The Blake Annex is named after Adam Blake Jr., a successful entrepreneur in 1800s Albany, NY. There is a natural synergy between the work we strive to accomplish at The Blake Annex and legacy of Adam Blake, Jr. and his wife, Catherine.
Adam Blake Jr. was born in 1830 and received his early education alongside the Van Rensselaer children, as his adopted father, Adam Blake Sr was enslaved by Van Rensselaer Manor. In his early adulthood, Adam went on to gain employment at the Delavan House on Broadway, working his way up to head waiter and building a strong reputation for himself as a dedicated, gregarious, and bright employee.
Blake’s first restaurant on Beaver Street opened in 1851 and in 1866, he became the proprietor of Congress Hall and would run it until it was demolished in 1878 to make open space for the new Capitol. He took the $190,000 proceeds he received from New York State for Congress Hall, and built The Kenmore Hotel, which opened its doors to the public in November 1878.
The Kenmore Hotel was the ultimate dream of Adam Blake, Jr. and was called, “the most elegant structure on the finest street in Albany.” The Kenmore Hotel was extremely successful for both the convenience of the amenities and the level of hospitality you could expect to receive at the hotel.
Sadly, Adam didn’t get to see the full height of the success of the hotel as he passed away in 1881, but his impact on the community lived on. During his lifetime, he was able to easily navigate different communities, live as a well-respected proprietor and businessman and was a quiet disruptor, the evidence of which being that his family lived on Third Street behind the Stephen and Harriet Myers’ Residence on Livingston Ave. This is significant because the Myers’ were the leading figures in the Albany Underground Railroad.
Adam’s widow, Catherine, went on to take over the business upon his passing and was exceedingly successful. She managed the Kenmore Hotel for seven years and her business acumen was as strong as her late husband’s. So much so, that many hotel proprietors were desirous of The Kenmore Hotel and eventually one, Hiram Rockwell, procured the lease to the property where the entrance to The Kenmore Hotel was located.
This was the part of the property that was bordering Columbia Street and belonged to the McNaughton estate. The McNaughton’s built it originally for Catherine’s husband. Upon discovering that Rockwell had obtained the lease behind her back, and due to Catherine’s innate aptitude for real estate, she had two adjoining buildings become a part of the hotel property that had not been acquired by Rockwell in the original deal. These two buildings were the Pruyn building and the YMCA. She expanded the hotel and changed the front entrance of The Kenmore Hotel, reorienting her customers to the New Kenmore.
The Blakes were innovators, changemakers and thought-leaders and their vision and legacy lives on here at the Blake Annex.