The Leona Grace Ballroom
The Farnham Institute
The Leona Grace Ballroom opened on January 1st, 2013 after a loving restoration. The ballroom is located is the original “Farnham Institute”, named after its founder, Franklin W. Farnham
The Farnham Institute was built as a community school for “free will thinking” in 1872. Mr. Farnham’s philanthropic nature caused him to build Mt. Ida’s Church of the Ascension in 1869, and the Farnham Institute just 3 years later, utilizing left over materials from the Church he built across the street. He was able to build the facility for approximately $25,000 “back in the day”. Records indicate that it was used originally as a parish school and the parish house was located behind it, at 549 Congress Street.
Mr. Farnam also provided the community with a fire house that sat across from the Institute and next door to the Church of the Ascension.
Mr. Farnam owned the Excelsior knitting mill, located on Congress Street on the Postenkill Creek , both of which were across the street from the Farnam Institute that houses Leona Grace Ballroom. Today, there is a lookout over the gorge where you can see remains of the firehouse foundation, and various markers of where the knitting mill was built.
Mr. Farnam and his wife, Jane, were generous people. They donated the first modern steam fire engine to the community in 1871. The community named the fire station after him, calling it the Franklin W. Farnam Steam Engine Company No. 5. He bought two steam engines for the community in total, upgrading to a new one, years later, for the same company.
In honor of Franklin W. Farnam, and Leona Grace Mc Culloch, we donate the ballroom to the Albany Tango Society on Thursday nights to help introduce the local community to Argentine Tango for free, and we host various art and social events that benefit local non-profits that support the arts.
The Leona Grace Ballroom was created as an example of adaptive re-use that is self-supportive in nature to show that these buildings can, and should be saved for the generations to come. We hope to prove that these historic buildings can support the basic expenses that come with ownership of a landmark that adds to the character of the communities they were built to serve.