Why no tears for another collapsing church?

When the Trinity Church in Albany started to buckle and crumble, there was an outcry.  “Save the church,” we shouted.  “It’s part of the neighborhood.  And if we can’t save the church, let’s at least save those stained glass windows that might have been forged by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself.”

When St. Patrick’s Church in Watervliet was to meet the wrecking ball, there was an outcry.  “Save the church,” we shouted.  “We were married there, we worshiped there.  It’s part of our heritage.  We don’t need another Price Chopper there.”

There was outcry each time a church turned from building to rubble.

And yesterday, when news broke that part of a wall of the Church of the Holy Innocents in Albany collapsed, there was … nothing.  Not a word.  Not a shout.

Heck, I don’t think the average Capital District resident could find the Church of the Holy Innocents on a map without the use of Google Earth.

The Church of the Holy Innocents was built in Albany’s Arbor Hill in the 1850’s, and served parishioners for many generations.  Eventually the congregation merged with another house of worship on Clinton Avenue, and this building – which was eventually placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 – was left to rot.

And I do mean rot.

This is the photo that accompanies the Church’s Wikipedia page.

Church of the Holy Innocents, Albany, N.Y., 2011. Photo taken by Matt H. Wade, CC-BY-SA-3.0, at Wikipedia.

Oh yeah, you mumble.  That church.  The ivy-overgrown building at the corner of North Pearl and Colonie Streets.  It had a name?

Yes it did have a name.  And it had parishoners and baptisms and weddings and confirmations and funerals, just like the other churches in the Capital District.  And now it’s starting to fall apart.

Last night, TU reporter Jordan Carleo-Evangelist noted that a portion of the southwest corner of the building had collapsed.  Immediately crews arrived on the scene to stabilize the structure as best they could.  But in its current condition… this building’s days are numbered.

Sadly, if a few bricks tumble from its walls… with no one to champion the building’s cause… the only parishioners that will visit it, unfortunately, are the Holy Church of the Wrecking Balls and Our Holy Lady of St. Demolition.

And that’s a horrible option.

Even a few weeks ago, when I started experimenting with infrared film, I took a few pictures of the Church of Holy Innocents.  And despite its Gothic beauty, it still looked about as haunted and as miserable as any former house of worship could.

Church of the Holy Innocents
Church of the Holy Innocents. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera with yellow filter, Aerochrome infrared film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

This is no longer a house of worship.  It’s barely a house of anything.

I wanted so desperately to hear that someone has come to the building’s rescue; a white knight, a holy angel who would take the facility and spend millions to restore it and provide it (and the surrounding community) with a new holy home.

But I don’t hear a sound.

At some point, unfortunately, I suspect that the building known as the Church of Holy Innocents will cease to exist.  This is Albany, where sometimes I feel that the city bird is the wrecking ball.

I wish there was more of an outcry, more of a call to arms, more of a grass-roots effort to move the grass and remove the roots.

But, sadly, I don’t hear a sound.

What can you do in moments like this?

Part of me hopes that the “what we can do” isn’t just watching the slow deterioration and collapse of another historic downtown Albany facility.  This is a community that still holds a grudge against Nelson Rockefeller for turning twelve city blocks into the Empire State Plaza 50 years ago.

Right.  These are the same Capital District residents that would tear down the Arnoff Building and throw Nipper into the junkyard if it meant building a Wegmans on that site.

And yet… silence and ennui.

A church’s wall collapses.  The weight of two centuries of prayer finally gives out.  Eventually the wreckers will arrive.

And a few months later… a vacant lot.

That building deserved better than this.

The faith it embodied certainly deserved better than this.

We all deserve better than this.

But, unfortunately…

We’re not getting any better with this.