Historic Building Celebrates 100 Years from Italian Immigrants to Italian Americans

Apr 22, 2022 371

BY: Prof./Cav. Philip J. DiNovo

One-hundred years ago, a church was built to accommodate a growing Roman Catholic congregation. Albany architect Andrew Delehanty designed the building, Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church in Colonie; and Italian immigrants were among those who helped build the church and then later attended worship services there. Since 2009, it has been the home of the American Italian Heritage Association and Museum and Cultural Center. 

The building is unique, not only for its conversion from a church to a museum and cultural center, but also for its architecture. Crafted with the classic characteristics of the mission churches built in the Southwest during the 1700s, the building’s distinct features include exterior stucco walls, a square bell tower, a covered entry with an arched passage, and a quatrefoil window.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Mission Revival style had a resurgence in California, and had worked its way across America. Although Mission Revival was extremely popular in the west; the style was not as widespread in the east, especially in the northeastern states.

Our Lady of Mercy Roman Catholic Church served as the local community’s place of worship until the congregation outgrew the space, and a larger church was built nearby. Sometime during the mid-1970s, the building was sold and modified to accommodate offices. The building was vacant for 11 years before being purchased in 2004 by the American Italian Heritage Association.

Extensive renovations to the first floor took five years to complete, and the Museum opened on October 4, 2009, with 10 rooms of historic artifacts depicting the journey of Italian immigrants as they transitioned to Italian Americans. After additional renovations, in 2014, the Cultural Center opened on the second floor, providing a meeting room, research library, and chapel, among other service areas. The entire complex includes three buildings, with the Second Chance Thrift Shop located on the first floor of the former rectory.

In 2015, Historic Albany Foundation presented the Association with a plaque signifying “its outstanding achievement of the re-use of a religious building.”

The American Italian Heritage Association and Museum and Cultural Center is a 501(c) non-profit organization. It is operated entirely from its membership, through a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving Italian American history, heritage, and culture. www.americanitalianmuseum.org 

SOURCE: American Italian Heritage Museum

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