Fallbany and Other Downtown Delights

Architecture, landscape, music, history and shopping – all yours to see and experience in a mere 2,000 steps. It turns out that many of the best aspects of urban life can be experienced on a 10-block walk on a September Thursday in downtownAlbany.

The Fallbany Art & Craft Market kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 5 in Albany’s Tricentennial Park. Presented by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, it’s touted as a “showcase for local art, music and culture…(with) regional mixed media artists and crafters, (and) a different live musical act providing the soundtrack each week.”

Join me for a “virtual” walking tour…Let’s start at the state Capitol.

If you’re setting out between noon and 1 p.m., listen for the sound of ringing bells. They’re not church bells, they’re the carillon in the tower at City Hall, located just down the hill on Eagle Street.

Albany civil service reformer William Gorham Rice proposed a carillon for the city in 1918 as a tribute to soldiers who had given their lives in World War I. The 60-bell mechanism was installed in 1927 and restored in 1986, when two notes were added along with on-the-hour chimes.

Academy Park is a great place to stop briefly and listen to the bells. Bordered by Washington Avenue, Elk Street and Eagle Street, the landscape surrounds the former Albany Academy building, designed by Philip Hooker and currently occupied by the City School District of Albany.

Take a leisurely (and mindful of traffic) stroll across Eagle Street and walk down the pedestrian path between the state Court of Appeals and the Albany County Supreme Court buildings. Cross Lodge Street and walk alongside historic St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Steuben Street.

Next, cross Chapel Street, where the road reverts to a Belgian block-paved pedestrian path, passing between recent (Steuben Place) and ongoing building renovations. Redburn Development is converting the former Steuben Club – and Albany’s first YMCA – into a mixed-use commercial and residential space.

Across South Pearl Street and down a brick-paved block of Steuben Street, past the bustling outdoor patio of the Pearl Street Pub, you’ll see Tricentennial Park just ahead on your left.

Colorful tents and music from Honey Slider welcome visitors to this one-block-square urban park. First proposed in 1914, it was built in 1986 to mark Albany’s incorporation as a city 300 years prior. Vendors on September 5 included Bodhi Inspirit offering chair massage; handmade art and jewelry from Kelli’s Creations; Ali Herrmann; Diana Spencer; and Peyster Street Handcrafted Jewelry.

Fallbany inspired Kimberly Manning of Lone Birch Creative to revisit her long-time side hustle, making art with multiple media – predominantly copper, wool and paper. Asked how the event was going thus far, she replied: “I’ve already gotten a commission!”

According to Christine of “Mosaics by Christine,” this was the “best start” of similar popup craft fairs in which she had participated.

“This is a better spot,” she said of Tricentennial Park, comparing it to a previous event in DiNapoli Park at Maiden Lane. “People could walk right past that park, but you can’t miss Tricentennial Park.”

When you’ve had your fill of Fallbany, walk two blocks south along Broadway to SUNY Plaza to the Downtown Albany Farmer’s Market. Maple syrup, honey, baked goods, early apples and sweet corn were among the offerings on this particular day, but offerings vary from week to week based on what’s in season.

The market is open Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and moves inside the SUNY Plaza arcade later in the fall.

Good things are happening in downtown Albany. Fallbany is just one of them. Get out on Thursday and get some fresh air – explore downtown and all it has to offer. You’ll be glad you did.

The Fallbany Art & Craft Market happens for the next three Thursdays – September 12, 19 and 26 – from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Photo credit: George Fazio and Colleen M. Ryan.

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