In the early 1920s, F. Arthur Hundorfer worked as a regional sales manager for Carnegie Steel Corporation. Hunsdorfer was responsible for covering all of upstate New york, from Newburgh to the Canadian border, on both sides of the Hudson River. Due to the lack of bridges across the Hudson in the 1920s, Hunsdorfer usually only made sales calls on the eastern side of the river in the winter when he could drive across the ice. He would put the car in neutral and place a weight on the accelarator to hold it down. Then, exiting the vehicle, he would stand on the running board outside the car, reach in and jam the shifting lever into gear. The car would start its slow progress across the river with Hunsdorfer ready to jump off a the first sign that the ice was cracking. He had a few close calls but never got wet.
It may have been this early experience that made him decide to start his own business; building a warehouse in one place and letting most of his customers come to him.
In 1922, Hunsdorfer joined forces with two of his business associates, Ben Gifford, president of Gifford-Wood Company of Hudson and Walter Strope, purchasing agent for McKinney Steel of Albany. Gifford provided funding; Hunsdorfer and Strope were to run the business. The first business, named General Mill and Contractors Supply Company, was located in a vacant greenhouse at 899 Broadway, just north of steam fire engine no. 3 (currently near the Miss Albany Diner).
After one year, Strope split off and started a competing business, Strope Steel, on Terminal Street in Albany. Hunsdorfer, with Gifford’s financial support, moved across the street to much larger quarters at 892 Broadway (now called 900 Broadway, housing Universal Auto Parts) and incorporated the new company as Albany Steel and Iron Supply Company.
The main product of Albany Steel and Iron Supply Company in 1922 was reinforcing bar.
The City of Albany was slowly converting from cobblestone to concrete streets. Large blankets of steel reinforcing bars were fabricated to strengthen the concrete. Other products fabricated and warehoused by Albany Steel included hot and cold rolled steel bars, rolled bands and hoops (for making barrels), beams, angles, plate, sheet, tin plate and rail track.
Since Strope stored most of his inventry outside in an open yard, Hunsdorfer would drive up to Terminal Street whenever a large rebar bid was requested to see if Strope had enough inventory to bid the job. Hunsdorfer adjusted his bid accordingly.
Albany Steel moved in 1929 to new, much larger quarters at 45 Broadway, Menands. This location, currently Cranesville Block, was located across the street from Albany’s Hawkins Staduim, home of the Eastern Baseball League’s Albany Senators. Each season could count on about a dozen broken windows from baseballs fouled straight back over the roof. Albany Steel always paid to repair the broken window, but at least they got to keep the ball.
When this plant was first opened, Hunsdorfer worried that he had built it too far out of the city. Broadway was unpaved at that time and early photographs show a trolley track running along a dirt road flanked by weeds.
In the ’20s and ’30s, Albany Steel started to build one of the area’s first trucking fleets to deliver steel. The stake trucks and flatbed trucks of the day were about the size of a pickup truck today. These trucks were used to deliver reinforcing bar and steel beams up to 40 feet long. This was accomplished by running the beam up along the side of the truck and securing it to the side and front bumper. It was not unusual to have beams running along both sides of the truck, making it impossible to open either door, requiring the driver to climb in through the window.
The 1920s were a time of great prosperity in the Albany area.
The country as a whole, and Albany Steel, prospered and grew rapidly. The stock market crash and depression in 1929 and the 1930s slowed growth, but Albany Steel was always prosperous. In the early 1940s, the preparations for war and the later outbreak of war brought a large increase in government contracts, many originating through the Watervliet Arsenal. At the same time, steel shortages reached epidemic proportions. Albany Steel had many more orders than they could fill. Steel mills went into production 24 hours a day, seven days a week trying to meet demand for raw material. Albany Steel’s military contracts, including one to fabricate escape hatches to be mounted to the bottom of tanks, got priority over other work.
Albany Steel’s expansion included the purchase of Hannibal Green’s Sons of Troy. Hannibal Green had been originally formed in 1809, by Henry Nazro and Jacob Hart on Six Lane’s Row, east of River Street. It was completely gutted by the great fire in downtown Troy in 1820, but rebuilt at Tree Lane’s Row shortly thereafter. In the earliest days, Hanibal Green sold hardware, nails, iron bars, anvils, vices, Smith’s bellows, mill saws, cutlery, horseshoe iron, and manufactured “steel springs of every description.” They were also listed as distributors of Fairbanks Celebrated Scales.
Nazro and Hart (1809) became Nazro and Green (1834), Green and Cramer (1838), Hannibal Green (1852) and later, Hannibal Green’s Sons (1875). In 1855, they moved from 231-233 River Street to the corner of Albany (later Broadway) and Fourth Street, that at the time, was called “the old Corning lot.”
Ads from the 1870s listed Hannibal Green as “importers and dealers in iron, steel, and heavy hardware, Agents for Burden’s Iron, horseshoes and boiler rivets.” An ealy 1800s Troy newspaper said that Hannibal Green was “… the direct representative of the Burden Iron Company for its iron, a product which has a world wide reputation.” On their 100th anniversary in 1909, Hannibal Green received congratulatory letters from steel companies from Maine and Boston to Buffalo and Chicago, from Watertown to New York City, Pennsylvania and Lousiville, Kentucky (probably a purchaser of Burden’s patented horseshoes). Some of the letters came from the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, Delaware and Hudson Railroad, Boston and Maine Railroad, Carnegie Steel of Illinois, Townsend Furnace of Albany, and Robert Cluett of Troy.
Remarkably, one of the congratulatory letters came from the Lake George Steamboat Company and sent along a copy of an order sent to Hannibal Green in 1826.
When Hannibal Green was purchased by Albany Steel, they were housed in one of the Burden Iron Buildings at the foot of Monroe Street. The purchase of Hannibal Green expanded Albany Steel’s products into hardware and fasteners, as well as specialty steels.
Albany Steel expanded into the fabrication of structural steel for buildings and bridges through the purchase of the Claussen Iron Company of Tivoli Street in Albany. Claussen was comprised of three buildings and a large warehouse and structural yard on the south side of Tivoli Street, just west of Pearl Street. One of Albany’s most historic and beautiful buildings, the D&H Building, now State University Plaza, was fabricated here. The building was designed by Marcus T. Raynolds and construction started in 1916. Also, part of this project was the fabrication of the adjacent Albany Evening Journal Building, thought by most people to be part of the D&H, but actually a separate building.
Albany Steel purchased a building in Glenmont in 1946 and developed a machining division at that location.
Richard Hunsdorfer succeeded his father as president of Albany Steel in January 1965. Charles Straney, Marvin Hinkleman and Walter Fredenburgh continued as department managers. The top priority of Albany Steel continued to be expansion.
On July 10, 1976, Albany Steel officially moved into a newly constructed modern facility at 566 Broadway in Menands. This facility, approximately 200,000 square feet, comprises 4 divisions in eight contiguous buildings:
- Service Center – warehousing and cutting plate, sheet, bar, structural, and specialty steel with the area’s largest stacker crane system housing 10,000 tons of bar stock;
- Fabrication – since the Claussen Iron days, Albany Steel fabricates buildings, bridges, towers, stairs, railings, and almost any steel structure. A computer controlled drill line drills structural steel and plate. The Fabrication Department also does shotblasting and painting, as well as bending and rolling of shapes;
- Reinforcing Bar Fabrication – rebar was Albany Steel’s largest product at their formation 75 years ago, and continues to be a large factor today. They bend, roll and cut rebar for use in concrete structures;
- Machine Shop – precision machining & fabrication for many grades of steel.
Peter Hess, former vice president and general manager of Albany Steel bought the company in June 1985 from Richard Hunsdorfer, who retired. Current managers include: Benjamin J. VanDuzer, Brian Keefe, Joe Westervelt, Mille Guzman, Deanna Mantica, Max Meyer and Kimberly O’Rourke.
Today, Albany Steel is Albany’s largest and oldest steel center.
Their history goes back almost 200 years to 1809. They have survived major fires, the War of 1812, the Civil War, two world wars, major depressions, 5 major strikes, and many periods of iron and steel storages and rationing. As the elder Mr. Hunsdorfer demonstrated by crossing the river on the ice, the ability to survive lies in the ability to adapt to constant challenges.