After opening in 1905, Albany's Wellington Hotel symbolized staid respectability to generations of guests. Located just up State Street from the Capitol and down the hill from "Rockefeller's Folly" (officially known as the Empire Plaza), the Wellington was long popular with legislators and officialdom. Mario Cuomo moved into the Wellington when he came to Albany as a law clerk in 1956, and returned during his terms as lieutinent govenor in the 1980s.
The person who most shaped the Wellington was Claude J. Holder (1876-1950), who purchased the original 17 room hotel in 1911 and expanded it to over 400 rooms with a "built-in garage". In 1959, business was still good enough for Carter Hotels to pay Holding's heirs $1,500,000 for the hotel under a contract which obligated the purchaser to provide a television set and air conditioning in every room. Although the appeal of lodging downtown was already diminishing, the Wellington stayed open until the mid-1980s.
On August 17, 2004, a pedestrian noticed something more dramatic than roosting pigeons atop the long-vacant Wellington. The National Register landmark's five ton upper cornice was separating from the facade and leaning perilously above State Street. After emergency workers managed to remove the breakaway cornice with a crane, the Albany Times-Union forecast that the 90 year old building would stand for only a few more days.
Following a preliminary decision to raze all but the facade, preservationists demonstrated. The city then hired an engineering firm that stabilized the building and sheathed its upper stories. However, it was found the structure had already sustained major water damage during nearly twenty years of vacancy.
During the winter of 2004, the Albany Historic Commission rejected the Wellington's London-based owners' application for a demolition permit, while a city judge levied a nearly half million dollar fine for code violations. The drama's next acts played out in court, with the owners appealing the fine and the city suing them.
Finally, during the winter of 2007, the hotel and adjacent buildings in the "Wellington Row" were sold to a local developer with plans to build a 14 story tower on the site. This project, which is scheduled to begin with asbestos removal in late June 2008, will preserve the row's facades as well as substantial sections of some of its buildings. Although initial reports were that the Wellington would be annexed to the tower as a substantially intact structure, the local media now reports that it will be "historically deconstructed", with the stonework from its facade being incorporated into that of the tower.