Schenectady says goodbye to Gilmore, a ‘kind visionary’

Frank Gilmore and Mary D'Alessandro-Gilmore seated on the porch of their Schenectady home.

Frank Gilmore and Mary D'Alessandro-Gilmore seated on the porch of their Schenectady home.

SCHENECTADY Among Frank Gilmore’s monumental architectural projects, one that stands out for friends and family is his work lifting an 1820s Stockade district house out of the floodplain.

Meredith Anker, 76, had been living in the home since the late 1980s when the lower level flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011. It was not the first time the house had taken on water, she said.

“I was just so exhausted, because every time the river rose I would move all my furniture on the first floor up to the second floor,” Anker said.

So Anker crossed the street to ask Mary D’Alessandro-Gilmore, who is a real estate broker and former president of The Stockade Association, to put the home on the market.

D’Alessandro-Gilmore said no–because of the flooding, the home had lost all value. But with the help of state funding, D’Alessandro-Gilmore was able to begin a process to help save the home.

Her husband, Frank Gilmore, who died on May 25 at Ellis Hospital at the age of 80, served as the architect.

Born in Wellesley, Mass., Gilmore graduated from Cornell University and was a renowned architect and long-time partner in the firm Stracher-Roth-Gilmore in Schenectady. He worked everywhere from Manhattan to Tehran, but so much of his focus was in Schenectady and the greater Capital Region, where his work included redesigns of the Albany International Airport, the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station and Key Hall at Proctors. Gilmore was also a gifted painter, and a devoted father and grandfather.

The Stockade project took years and required attending numerous meetings to gain the 2015 approval of the Schenectady Historic District Commission before raising the home, turning it and putting it up on a hill. Work wasn’t complete until 2018. But Gilmore was beside Anker for the duration.

“He went to every meeting–and there were many of them,” Anker said. “He held my hand through the whole thing, and he couldn’t have been better. He was just a kind 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 home.

That Stockade project epitomized so much about Gilmore. 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 everything, he maintained an eye for beauty, say those who knew him best.

D’Alessandro-Gilmore was a beauty who caught Gilmore’s attention 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 wasn’t interested. She was too busy preparing for the project’s grand-opening celebration.

“I was doing so much, and two days before the event, he said, ‘I’m here to take you to lunch, and then I’m going to help you.’” D’Alessandro-Gilmore said. “That’s what made me turn around and look at him differently.”

Together, the couple 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 wood-framed American foursquare home in the Stockade. Frank leaves behind one daughter, two step-daughters and five grandchildren.

“Every day he told me, ‘you’re so beautiful,’” D’Alessandro-Gilmore said. “We had this beautiful life together within the community. We both volunteered in the community, we would be at every event, and we just had a beautiful relationship.”

Gilmore was involved in community initiatives deep into his life. Chuck Thorne said he only came to know Gilmore well over the last half decade through the Friends of the Schenectady Greenhouses.

When Thorne asked Gilmore to be part of the group, Gilmore asked if the greenhouses would be Lord and Burnham Greenhouses, which is a line of greenhouses that have been made since the mid-1800s. Thorne had no clue. “But I thought to myself, I think I’ve got the right guy here.”

(It turned out, they were Lord and Burnham Greenhouses.)

“He was always community-oriented. You look at his resume, yes, there is private work, but everything he did was for the betterment of the community,” Thorne said.

Gilmore also had a style all his own.

“Frank is one of the few people I know that can drop the word ‘delightful’ into a conversation and not sound like he’s putting on airs,” Thorne said. “Those types of adjectives rolled off his tongue as naturally as I say ‘ain’t.’”

Known for his curious mind and his love of the classics–whether music, painting or literature–Gilmore wasn’t known for pretension.

“There was no ego. It was just fun, intellectual humor,” said Ray Legere, who was friends with Gilmore for decades. “When we were together it was like a couple of teenagers heckling each other, but with respect.”

Legere, who owns the Schenectady Armory and has done a lot of development work in the city with Legere Properties and the Legere Group, which he co-owns, said Gilmore brought his appreciation for the finer things to his work. For instance, Gilmore, adept at creating watercolors, still painted his architectural designs rather than generating them with a computer, Legere said.

“I’ll never forget the advice he gave me: We were struggling with a choice to make between money and beauty. And he said, ‘If money is your only roadblock, go with the beauty. Otherwise you will regret your choice forever,’” Legere said.

Architect J.T. Pollard, of Re4orm Architecture, whose projects in Schenectady include Frog Alley and Mohawk Harbor, counts Gilmore as a mentor.

“The architectural fabric of the city is very important. He knew that. You try to own that as an architect and build a community through architecture,” Pollard said. “It’s an ongoing commitment to the people that are here. We’re all working together to try to bring Schenectady back, and he was one of the pioneers to jumpstart Schenectady.”

D’Alessandro-Gilmore said her husband was a man who saw potential in everything–be it in the musical talents of his grandchildren or in the historical importance of homes in the Electric City. That’s the underlying reason why he was so committed to all his projects, including raising Anker’s home in the Stockade.

“Who knows what would have happened to it if somebody wasn’t taking care of it,” D’Alessandro-Gilmore said. “He knew [Anker] loved it, and he wanted to help her and make that house beautiful again.”

Calling hours will be Tuesday, May 31, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the 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, being 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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