Schenectady County

Nicholaus Building damaged, crumbling

Thai Thai Bistro owner Piyamas DeMasi said the walls of the building at the corner of State Street a
Code Enforcement officers walk along the back side of the Nicholaus Block Building on State Street Friday, April 1, 2016.
Code Enforcement officers walk along the back side of the Nicholaus Block Building on State Street Friday, April 1, 2016.

The Nicholaus Building is crumbling.

Thai Thai Bistro owner Piyamas DeMasi said the walls of the iconic building at the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard started shaking Friday afternoon.

The floors of the building cracked down the middle. Tiles fell from the walls. Portions of the ceiling are broken off. The building is literally falling apart.

“The walls were shaking,” DeMasi said while looking at the damage inside this afternoon. “It has been happening throughout the demolition. But today was worse.”

The Olender building next door was demolished last month.

The Nicholaus building, erected in 1820, is structurally unstable, city Building Inspector Eric Shilling said in the afternoon. Schenectady code enforcers ordered to vacate the property.

Officials on the scene in the early evening said demolition is unlikely at this point.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said later in the evening that structural engineers inspected the building and are working to stabilize it and hopefully repair it.

Schenectady police closed roads around the site. As of Friday evening, Erie Boulevard was closed to traffic in all directions from Liberty Street to Erie Street. Southbound traffic on Erie Boulevard is open from I-890 to Erie Street. State Street is closed to traffic in both directions from S Ferry Street to Broadway.

McCarthy said the closures could last through the weekend.

“We’re being overly cautious and will act appropriately,” McCarthy said on the scene.

Thai Thai Bistro is closed until further notice. Tenants in the three apartment units on the second and third floors have been displaced. It is unclear how many tenants live in the building.

The structure of the Nicholaus building actually shifted, causing the walls to detach from the structure. The cause of the damage to the Nicholaus building is unclear at this time.

Behind the bar at Thai Thai, the wall that faces the former Olender building actually broke away from the floor, leaving inches of space that show the underground.

Looking at the building from across the street on State, the spire at the top could be seen tilting away from the building toward Erie Boulevard.

Last month, a ghost sign was uncovered following the demolition of Olender.

The partial sign on the exterior of the brick building reads, “Nicholaus Headquarters, Evans Ales — Schlitz Milwaukee Lager” and “On Land or Sea Une Bis.” Une Bis was an advertisement for the former Uneeda Biscuit.

Nicholaus is surprisingly not a registered historic building, Schenectady Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton said.

It’s named after Louis Nicholaus, a German immigrant who came to Schenectady around 1870 to work for the Schenectady Locomotive Works, which later became the American Locomotive Co., according to Chris Hunter, director of collection and exhibitions at miSci.

In 1901, Nicholaus remodeled the building in an old German style, which is why the date on its facade reads 1901. The restaurant there was family run until 1975, when it closed its doors, Hunter said.

After it closed there was a gas leak in the basement that caused an explosion, which partially blew out one of the walls of the building. It was reopened as Maurice Readi-Foods in 1977.

In 2012, a part-owner of the Bangkik Bistro, which was located there at the time, was killed in a freak elevator accident inside the restaurant. Israel “Bobby” Silva, 30, had his head trapped by a dumbwaiter inside the basement kitchen.

The Olender building at 254 State St., the BiMor Army & Navy building at 232 State St. and a red brick building at 236 State St. were demolished to make way for a 144,000-square-foot building with 105 luxury apartments and 9,900 square feet of retail space.

Jackson Demolition of Schenectady demolished the structures along with Plank Construction. The new building is being developed by Highbridge Development of Schenectady and Prime Companies of Cohoes. It’s expected to be done by the end of next year.

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