland Avenue, according to Albany Architecture: A Guide to the City.

Elouise apartments aerial looking north
photo: Tim Jackson

That change ended up drawing many people to parts of Albany that were west of Lark Street, and over the next two decades many residences were built along South Lake Avenue that still remain there to this day.

Around the same time, Western Avenue was going through its own changes. Originally known as the Great Western Turnpike, this road, at one time covered by wooden planks, was built to connect Albany to the western part of the state. Between 1876 and 1877, Western Avenue was repaved. Water, gas and sewer lines were installed, and maple trees, set at forty-foot intervals down the street, were planted. This was done with the intention of having Western Avenue serve as the "grand approach" for all those looking to enjoy what Washington Park had to offer, as explained in Albany Architecture.

Slowly but surely, the area that would become the Pine Hills neighborhood began to take shape.

The construction of 11 South Lake Avenue

Elouise apartments aerial closeup
photo: Tim Jackson

The Albany-based firm of Cassidy & Gallagher, which specialized in masonry, took on he construction of 11 South Lake Avenue. Starting in the late 1870s, Peter Cassidy, the company's founder, together with his business partner Thomas Gallagher, would go on to construct many buildings throughout the city of Albany during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Some of those buildings include:
+ Public School No. 1 in the South End (1889)
+ The brownstones located between 139 and 145 Eagle Street, across the street from the Executive Mansion (1891-1892)
+ Albany Fire Department Steamer No. 1 firehouse at Western and Washington (1892)
+ St. John's Church on Green Street in the Pastures (1900-1908)
+ The Albany Home Telephone Company in 1902 (now City Beer Hall)
+ A cigar/vinegar factory in 1885 for the company Hennessey & Nolan at 50 Morton Avenue.

The Cassidy & Gallagher company got a building permit for construction of the apartment building in 1926, with an estimated project cost of $750,000 (about $10.7 million in 2018 dollars). By this point, both Peter Cassidy and Thomas Gallagher had died, and Gallagher's sons -- Philip Gallagher and Thomas A. Gallagher -- were running the business.

The job took about two years and it was was not without a few bumps in the road, among them a strike. On May 3, 1927, the Albany Evening News published an article about plumbers and painters striking throughout Albany to demand higher wages, and states that Thomas A. Gallagher agreed to pay painters the $10-a-day wage that they demanded, which got them back to work. Meanwhile, plumbers who worked on the construction of 11 South Lake demanded a $12 a day wage, which they were also given.

The Elouise opened in 1927, with ads touting the apartments as "absolutely sound proof and fire proof," with the "most modern of equipment," including electric refrigerators, gas ranges, and maid and valet service. Rents ranged from $65 to $180 per month (about $930-$2500 in 2018 dollars).

The crash

The boom times of the 1920s in the United States hit the wall with the "Black Tuesday" stock market crash of October 1929, and the start of the Depression. The Elouise was a newly-built luxury apartment building in an economy that suddenly had many fewer people able to pay such high-end rents. And that was a problem for its backers.

By 1935 the owners of the Elouise Corporation were in federal court seeking permission to reorganize after defaulting on $373,000 in bonds. According to family lore, the Gallaghers ended up selling their stake in the building at a huge discount.

And the person to whom they sold? The third shareholder of the Elouise Corporation, Norman A. Henderson.

A fortune in milk bottles

Henderson had made a fortune thanks in large part to his invention of a type of milk bottle that included a cream separator inside the bottle. The Albany-based -- and aptly-named -- Cream Top Bottle Corporation was awarded the patent on the invention in March of 1925, with Henderson listed as the inventor. (The company had also patented a previous version that included a small in-bottle ladle.)

Norman A Henderson milk bottle patent
The drawing from the Cream Top Bottle Corporation's patent on Norman Henderson's invention. / image via Google Patents

The company advertised its new product: "From the same bottle, either cream or milk instantly available--rich, whole milk for the children, or golden, thick cream... Have your milk delivered in the new, modern, sanitary Cream Top Milk Bottle--insert the handy separator and!... the cream pours off, the milk stays in the bottle." Another advertisement from October 1940 stated: "Besides bringing you new conveniences and economics, Cream Top gives you daily proof of milk richness." The Cream Top Bottle Corporation licensed the invention to bottle makers, and Henderson became rich on the royalties.

Norman Henderson ended up having a long association with the Elouise. He and his wife lived there for decades -- and still maintained a residence there when Henderson died in 1964 at age 91, according to Times Union. In that "Around The Town" column, Edgar S. Van Olinda -- himself a tenant of the Elouise for three decades -- describes Henderson as "a gentleman, and a gentle man, in all dealings with dwellers under his corporate roof, both employees and paying guests."

Some evidence of that claim: When Henderson died, his will left $20,000 each to his longtime housekeeper and chauffeur, a married couple who also lived at 11 South Lake. (Henderson's will also called for his ashes to be scattered from an airplane at an elevation of no less than 5,000 feet.)

The administration of Henderson's estate also marked the sale of the building to Morris Massry in 1964 for $750,000.

But even today the Elouise still bears an association with the Hendersons -- its name. The apartments were named after Norman Henderson's wife, Ella Louise.

The Elouise Apartment building today

Elouise apartments aerial looking west
Overlooking South Lake Avenue, Elberon Place and other parts of the Pine Hills neighborhood. / photo: Tim Jackson

Today, the Elouise still functions as an apartment building in the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany, with 94 units. It's currently owned by the Parkash South Lake LLC and is valued at $5,900,300 according to city of Albany records.

Authors note: With the help of my friend Martha Mahoney, who is the great-great granddaughter of Thomas Gallagher, I was able to speak with her mother, Margaret Carroll, as well as Margaret's cousin, Craig Gallagher, who are two of Thomas Gallagher's great grandchildren. Since they both were young, they have been told the history of Cassidy & Gallagher and the Elouise apartment building from Thomas Gallagher's daughter-in-law, their grandmother, and have in turn passed down this history to the next generation(s) of their family. Additionally, Craig Gallagher has conducted extensive research on Cassidy & Gallagher and the firm's impact on the architectural landscape of Albany and the surrounding area. I want to thank both Margaret and Craig for their help during the writing of this post, it was invaluable.

Justin Devendorf is a resident of the Pine Hills neighborhood of Albany. He currently goes to Albany Law School and created the Photozofalbany Instagram page, where he shares the history and beauty of New York State's capital city and the surrounding region one post at a time.

Earlier: The Glynn Mansion and the story of Martin Glynn


Today it would be "out of scale" with the neighborhood.

Pretty cool research. Thanks for sharing this!

Great post, Justin! Since I first came to Albany as a UAlbany student in 1986, I have adored and been curious about The Elouise which always reminded me more of home in NYC than most buildings in Albany. Nice story - and awesomely Smallbany that Martha Mahoney has a connection to the building!

Thank you for this thoroughly researched article. I drive by this building every day and it's wonderful to learn its history.

Anthony, I agree, you don't see many of those high rise apartment buildings around the Pine Hills neighborhood. Perhaps that's a good thing, who knows? Nick, thanks for the compliment!

Amy, you're welcome! I live right on South Lake Ave very close to the Elouise building. It's lovely isn't it!?

Holy cow! You mean what are mid-range, affordable apartments today were made to be luxury apartments?

$2500/mo!? The insanity! Who can afford that? We don't need anything like that in our neighborhoods!
Every commenter complaining about the increase in luxury housing in the region, who cannot comprehend supply, demand, and depreciation.

Great read. Thank you for posting.

Great write up. More of this, please.

Bob Ross, while I'm not as well-versed on the increase of luxury housing in the region, I do agree with you that upwards of $2,500 a month for rent is very, very expensive. Thank you for reading and I appreciate your support!

G dub, ask and you shall receive! I look forward to writing more of these posts for All Over Albany.

The building has great architecture and makes the area feel more like a real city. That area of Pine Hills needs more amenities though. Hopefully the development of the engineering school at the SUNY downtown campus will act as a catalyst for that.

A very good read. I remember that milk bottle as a kid. We had the milkman deliver our milk back then in the 50's and Glendale Farms used these bottles. The farm who provided the milk was at the very crest of Altamont Hill. On the left just beyond Old Stage Rd. stands a bright yellow house, and just beyond that house a long barn still stands where the cows were milked. one more thing if you are up to the challenge, the building on the south east side of State across from the A.E. Smith building occupied that space prior to the decision to build the A.E. Smith Building. How they moved it is quite fascinating and is quite a story as well. Thanks for the info about the Eloise! Well done!

PK, as a resident of Pine Hills I totally understand your point about the lack of amenities in the neighborhood, but with it's close proximity to downtown, Lark Street, etc. in a way I feel like that makes up for it. Anyways, I guess we'll see what happens in the coming years with respect to development in the neighborhood, but thanks for sharing your opinion!

Ravioliollie, that's so interesting that you actually remember these bottles, do you remember if there was a lot of fanfare made about their design?

Leah, appreciate the compliment, thank you! I agree, it's a very lovely buiilding, and yes, Smallbany never seems to disappoint. Martha shared the story with me a few months ago and I found it so fascinating, and she put my in touch with her family members who knew a lot more about the building and Cassidy & Gallagher. Thanks for reading!

Had a friend that lived in one of the apartments in this building in the early 90's. Not the best place. Hopefully it can get rehabbed.

Ace, according to Albany Architecture: A Guide to the City, edited by Diane S. Waite, it says the building was renovated in 1985. I've personally never been inside the building so I can't speak to it's condition but I do know a few people who have very recently lived there for a few years and enjoyed it.

Thank you for this! I hope to read more like it in the future!

You're welcome Lauren! I plan on writing more building biographies in the future.

In the early 50's, as a very young girl, many of us would walk to Washington Park, walking all over, and back home past the history you speak of and I remember. I grew up on Livingston Ave. which was a dead end street back then, ending at North Lake Ave. I remember the milk bottles as well, with the cream on the top and we would take turns putting our finger in it trying to scoop it out until mom told us to stop. My grandfather worked for Sealtest Milk, however we still had the milk man deliver the milk to our house. So many wonderful memories of Albany where I lived all my life until I moved in 1973. Apartments that were never there and now are. It was just a wonderful life living in Albany!

Wonderful story , always wondered about this fascinating building!
Loved reading the great writing.
Always wanted to be first to get the cream from those glass bottles into my cereal in a family of 5 girls!
Keep up the amazing story telling!
You are a VERY TALENTED writer.

Judy, thank you for sharing your story about growing up seeing the Cream Top milk bottles and for reading my post!

mg, appreciate your kind words and for reading my post. Look for more to come!

Great read!

Appreciate you reading Daleyplanit, please read future building biographies I write for AOA!

How about an article on the "Named" apartment houses- there are so many, big and small- I've been curious about 43 Dove Street which bosts a fancy brass plaque (if tarnished) "THE CHESTERLEE"

Very interesting article! Love the history!

I really enjoyed reading this article, and look forward to more building "biographies."

Eric Sheirer Stott, I agree, lots of "named" apartment buildings in Albany where do you begin!? My first post for AOA was about the Glynn Mansion, which is currently used as an apartment building, although of course that was not its original intent. I've walked by 43 Dove Street many times, I have friends who used to live on Chestnut, and I've seen "THE CHESTERLEE" sign. I do think it's very cool and I have wondered about its history. I appreciate the suggestion, I'll keep it in mind as I consider future locations.

Nancy, thank you for reading! Appreciate the support :)

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