Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cheers to Committee 150!

Remarks at St. Joseph’s Church by Colleen Ryan
June 28, 2007

It’s hard to believe that one year ago, Committee 150 was just an idea.

St. Joseph’s Church is one of Albany’s great landmarks. This building – begun in 1856 – defines the neighborhood in which it stands, and its steeple – added in 1906 – is the most visible element in Albany’s northern skyline.

Situated near the eighteenth-century Ten Broeck Mansion, and in the center of the National Register-listed Ten Broeck Triangle Historic District, this building’s architectural merits are not in question.

Still, just a few years ago, St. Joseph’s future was uncertain.


Shortly after taking ownership of the building in 2003, Historic Albany Foundation convened a series of public meetings in buildings near the church to discuss the potential for re-use.

The St. Joseph’s Re-Use Committee, chaired by Matt Bender, documented suggestions including a public library branch; a computer facility; a history museum focusing on the immigrant experience or the Underground Railroad; a school for restoration technology; or an urban education institute in conjunction with a local college.

The first priority, however, was to stabilize the building and prevent further damage.


Last spring, Elizabeth Griffin came to me with an ambitious idea: to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of St. Joseph’s Church by raising $150,000. In May, 2006, you pledged your support to Committee 150, and together, we set out to do just that.

As of this date, Committee 150 has raised $150,151.

Many people said it couldn’t be done … And it wouldn’t have happened without a generous leadership grant of $50,000 from Mrs. Candace King Weir. Her commitment during the quiet phase of this campaign allowed us to issue a challenge to potential Committee 150 members … that each two dollars they raised or contributed would be matched by $1 from Mrs. Weir.

Thank you, Mrs. Weir, for believing in us and helping us meet our goal.


Special thanks are also due to Mayor Gerald Jennings and the City of Albany, for ensuring that St. Joseph’s remained standing long enough for us to work on saving it!

Late in 2001, Mayor Jennings authorized emergency stabilization work, and seized the building from the owners who had failed to make repairs. We all owe the city a debt of gratitude for recognizing the significance of this building, and for taking steps to ensure its survival.

The Mayor was here earlier, and while his busy schedule prevented him from staying for tonight’s program, I hope you will thank him when you see him.


We are grateful also to the corporate sponsors who made tonight’s celebration possible, in more ways than one. In addition to underwriting the cost of tonight’s event, these organizations have done the stabilization work that allows us to stand in this building right now.

Please join me in thanking

  • All-American Masonry, Inc.
  • Klepper, Hahn & Hyatt
  • Mid-State Industries, Ltd.
  • Reeves Engineering
  • Safway Services, Inc.
  • John G. Waite, Associates and
  • Western Building Restoration.


Let’s also give a round of applause to two local business owners whose generosity to this and other neighborhood causes is simply unmatched – Chuck Kuhtic from the Morgan State House and Brad Junco from Capital Wine & Spirits.


I would like to sincerely thank Committee 150 co-founder, Elizabeth Griffin, and the other members of the steering committee, Bill Brandow, Chuck Kuhtic, Mac Mowbray, and Erin Tobin, for their commitment to seeing this project through. Each brought their own particular brand of energy, enthusiasm, and expertise to this cause – and each makes this neighborhood, and this city, a better place to live through their good efforts.

I should also offer a special thank you to our spouses, partners and friends who supported us in this effort and attended innumerable parties with us … I promise, after tonight, we’re done!!!


Last – but certainly not least – we would like to thank each of you, the members of Committee 150. You truly rose to the challenge issued in 2002 by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and helped match their $300,000 stabilization grant to Historic Albany Foundation.

And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we should all blush to learn that several additional parties are planned in coming months to raise the final portion of the match.


Committee 150 set out to raise funds, raise awareness, and imagine the possibilities for re-use of this magnificent historic and cultural resource. But along the way, Committee 150 has grown into a much broader effort, and created a core group of stakeholders who are committed to protecting St. Joseph’s church and the unique and irreplaceable historic fabric of the City of Albany.

Ultimately, Committee 150’s many achievements would not have been possible without you. Whether you made a donation or organized a party, we have you to thank for the critically-needed stabilization of the roof and masonry of this building. You have sent a message – loud and clear – that we owe it to future generations to invest in and rescue our old, abandoned buildings.

Thank you all for helping to ensure that St. Joseph’s will continue to stand as a beacon of hope, and a symbol of what people can achieve when they work together.

Now, please join me in a truly heartfelt toast …

Cheers to Committee 150!


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