It all began when I started seeing an unrecognized acorn logo and cool images of remodels and restoration work in amazing historic buildings. I think the Instagram algorithm recommended Albany Artisans to me due to my connection with Kelsea Adams (Currently a Project Manager for the firm), a previous Electric City Couture alum. So…I had my eye out with some future thought of finding out who these folks were, what their story was. Then as luck would have it, I got an introduction to firm founder Christopher Hacker by Michelle Toch Dinsmore of Overit Media with a strong recommendation that we should connect…and so we did.
Can you please state your name, title and what you do. How long has Albany Artisans been in existence? What is the mission and motivation?
I am Christopher Hacker, I am a carpenter, and I am the owner of Albany Artisans. Together with Project Manager Kelsea Adams we manage a team that practices the art of historic restoration and the revival of historic homes. As a restorer and preservationist I believe “You should participate in the lineage of your home.”
It’s kinda funny to say this now, but I was a preservationist before I knew what a preservationist was, though I certainly do know now. In 1997 I took an apprenticeship with a carpenter who was restoring 604 Madison Ave. I had no experience in the trade. Honestly, I needed a job, and with that turn of events it grew into a livelihood that then flourished into passion.
26 years ago with the encouragement of my mentor, I acquired my family’s generational home. We envisioned making the space into an artisans guild right here in Albany. At that time I was making and repairing stained glass windows, though my bread and butter came from restoration carpentry.
It was a big deal when we found the 1920 ‘s architectural drawings for this home, which are hanging on my wall today. These drawings gave us the ability to rebuild the front porch as originally intended. This was the first time I presented a proposed project to the Historic Resource Commission. They loved the intent to re-build it just the way it once was, (Actually I remember them being more interested in who the architect was). We were given the green light….and Albany Artisans was born.
Currently we’re a team of 8, I believe that our shared attitude, approach and passion attracts others to join up with the Artisans. I am proud to share that I was nominated and joined the commission in 2020.
Any projects that you are especially proud of?
I would say having the opportunity to work in and walk the halls of the New York State Capitol. (Restoring original Minton tiles that had been covered in carpet/glue) Also, the Marcus T Reynolds Superintendent House in Albany Rural Cemetery.
For me the largest accomplishment is being chosen as the Construction Manager of the Saratoga Sword Surrender Site where I was working directly with the National Park System at the Saratoga Battlefield.
Any interesting projects you are working on currently that you would like to share?
The restoration of the Turner Farmhouse, which has been added to the National Historic Registry of Historic Places. Outside of the norm we’ve recently been asked to revive a 1930’s train caboose which was left on an historic property south of Albany overlooking the Hudson…Wild, we’re in! Additionally, we are running a concurrent team that is in the middle of a bathroom remodel at a silo house in Chatham.
I see you have degrees in Philosophy and Anthropology. So many things are laser focused these days, I feel that can be limiting. Can you talk a little bit about the benefits of having a bigger vision in what you do?
True, I do have a Philosophy and Anthropology degree. Aristotle’s empiricism, and thoughts on potentiality and actualization grabbed hold of me, I believe we are products of our environment. We’re always processing sensory information from our shared environment. We all uniquely make our own connections to the past, be it a city park, a particular building, a corner store or curved glass window.
We feel a big sense of loss when these cherished spaces are destroyed by fire or demolition, and carted off to the landfill.
Since our inception I would say everything that we have accomplished and learned contributes to the next restoration project. The beauty of an old house is its unpredictability and we are always ready to learn more.
Bonus question…anything we should know about that you have coming up in the near future? Goals?
I would like to restore the James Hall Office. which is a National Historic Landmark in Albany’s Lincoln Park. He is considered the father of modern paleontology. He dug the mastodon from the Cohoes Falls and was also the first Director of the New York State Museum, I would like to have a part in creating a Discovery center as a historic adaptive re-use, highlighting his lineage of mentorship.
Second, be to find a personal assistant and continue to build the Albany Artisans Army! Any takers? Drop me a note… albanyartisans(@)gmail.com.