Last night came the horrifying news. The campus of the old Doane Stuart parochial school burned to the ground. Absolutely devastating news. Although the school itself moved out of that location a decade ago, there were hopes that the facility could be rehabbed into new housing or new living accommodations. Those hopes are now sadly dashed.
The building’s history spans nearly 200 years. The Friends of Albany blog has an excellent history of the building’s many lives – as a private residence, as a convent, and later as a parochial school. Here’s the link.
That being said … I want to mention a personal connection involving Doane Stuart.
No, I never attended the school. But the school was part of my existence.
I shall explain.
Prior to Doane Stuart, the facility was a convent for the nuns of the Kenwood Academy of the Sacred Heart. They, along with community activists in Albany’s South End and Arbor Hill neighborhoods, put together a learning opportunity for those students who were left out and marginalized by the Albany City School District. The plan was to bring young men and women to various businesses and institutions and let them learn hands-on and achieve that learning experience. Thus, in 1970, began what was called the Street Academy of Albany.
Eventually the school became part of the Albany City School District, and it operated under their aegis from 1974 to 2010, its last 20 years under the name of Harriet Gibbons High School. And when Street Academy held their graduation ceremonies, for many years those ceremonies were held on the Doane Stuart campus. It was a partnership of faith and of encouragement.
By the time this blog post is written, I surmise that the wrecking cranes and bulldozers will be crawling up Mt. Hope Drive for their first whacks at the building structures. And a part of Albany’s history and architecture and soul will be laid to rubble.
Honestly, this sucks. There were so many opportunities to do something with that campus. It was beautiful and ornate and a treasure. And now it’s lost to photographs and fading memories and cinders.
Yeah … today’s not really a good day. Sorry, folks.
How sad! That was such a beautiful complex. Definitely a devastating loss to the community and anyone with a connection to it.
An overhead pic in Today’s TU shows the shell of the Doane Stuart School. In some ways, it
resembles what Albany itself has turned into since I grew up there.
Very sad!! I was the Director of Institutional Advancement at Doane Stuart in late ’90s/early ’00s. The older/convent side of the school was extraordinary, and the Chapel was a beautiful space with amazing wood features, no doubt contributing to its rapid burning and collapse. The structure will obviously be bulldozed and returned to nature, but there are some other things on the campus that I hope will be preserved and protected, including an extraordinary, large and old gingko tree just outside of the convent area, the graveyard for the RSCJ nuns who died there, and an outdoor chapel that I helped design and build after we found some massive construction stones buried the woods from the original days of the private home onsite. It’s a gorgeous natural forest space, and I hope that the tragedy of the building’s burning will lead Albany to commit to protecting and preserving the property as a shared natural area to benefit the city’s South End communities.