DeWitt lives on in stories of glory days

DeWitt lives on in stories of glory days

When it comes to Albany, I have a great deal of nostalgia. Having spent 23 years in the state Legislature, I have fond feelings for the city and its history. Walking into the newly renovated Renaissance Hotel downtown, I couldn’t help but flash back to the once-renowned DeWitt Clinton Hotel, also known as the “Democrat Hotel.”

Those of us who had the pleasure of staying in the old DeWitt remember with fondness the “Shelf,” the second floor bar where many a career was made or broken by legislators who could or couldn’t withstand the lure of alcohol.

In the basement, many of the most famous reporters ever to cover Albany relaxed in a small corner where they could observe the passing crowd. Gus Bliven of Syracuse held court with John Greene of the Long Island Press and many other veteran reporters.

While the state Capitol was the place for the leaders to do most of their political planning and plotting, the DeWitt became the nighttime headquarters of Speaker Anthony J. Travia. Travia would trek to his suite on the upper floors of the DeWitt, accompanied by his counsel, Harold Fisher, Richard Brown (now Queens district attorney) and a host of other legendary names. Travia would labor all hours of the night with his staff to come up with strategies and to decide which bills would become law or history.