CAPITAL DISTRICT Rapp Road in Albany’s Pine Bush once had more in common with the Big Muddy than the Big Apple.
It was once a rural pocket within an urban hub, a tight-knit community of African American families from Mississippi who arrived in droves during the Great Migration.
Now, Rapp Road looks drastically different. Development has turned it into a main thoroughfare, but Beverly Bardequez remembers exactly what it used to look like when it was just a little dirt road, and she’s taking steps to preserve those memories and the community’s history.
“The complexion of the neighborhood has changed considerably,” said Bardequez. “It’s very important that we keep our history alive of how we came to be here. Most people didn’t even know we were here until they started developing around us.”
Bardequez will talk about the Rapp Road community’s historical and social significance to Albany and the Pine Bush on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center, which also houses a digital exhibit featuring video interviews with Rapp Road residents.
Bardequez is a third generation Rapp Road family. Her grandparents were some of the original settlers, arriving in the late ‘40s. She recalls a simple childhood on a Rapp Road that was far more tranquil and isolated than it is now.
“My earliest recollections were when I lived on Pine Lane, probably about 4 years old, and I remember at that time it was just the barren pines and we used to walk up Rapp Road to my grandparents’ home and spend a lot of time wandering through the woods picking berries and fruits and bringing them back to my grandmother who would make preserves and pies,” said Bardequez.
There were also elaborate gardens, chickens, pigs and other signs of country life thriving, an unusual sight even at that time.