The facilities of the Institute consist of three buildings: 411 and 415 State Street and the Carriage House at 13 Henry Johnson Boulevard. The Institute is centrally located between the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and the seat of New York State government.
411 State Street
A five-story Dutch Renaissance Revival building, 411 State Street dates from 1900 and was initially intended as a residence for Charles Manning Van Heusen and his wife Ada Olive (née Proctor). A prominent Albany businessman, Van Heusen was a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose White House china he supplied. Van Heusen was also responsible for the standardization of the design of the Great Seal of the United States.
The new home at 411 State Street had been built for the couple by Ada Proctor's father, William F. Proctor, a vice president and director of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Tradition has it that Charles Van Heusen sketched the original plan for the building on a piece of paper at the Fort Orange Club, using a billiard table for a drafting board.
Van Heusen's rough drawings served as the basis for the final renderings by his brother-in-law, William Ross Proctor, who held a degree in architecture from the Columbia University School of Mines. William Proctor was an eclectic designer whose buildings included the Western Pennsylvania Hospital and the Allegheny Pumping Station, two predominantly Elizabethan style mansions, and a "Colonial Revival" country club near Pittsburgh. He eventually gave up his architectural practice to become a stockbroker. In addition, he served as vice president and trustee of the New York State Genealogical and Biographical Society.
The Van Heusen marriage dissolved before Charles and Ada could occupy the residence at 411 State Street. In 1902 the home was purchased by Anthony N. Brady, a pioneer of Consolidated Edison. Brady, who endowed the hospital that later became St. Peter's in Albany, completed the structure's interior decoration, including commissioning the four wall murals in the Music Room.
In 1921, several years after Brady's death, Benjamin Whitbeck purchased the property and converted it to an apartment building he christened Chateau Plaza, later the Colony Plaza. Albanians who were teenagers in the mid-1920s may remember attending dancing class on the second floor in the Brady's old ballroom. Later in the twenties, the first two floors were also converted to apartments. The carriageway was enclosed and a new entrance was made directly onto State Street.
The building changed hands at least twice more before it became the headquarters of the Research Foundation of the State University of New York in 1965.
From 1959 to 1965, even before purchasing the building, the Research Foundation rented office space at 411 State Street, acquiring apartments as tenants vacated them. For twenty years the building served as the foundation's corporate headquarters; it also housed such University offices as the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, the SUNY Press, and the Sea Grant Institute — academic enterprises closely tied to the activities and mission of the Foundation. Even as the building grew worn, it remained a distinguished and elegant symbol. It linked the new State University system both with the social and political heritage of historic Albany and with the progressive, energetic state government whose role was so influential in the development of SUNY during the Rockefeller years.
Restoration of 411 State Street was completed under the supervision of architect John I. Mesick of Mendel, Mesick, Cohen and Waite in Albany. In honor of the Chancellor's efforts to acquire and renovate the building, it has been named the Clifton and Dolores Wharton Research Center. The building's twenty-three rooms are a showcase of architectural styles. On the ground floor, the reception area has an Elizabethan ceiling and a Jacobean fireplace, with carved staircase winding upward in graceful curves. On the second floor, which is used for Institute conferences and other university-wide activities and seminars, a Georgian ballroom displays leaded windows of primarily Flemish influence. The parlor is done in the manner of Louis XVI, and the paneled dining room is Jacobean.
The Music Room is thought by many to be the most beautiful room in Albany; dominated by English Georgian features, it is highlighted by four lunette wall murals executed in 1906 by the local artist Will H. Low. The murals depict allegories entitled Time of Henri II (east wall), Garden Fete (west wall), Chateau d'Anet (north wall), and Garden of Diana (south wall).
Several pieces of original furnishings remain in the Institute, including a marble statue called Spinario (Boy Removing a Thorn), which is a copy of a bronze work in the Palazza dei Conservatori in Rome.
Restoration of 411 State Street has reopened the vaulted carriageway that originally led to the rear courtyard. The State Street entrance was closed and the glass and bronze main doors were reinstalled between the marble columns of the carriageway. By removing two floors that had been built beneath the skylight, workers recaptured the soaring magnificence of the Music Room's original two-and-a-half story interior. In addition, specialists from the Cooperstown Art Conservatory Program, affiliated with the State University of New York at Buffalo, painstakingly restored the Music Room murals. Fourteen fireplaces, each of a different colored marble or hand-painted tile, were brought back to their former condition.
415 State Street
To accommodate the expansion of its activities, in 1992 the Institute was able to purchase 415 State Street, the building adjacent to its current facilities. Along with a sister building across a courtyard, 423 State Street, 415 State Street was built around 1901 in the Classic Revival style by the Fuller and Pitcher architectural firm. These buildings were constructed as residences for two prominent Albany businessmen, Charles Gibson and William J. Walker. Partners in the wholesale drug firm, Walker and Gibson, Gibson resided at 415 State Street and Walker at 423 State Street.
According to the Albany county deed records, 415 State Street was never recorded, leaving an incomplete record of its history and its subsequent owners. It is assumed that at the death of Charles Gibson, his son, William W. Gibson, sold or donated the residence to the YMCA around 1945. William Gibson was a member of the YMCA for seventy-nine years and served on the Board of Trustees from 1928 until his death in 1975. The YMCA used the building for temporary housing and later sold it.
Renovations of the buildings were completed by Petersen, Mallin, Mendel Architects in 1992, the tenth anniversary of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. The building at 415 State Street is named for Governor Malcolm Wilson, who was a friend and close ally of Governor Rockefeller.
The Carriage House
To further accommodate the expansion of its activities, in 1994 the Institute was able to purchase the Carriage House at 13 Henry Johnson Boulevard. Located in the Washington Park Historic District, this long, narrow, brick and gray stone structure was once a stable and servants' quarters to the 411 State Street property. The Carriage House is a turn-of-the-century Dutch Revival Style building characterized by gables, sets of small paned windows placed asymmetrically, and arched brick and stone lintels.
Construction on the Carriage House began in 1900 by William F. Proctor who was also constructing the residence at 411 State Street. In 1902, Anthony N. Brady purchased the residence at 411 State Street and the Carriage House. The house and stable came into different hands in 1925; it was owned by a succession of real estate companies. Among the occupants of the building were Patrick Fogarty, engineer, and Robert Reedy, clerk (1914); and Edson Houck, photographer, and the Minor Motor Co. (1925). From the thirties through the fifties the Carriage House was occupied by various commercial and residential tenants; in the 1970's the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Preservation Design Group occupied the property. Prior to the purchase of the property by the Rockefeller Institute, the Carriage House was occupied by the architectural firm of O'Conner and Marsh. The Carriage House now houses the offices of the Rockefeller Institute's Urban Studies Group and the New York State Health Policy Research Center.
Examples of the finest American residences of their period, the buildings at 411 and 415 State Street and the Carriage House at Henry Johnson Boulevard provide an excellent setting for the programs in public policy and administration of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Renovated with integrity, the three buildings together will endure as a part of the state's historic heritage.