A Brief History of St. Anthony’s Church
St. Anthony’s Church was built in 1907 under the direction of architect Charles Ogden to serve the growing Italian community in Albany. By the 1920s the congregation had grown, and the building was substantially enlarged and rebuilt in 1927-28 under the direction of architect John Gander. At that time the building was expanded eastward by approximately 32 feet, the chapel wing (with confessionals) was added, the north and south walls were moved out to widen the sanctuary with side aisles, the floor was lowered and the basement level was made into a church hall with a stage and a kitchen.
From the lovely bell tower to the vaulted ceiling, the building reflects its strong Italian roots and craftsmanship. The warm yellow and red brick, large oak doors and lancet windows provide amazing interior light. Revered Albany marble and wood carver Antonio DeLuca Cardillo and other skilled craftsmen lent their artistry to the interior beauty. The church not only filled the religious needs of the parishioners, but also helped recent immigrants adjust to American life by offering instruction in English and assistance in the process of becoming naturalized citizens.
The church was a center for community events. Musical performances, weddings and instructional classes took place in this building. Operettas were rehearsed in the basement and taken on the road, enhancing St. Anthony’s reputation as a center for the arts.
But in 1972, following the construction of the Empire State Plaza and the demolition of many homes in the South End, St. Anthony’s had lost its congregation and closed its doors.
Since closing as a church, the building has had a few other uses, including two seasons as a theater in the 1990s. Several valiant attempts to restore the building, notably by the Italian American Cultural Foundation of the Capital District, proved unsuccessful. In 2004 a neighborhood-based not-for-profit named Mansion Community Arts, Inc. (now Grand Street Community Arts, Inc.) purchased the building from the Albany Catholic Diocese and commenced work on restoring the building as a community arts center.