Created By: Upper Madison Improvement Group
For many years, the pupils of Vincentian Institute’s grade school met near here to study under roofs of glass, in hopes of maximizing their exposure to what administrators believed were the health-giving rays of the sun.
This house at 994 Madison once belonged to a man named George Hawley, and before that to his in-laws, the Amsdells. Beer made the family fortune: Theodore Amsdell had been co-owner of Amsdell Bros. Brewery; later, he and George bought the Dobler Brewery. George and his wife, Theodora, shared a love of gardening and would send flowers from their two large conservatories to city hospital wards.
After the Hawleys' deaths, their home and grounds were purchased by St. Vincent de Paul parish and became part of its school, Vincentian Institute. With the conservatories, V.I. founder Father William Charles saw a chance to test the principles of a 1930s health craze, therapeutic sunbathing, According to practitioners, exposure to sunlight would promote general health and help cure all manner of ills. So the greenhouses were converted into classrooms for the primary grades. Father Charles was so pleased with the results that the school went on to add more steel and glass classrooms.
The glass school buildings have been demolished. But if you walk behind the Hawley house – today, Saint Rose's Huether School of Business – you'll see the school's latticed metal bell tower, set there as a memorial to a place that for many Albany families was an anchor of neighborhood life.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Pine Hills