Jump to the intro.

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The corner of Pearl and Columbia.

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Lobby tile.

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The Kenmore and Steuben Club buildings are both combinations of multiple buildings. They've been combined, cut up, and renovated -- in some cases multiple times. Thus the vaguely 80s feel of this space in the Kenmore.

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You can see how this was once the outside of a building.

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Much of the Kenmore is like this. It had been cut up into offices and it's rather plain.

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But there are some tall ceilings and nice hallway arches.

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This is what's essentially remaining of the famous Rain-Bo Room. What you see here is what had been the club's upper level, which opened to a floor and bandstand below. See these old postcards. Redburn's Jeff Buell told the Albany Planning Board last month that the company is planning to restore the Rain-Bo Room and use it as an event space.

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What was once the floor of the Rain-Bo Room.

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And the spot where the old bandstand was.

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A lot of the original interior is either gone or buried -- like this old stairway.

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The roof of the Kenmore. Redburn is planning to put a deck up here that could be used as an amenity for the event space is the new Rain-Bo Room.

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Over to the Steuben Club building and the old Steuben Athletic Club.

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There's a zombie apocalypse feeling to this part of the building. Jeff Buell told the planning board that Redburn hasn't settled on exactly what it's going to do with some of this space -- but a return to a gym use could be an option. (He also mentioned indoor agriculture.)

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Racquet ball court.

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Yep, that's a pool. And yep, it still has water in it. (And apparently plenty of chlorine.)

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A bar area on an upper floor.

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This is the restaurant space that sits just above Pearl Street. (The Pearl Street Pub formerly occupied it.) Buell told the planning board the idea is to again use it for a restaurant tenant.

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Chapel and Columbia, back behind the Kenmore Hotel building.

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From what we can tell from reading old newspaper articles, it sounds like this was once an entrance for the Rain-Bo Room.

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A walkthrough of the old Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings in downtown Albany

Kenmore and Steuben block Albany

The old Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings landmark buildings on one of downtown Albany's most prominent blocks. They've also sat largely vacant for years.

That could be changing, though. Both buildings are at the center of a huge in-progress real estate deal. Redburn Development Partners is currently working to close the purchase of the Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings -- along with a handful of other notable downtown properties -- and redevelop them with residential and retail uses. (See recent planning board discussion about the Kenmore and Steuben as well as the old Times Union building on Sheridan Ave.)

We've passed these buildings hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of times. They're anchors of downtown Albany -- but we had very little sense of what they're actually like on the inside. And we were curious about that, especially now that the buildings could be on the verge of their next lives. We figured you might, too

So we got Redburn to give us a tour. Here are a bunch of photos...

Look up

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

History

Kenmore Hotel early 1900s LOC
The Kenmore block in in the early 1900s. / photo: Detroit Publishing Co. / Library of Congress

The Kenmore Hotel and the Steuben Club have plenty of history associated with them. That's especially true of the Kenmore. We want to come back this topic, but here are a few quick bits for now:

+ The Kenmore was built in 1878 by Adam Blake, an African-American man. And in the 1950s, the hotel would show up in the Green Book for African-American travelers.

+ The Kenmore was designed by Edward Ogden, who with partners and his son Charles, designed many buildings around Albany, including the former school (now condos) at 409 Madison Ave.

+ The Kenmore had a club called the Rain-Bo Room. In 1921 it got an audio connection to the radio station WGY, which allowed concerts to be broadcast around the country. That helped draw a string of jazz greats to the venue over the years, including Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman. The Rain-Bo Room was also where Legs Diamond celebrated his acquittal after a trial in Troy -- the same night he'd be gunned down in a residence on Dove Street. See this 1964 Times Union article about the Rain-Bo Room by some writer named Bill Kennedy. (Wonder whatever became of that guy.)

+ The first part of the Steuben Club building was built in the 1880s for the YMCA. It was designed by Fuller & Wheeler, another prominent architectural group that designed multiple buildings around this area.

+ The building is said to be the site of the first official basketball game in 1892.

Comments

Sad to see the Stueben building & Club in that shape. When I was growing up, my Dad had an office on one of the upper floors, and was a member of the club. I recall swimming in that pool during the winter, playing on those racquetball courts and eating in the dining room. Met Phil Jackson in the locker room when he was coaching the Patroons.

well, *that* was cool. I'm excited to see how this space transforms

Knowing that Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman. played there makes the Rain-Bo Room my favorite picture - I can just picture it. Thanks for letting us see inside this old beauty - I need to look up more often.

Well that's just beautiful! (Most of it.)

Was working in the Kenmore when the Kenmore became the Parker House in Martin Scorsese's "The Age on Innocence" (1:25:26) ... North Pearl Street and the Kenmore became the 1870's for a day ... a fine time gawking and spotting Scorsese drinking coffee and eating pastries in the Italian bakery/cafe across the street ...

Great photos and update. I especially loved the link to the Rainbo Room postcard, and the message on the back: I have your coat. Go see the elevator operator with whom you left your address any evening except Tuesday."

Thrilled that something might again come of this downtown treasure. One very minor point: I doubt WGY would have provided an audio connection in 1921, since they didn't go on the air until 1922. (Likely just a typo?)

This is my absolute favorite kind of content on this site -- just awesome pictures and history. Thanks for the look inside, and very glad to hear we may get some positive development with these buildings in the next few years.

@Andrew: Thank you mentioning the issue with the date of the audio connection. I got the date from that 1964 William Kennedy article in the TU. As I mentioned above, I'd like to put together something longer about the history of the building, so when/if I do that I'll try to get the date issue straightened out.

Awesome tour, Greg! I've always wondered what they looked like on the inside.

Niece piece...cool pictures......now fix them! Cannot even begin to fathom how such beautiful buildings can remain dormant and nonproductive in the capital city of a large American state!!!

When you do History double check who built. It’s my understanding that the land was owned by the McNaughton estate. I’ve never seen anything that indicates it was actually transferred to Blake initially. And the building may have been owned by McNaughtons and leased to Blake. But it’s clear it was built to his specs. In the late 1880s it appears the Widow Blake owned outright when she sold to the Rockwell family.

Nice work Greg! I remember having business meetings in the Steuben Club in the 90's. I hope plans for making this space live again work out.

It is also the site of the first official basketball game in history. It was played at the Albany YMCA Gymnasium between us and Naismiths training school from Springfield on January 20th, 1892 with a final score of 1 – 0.

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