SCHENECTADY–Among Frank Gilmore’s monumental architectural projects, one that stands out for friends and family is his work lifting an 1820s Stockade neighborhood house out of the floodplain.
Meredith Anker, 76, had lived in the house since the late 1980s when the lower level flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011. It wasn’t the first time the house had taken on water, a she declared.
“I was so exhausted, because every time the river went up, I moved all my furniture from the first floor to the second floor,” Anker said.
So Anker walked across the street to ask Mary D’Alessandro-Gilmore, who is a realtor and former president of The Stockade Association, to put the house on the market.
D’Alessandro-Gilmore said no – because of the flood the house had lost all value. But with the help of state funding, D’Alessandro-Gilmore was able to begin a process to help save the house.
Her husband, Frank Gilmore, who died May 25 at Ellis Hospital at the age of 80, served as the architect.
Born in Wellesley, Mass., Gilmore is a graduate of Cornell University and was a noted architect and longtime partner of the Stracher-Roth-Gilmore firm in Schenectady. He has worked everywhere from Manhattan to Tehran, but his main focus has been on Schenectady and the greater capital area, where his work has included the redesign of Albany International Airport, Albany-Rensselaer Station and from Key Hall to Protors. Gilmore was also a gifted painter and a devoted father and grandfather.
The Stockade project took years and many meetings to get approval from the Schenectady Historic District Commission in 2015 before raising the house, transforming it and setting it on a hill. The work was not completed until 2018. But Gilmore was with Anker throughout.
“He went to every meeting – and there were a lot of them,” Anker said. “He held my hand throughout history, and he couldn’t have been better. He was just a nice visionary.
Gilmore even saved a crabapple tree that remains on the property.
“Most architects, I don’t know if they would care,” said Anker, who still lives in the house.
This Stockade project embodied Gilmore so much. He was an uplifting spirit, with a true artist’s eye for detail, who cared deeply about and was deeply committed to the community and its history. In all, he retained a sense of beauty, say those who knew him best.
D’Alessandro-Gilmore was a beauty who caught Gilmore’s eye in 1989. The two met while working on a condominium project in Albany on which Gilmore was the architect and D’Alessandro-Gilmore was the director of marketing and sales.
At first, D’Alessandro-Gilmore was not interested. She was too busy preparing for the inauguration ceremony of the project.
“I was doing so many things, and two days before the event he said, ‘I’m here to take you to lunch, and then I’ll help you out. ‘” D’Alessandro-Gilmore said. “That’s what made me turn around and look at him differently.”
Together, the couple have built a beautiful life together in beautiful homes. In addition to having a country home in Glen, Gilmore and D’Alessandro-Gilmore renovated an 1889 American square frame house in the Stockade. Frank leaves behind a daughter, two stepdaughters and five grandchildren.
“Every day he was like, ‘you’re so beautiful,'” D’Alessandro-Gilmore said. “We had this great life together in the community. We both volunteered in the community, we would be at every event, and we just had a great relationship.
Gilmore has been involved in community initiatives throughout his life. Chuck Thorne said he only got to know Gilmore well in the last half-decade through Friends of the Schenectady Greenhouses.
When Thorne asked Gilmore to join the group, Gilmore asked if the greenhouses would be Lord and Burnham Greenhouses, a line of greenhouses made since the mid-1800s. Thorne had no idea. “But I thought to myself, I think I have the right guy here.”
(It turned out to be the Lord and Burnham greenhouses.)
“He has always been community oriented. You look at his resume, yes there is private work, but everything he did was for the good of the community,” Thorne said.
Gilmore also had a style of his own.
“Frank is one of the few people I know who can insert the word ‘delicious’ into a conversation and not sound like he’s taking air,” Thorne said. “These types of adjectives came out of his tongue as naturally as I say ‘isn’t’.”
Known for his inquisitive mind and his love of the classics – be it music, painting or literature – Gilmore was not known for his pretentiousness.
“There was no ego. It was just fun, intellectual humor,” said Ray Legere, Gilmore’s friend for decades. “When we were together, it was like two teenagers heckled, but with respect.”
Legere, owner of the Schenectady Armory and who has done extensive development work in the town with Legere Properties and the Legere Group, which he co-owns, said Gilmore brought his appreciation for the finer things to his work . For example, Gilmore, adept at creating watercolors, always painted his architectural designs rather than generating them with a computer, Legere said.
“I will never forget the advice he gave me: we were faced with a choice between money and beauty. And he said, “If money is your only obstacle, go for beauty.” Otherwise, you will regret your choice forever,” Legere said.
Architect JT Pollard of Re4orm Architecture, whose Schenectady projects include Frog Alley and Mohawk Harbor, counts Gilmore as a mentor.
“The architectural fabric of the city is very important. He knew it. You try to own that as an architect and build community through architecture,” Pollard said. “It’s an ongoing commitment to the people who are here. We’re all working together to try to bring Schenectady back, and he was one of the pioneers to revive Schenectady.
D’Alessandro-Gilmore said her husband was a man who saw potential in everything, from the musical talents of his grandchildren to the historic significance of homes in the Electric City. This is the underlying reason why he was so committed to all of his projects, including raising Anker’s house into the stockade.
“Who knows what would have happened if someone didn’t take care of it,” D’Alessandro-Gilmore said. “They had [Anker] liked it, and he wanted to help her and make this house beautiful again.
Calling hours will be Tuesday, May 31 from 2 to 7 p.m. at Gleason Funeral Home. Relatives and friends are invited to attend Remarks of Remembrance on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church, 812 Union St., Schenectady, followed by The Liturgy of the Word, celebrated at 1:30 p.m.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
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