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The Dog Stays

It’s one of the defining characteristics of the Albany skyline: the Old RCA Victor mascot Nipper, who still sits atop the former RCA Building. Visiting today, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer says the pup has become a regional icon. A new development plan would transform the so-called "Nipper Building" into downtown residential and commercial space.

The 28-foot high statue of the dog has been on top of the building for almost 60 years and is visible from 5 miles away. Arnoff Moving & Storage has occupied the building in 1997, after RCA left town. Monday Senator Schumer visited Albany and urged the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office to immediately add the “Nipper” building and statue to the National Register of Historic Places. Schumer says the historic designation is key to unlocking tax credits for the overhaul of 991 Broadway.

"Nipper may be made of fiberglass, but his watching over the city of Albany for the last 60 years has woven him into the very fiber of this community.  Wouldn't it be great to see him gently and proudly watching over a vibrant residential and commercial rebirth of this historic building and this community."  Schumer explained that the Arnoff family is now selling the Nipper Building and its three adjacent properties to  Nipper Apartments, LLC, which plans to convert the buildings into a mix of $70 million worth of residential and commercial space. Plans call for 150 apartments, with additional space for parking and retail shops. Spokesman Bill Barber says Nipper Apartments has big plans, with reconstruction rolling out in four phases. Current tenants will not be displaced.   "It's my understanding there are no real leases in place, they're month to month people. So yeah, I mean, assuming we don't bother them during construction and they have the desire to stay, we will work it out with anybody. We have no guidelines on tenants."

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Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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There's Nipper!

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan is glad Nipper will remain.   "It's such an icon in the city, and when we were selecting, through our wonderful Albany Institute and History and Art and Tammis Groft this year, the 50 Objects That Define The Capital Region, Nipper was the number one vote-getter."

Schumer says the historic designation and accompanying tax credits will not only help transform the over 100-year-old structure into a residential and commercial gem, but will also help protect and maintain the white terrier — listening to “his master’s voice” — who has graced the top of the building since the 1950s.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to NPS appears below:

Dear Ms. Pierpoint,

I am pleased to write today in support of placing the “Nipper Building” also known as the American Meter Company Building, located in Albany, New York on the National Register of Historic Places through the National Park Service (NPS).  This important designation would not only help to protect the historical integrity of this over 100-year-old structure and maintain Nipper, the more than 25 foot tall fiberglass white terrier that has been on top of the building since the 1950s, but most importantly allow for the use of historic tax credits in a vital adaptive reuse of the building.

As you may know, the “Nipper Building” in Albany, New York was originally built in 1906.  This four story flat roof structure, was constructed with reinforced concrete, which was the 20th century method that replaced the older heavy timber framing construction method that most 19th century factories were made with. Formerly an American Meter Company building from 1906 until the 1950s, the building gained further recognition when in 1957-58 the new owners, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), constructed Nipper, a 28 foot tall fiberglass white terrier that has been on top of the building for almost 60 years.  Nipper, who is based upon an actual mixed stray terrier that died in 1895, is visible from 5 miles away, making him an integral part of Albany’s revitalized warehouse district.  Listing the Nipper Building on the National Register of Historic Places would allow for Nipper to not only remain on top of the building for future generations to enjoy, but it would also be a great step forward in appropriately honoring the role that Nipper and this historic building have played in Albany over its history.  

Furthermore, adding the Nipper Building to National Register of Historic Places would help defray the costs associated with a comprehensive exterior restoration and interior rehabilitation of the historic structures.  The developer, Nipper Apartments, LLC, intends to develop the structure into more than 150 apartments, with additional space for parking and retail shops. State and Federal tax credits would help to defray the costs associated with a comprehensive exterior restoration and interior rehabilitation of the original 1906 building. Listing the historic hospital on the National Register of Historic Places would allow the LLC to apply for historic tax credits, facilitating an adaptive reuse project that is widely supported by the community because it would preserve significant and distinctive history, while complementing the surrounding neighborhoods. Without these tax credits, adaptive reuse would be cost prohibitive.

Again, I urge you to place the “Nipper Building” on the National Register of Historic Places   in order to maintain the historical integrity of this over 100 year old structure, while also ensuring that Nipper the dog remains an important part of the community for generations to come.  I look forward to working with you on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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