Saint Joseph's Church (Albany, New York)

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St. Joseph's Church in Ten Broeck Triangle

St. Joseph's Church is a historic Gothic church in the Ten Broeck Triangle section of Albany, New York's Arbor Hill neighborhood. The current structure is the second to hold this name in Albany, the first structure was the third Roman Catholic church built in the city, and the first north of Downtown.[1] The current structure is considered a city landmark and an important part of the skyline.[2] The Protestant Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut is based on the plans for St. Joseph's.[3]


By 1842 a church to serve the large increase in the Roman Catholic population of the northern area of Albany was needed due to the fact that the only Catholic churches that existed at the time were St. Mary's in Downtown Albany and St. John's in the South End. The first church was built on the northeast corner of North Pearl Street and Lumber Street (today Livingston Avenue). Built in 1842 and dedicated in 1843 at a cost of $28,000, it soon became too small for the growing congregation. The second structure built was at the current site along Ten Broeck Street between First Street and Second Street, purchased for $45,000. Patrick Keely was the architect, who had also designed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Ground was broken in 1855, the cornerstone laid in 1856, and completed in 1860 at a cost of approximately $250,000. In attendance at the dedication were all the bishops in the ecclesiastical Province of New York including the Bishop of Albany and the Archbishop of New York, the Bishop of Boston, and the Bishop of Newfoundland. The limestone exterior was originally trimmed with Caen stone but that type of limestone did not weather well and so was replaced with Ohio sandstone in 1866. Around 1874 the original church was sold to a bakery and in 1876 the church congregation incorporated.[1]

Broken windows in 2018

In 1985 the Black Apostolate of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese was formed to encourage African-American former Catholics to return to the Catholic Church through worship that was aimed at African-American cultural traditions. The Black Apostolate's regular mass was originally held in St. Joseph's.[4] The Vietnamese Apostolate also called St. Joseph's home in the 1990s.[5]

In 1987 the church was the site of some scenes filmed for the movie Ironweed starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.[6]

The church, in deep financial straits, was sold to Marine Colonel Bronislaus A. Gill in 1981 for $29,000.[7] In 1992 St. Joseph's was forced into an agreement with four other churches, St. Patrick's, Sacred Heart, St. Casimir's, and St. George's, to share three priests among them.[8] Soon after, in 1994 the church was closed and the parish merged with that of Sacred Heart, 13 blocks away in the North Albany neighborhood.[5] By then the church needed up to $2 million worth of repairs, including cracked stained-glass windows, a leaking roof, foundation work, and a rusted and collapsed iron fence.[7] The Albany Diocese bought the church back from Colonel Gill in 1996 for $30,000. The church then organized a committee composed of representatives from the church, the Ten Broeck Triangle Preservation League, Historic Albany Foundation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Mayor Jerry Jennings, Albany County Executive Michael Breslin, and NYS Assemblyman John McEneny to figure out new uses for the church.[6]

Boarded-up side entrance, 2018

The church continued to deteriorate from lack of use and maintenance and was included on the Historic Albany Foundations's Seven to Save list of endangered historical sites in 2000[9] The church sold the building for $1 to the Abate family, which owned a pair of night club/restaurants in Troy and a restaurant on Lark Street in Albany.[10] The sale to the Abate family, led by matriarch Elda Abate, faced opposition from Mayor Jennings when it was discovered that their bar in Albany owed back city and school taxes. The Ten Broeck Triangle community also opposed the Abate's plans when it was discovered they applied for a zoning variance to allow for noon to 4am operating hours for the banquet facility planned in the church.[11]

When the city determined that the structure was in imminent danger of collapse during the winter of 2001, the church was condemned and emergency work done to shore up the support columns and roof.[12] In January 2003 the city took the Abate's to court to secure an emergency eminent domain order, within a month the city turned the deed over to the Historic Albany Foundation which had $300,000 matching grant from the state for continuing work.[13][14] After having work done to allow the building to be safe for the public, the Albany Historic Foundation and the city hosted Obsequi, a multi-media performance of dance and music in 2007.[15] Further art and musical performances continue to be hosted as fundraising events at the church,[16][17] along with hosting the annual Restoration Funstival (also known as the Restoration Festival or Rest Fest) showcasing local music and art with the intention of bringing national attention to local bands.[18]

In 2009, the church's site was set to become the headquarters of the nonprofit organization World Unity Corp. in an attempt to promote education, the arts, and multiculturalism. However, the project collapsed when treasurer Mala Khan was convicted of financial fraud.[19] The building reverted to city ownership shortly thereafter.[20] There were previously plans to convert the structure into a pub, but local opposition prevented them from going forward.[21]


The church is 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2), 212 feet (65 m) long, 116 feet (35 m) wide, and built of blue limestone trimmed with Ohio sandstone. It incorporates 14 marble columns and 16 stained glass windows.[1][22] There are three towers on the church, one large tower in front and two smaller twins in back.[1] The main tower is 235 feet (72 m) tall, is lit at night, and houses 10 bells. There are nine small bells with one large bell, they were cast at the Meneely Bell Foundry in Troy, New York at a cost estimated at $12,000 in 1906. The bells are activated through the pulling of oak levers in a chime room.[23] The ceiling is in a hammerbeam roof–style of wooden beams projecting from the roof and walls carved ornately with angels and religious symbols.[24]

Notable pastors[edit]

  • Very Reverend John J. Conroy–became the second Bishop of Albany in 1865, but retained the pastorship of St. Joseph's until his retirement in 1877.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Howell, George Rogers; Tenney, Jonathan (1866). Bi-Centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N.Y., from 1609 to 1866. W.W. Munsell & Co. p. 755.
  2. ^ LeBrun, Fred (2001-12-28). "Sign of Hope for Future of Church". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B1.
  3. ^ Waite, Diana S. (2009). Architects in Albany. Mount Ida Press and Historic Albany Foundation. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-9625368-6-1.
  4. ^ Thurman, Ken (1986-05-31). "Shephard Seeking 'Lost Sheep' Diocese Reaching Out to Blacks". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. D1.
  5. ^ a b O'Brien, Tim (1994-07-11). "St. Joe's Final Mass Parish Merges With Sacred Heart". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B1.
  6. ^ a b Yu, Winifred (1996-03-08). "Diocese Buys Back Historic Church". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B7.
  7. ^ a b Yu, Winifred (1994-07-29). "Neighbors Fear for Arbor Hill Church's Fate". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B3.
  8. ^ Clabby, Catherine (1991-04-09). "5 Inner-city Churches to Share 3 Priests". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B2.
  9. ^ Benjamin, Elizabeth (2000-04-16). "Preservation Group Lists Buildings Facing Extinction". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. C6.
  10. ^ Wechsler, Alan (2000-08-19). "Historic Church to Regain Past Glory". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B1.
  11. ^ Polgreen, Lydia (2001-05-11). "Arbor Hill Neighbors Opject to Plan for Historic Church". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B5.
  12. ^ Crowe II, Kenneth C. (2001-12-21). "Historic Church Condemned". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B8.
  13. ^ Duggan, Erin (2003-01-11). "Ruined Church Returned to City". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B1.
  14. ^ Scruton, Bruce A. (2003-02-04). "City Set to Sign Over St. Joseph's". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. B1.
  15. ^ Kane, Tim (2007-09-06). "A Resurrection". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. P31.
  16. ^ "Albany County Edition". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. 2007-09-07. p. D1.
  17. ^ "Calendar". Albany (N.Y.) Times Union. Hearst Communications. 2007-09-15. p. B3.
  18. ^ "Restoration Sponsors". Restoration Funstival. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
  19. ^ Fries, Amanda (June 5, 2017). "Former Catholic Church in historic neighborhood faces uncertainty". Albany (N.Y.) Times Union. Hearst Communications. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  20. ^ Brown, Kristen V. (May 16, 2013). "St. Joseph's reverts to city ownership". Albany (N.Y.) Times Union. Hearst Communications. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  21. ^ Carleo-Evangelist, Jordan (December 13, 2012). "Church pub called a foul brew". Albany (N.Y.) Times Union. Hearst Communications. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  22. ^ Yu, Winifred (1997-05-14). "Diocese Wants Ideas for Future of St. Joseph's". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. A1.
  23. ^ Grondahl, Paul (2010-12-06). "Bringing Back Bell's Peal Appeal". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Communications. p. A1.
  24. ^ "St. Joseph's Church, Albany, NY". Keely Society. Retrieved 2011-07-04.

External links[edit]

Media related to Saint Joseph's Church (Albany, New York) at Wikimedia Commons

42°39′25.23″N 73°45′5.42″W / 42.6570083°N 73.7515056°W / 42.6570083; -73.7515056Coordinates: 42°39′25.23″N 73°45′5.42″W / 42.6570083°N 73.7515056°W / 42.6570083; -73.7515056