GLEANINGS FROM THE CORN FLATS: The Pine Point Inn – A Forgotten Niskayuna Landmark

A recent photo showing the Trustco Bank branch at the intersection of State Street (State Route 5) and Balltown Road in Niskayuna, shot from Mohawk Commons looking west across Balltown Road, shows where the Pine Point Inn once stood.

A recent photo showing the Trustco Bank branch at the intersection of State Street (State Route 5) and Balltown Road in Niskayuna, shot from Mohawk Commons looking west across Balltown Road, shows where the Pine Point Inn once stood.

Passersby today would be surprised to learn one of the most popular dining, dancing and music hotspots of the Capital Region, the Pine Point Inn, once sat at the northwest intersection of Albany-Schenectady and Balltown roads. Ideally located on a major trolley/bus line, the Inn afforded access from either road plus convenient on-site parking for autos. From the mid 1920’s through the late 1950’s, the Inn hosted a colorful clientele including prominent politicians, sports celebrities, business leaders, notable society members and even an infamous underworld racketeer.

The property was part of a larger parcel previously owned by the well-known Stanford family, who called it “Locust Grove.” The Inn was initially built as a home by Welton Stanford Jr., a nephew of popular Senator Charles Stanford.

Newspapers from the 1920’s dubbed the Inn a “speakeasy” then under management of Ambrose “Brose” Hover. In addition to running the Inn, Hover was a well-known sportsman and unlike many, made no secret about his love for gambling and horses. Rarely did he miss a day of the Saratoga meet where he owned and raced horses. It was said he could “bet you a million and win or lose with a smile.”

Hover’s gentlemanly demeanor was in stark contrast to some not so pleasant underworld characters who frequented the Inn during prohibition. One of these was none other than the notorious Jack “Legs” Diamond. The nickname appears to have evolved from both his smoothness on the dancefloor with the ladies plus his frequent scurrying from both the law and rival gang members.

Diamond, a lifelong criminal, forced his way into the illegal liquor trade and other nefarious activities. Likely Diamond was drawn to more lucrative opportunities in the Albany area from the Catskills where he had temporarily settled after being run out of New York City by multiple enemies, including the infamous Al Capone.

A June 22, 1930, Times Union article listed Hover as owner of the Inn with Harlan Duncan serving as Director. The piece mentioned Hover completed a $25,000 addition to enlarge the restaurant and accommodate a dance floor, among other improvements. A deed filing reported in the Schenectady Gazette indicated final sale closure and ownership transfer to Hover in April 1931, noting Michael W. Murray of Albany as the seller. Sometime during this period, the Inn also became Hover’s residence.

When alcohol and people mix, behavior often leads to other vices. In the early hours of October 12, 1930, about a dozen people were arrested at a Pine Point raid during which gambling equipment was confiscated. Newspaper accounts stated seized roulette and craps tables, among other paraphernalia, worth about $10,000, were burned by New York State Police.

The affiliation with mobster “Legs” Diamond came to a dramatic conclusion in late 1931. In the early morning of December 18, 1931, just hours after being acquitted of kidnapping and torture charges in a Troy, N.Y., court, Diamond was slain by gunmen in an Albany rooming house. Diamond’s murder created sensational headlines across the country and is still definitively unresolved.

Following the gambling raid and Diamond’s murder, the expanded restaurant, featuring food, musical entertainment and dancing flourished under Hover’s proprietorship. However, in September 1933, Hover, who was not married, passed away after a lingering illness.

Ownership of Pine Point then transferred to Hover’s sister, Nancy Hover Hart, who also took up her residence there. For more than three decades, she operated the Inn as it became one Albany’s most popular dining and entertainment spots. One August 1941 advertisement called the Pine Point Inn “Albany’s new and smart rendezvous.” Another stated the Inn had “the most beautifully equipped cocktail rooms in the Albany Area.” Patrons were delighted by live dance music provided by various groups including “Phil Romano’s Orchestra” and “Dewey & His Band.”

Countless wedding receptions, retirement dinners, holiday celebrations and other memorable events were celebrated at the Inn. Patrons included Union College alumni, General Electric, NY State Civil Service and numerous religious groups. Even undefeated 1944 Ohio State Head Football Coach Carl Widdoes came here to address area graduates.

The Inn was so well known that real estate ads frequently referenced its proximity, presumably to upsell and also help pinpoint location of their properties.

As Mrs. Hart aged, the Inn’s commercial activities came to a close in the late 1950’s although she still maintained her residence there. A major fire in December 1968 significantly damaged the wooden structure, but luckily Mrs. Hart wasn’t at home. Later redevelopment of the property led to construction of a Trustco Bank branch now located on the site, masking any indication of the spirited entertainment venue that once stood there.

Categories: News, News, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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