Once again this week, on Sunday, I leaned the bike against the corner of 129 West First Ave. and wondered what if anything was happening with this old Albany structure.
The building has been vacant since 2016, when part of the front wall failed during an attempt at remodeling and had to be propped up.
You would not think so by looking at it, but the building is listed as “historic contributing” on Albany’s inventory of historic buildings.
That’s because it was designed by Charles Burggraf and constructed a century ago. In recent decades it had been a tavern with names such as the First Round and the Westerner.
The city’s historic inventory lists as construction date of circa 1919, but this is wrong. Based on one of the comments below, I checked the online archives and found that the Burggraf Building was completed in 1923, as the commenter says.
In 1932 it was the home of McAlpin’s, which gave its address as 127 West First and advertised itself as “The place that has the pleasant atmosphere.” (There is no 127 address there now. I’m guessing 127 then and 129 now refer to the same building.)
If you read McAlpin’s ad in the paper that year, you were invited to “drop in and enjoy yourself.” And you could have the “special mechants lunch every day.”
And if you wanted to know what was for lunch, you could call. The number was 140.
The proprietor, Malcolm McAlpin, bought the Burggraf Building in late 1932. In December that year, reporting the purchase, the Democrat-Herald described him as the owner of the “McAlpin confectionery and pool hall.”
Thirty years before that, McAlpin had his confectionery and cigar store across the street, in what was known as the Peter Paulus Building at First and Ellsworth. He sold that in 1918 to move his business to Vancouver, Wash., but evidently returned later.
(Peter Paulus is a story for another day. The building holding his tailor shop was one of Albany’s oldest and was razed in the 1920s. It made way for the Bikman Building, which remains.)
So what about the shell of the place where you could get the merchants lunch every day, some 90-plus years ago?
The place is owned by a Salem-based church, the Jesus Revival Association. The last year taxes on the property were paid was 2018.
Now both Linn County and the City of Albany have begun foreclosure proceedings. The county says the unpaid property taxes amount to about $26,000. And the city is seeking to collect on liens totaling $567,000. The amount is based on what City Attorney Sean Kidd says were “years of code violations” plus expenses in boarding the place up.
What will be the outcome of the foreclosures, if they go through? Who knows, but it would be nice if somehow this building could be fixed up and returned to use.
We can’t revive history — “special merchants lunch every day” — but downtown Albany can always use another place “that has the pleasant atmosphere.” (hh)