Photo: Huck Finn Store, Albany, NY — left to right: Jeffrey Sperber, Reid Sperber, Mr. & Mrs. Ed Sperber, at the grand opening of the new Huck Finn store in downtown Albany. March 29, 1995. (Skip Dickstein/Times Union Archive)
If you have ever called Albany your home, then you are likely familiar with Huck Finn’s Warehouse and its location just north of downtown. For decades, it has been the go-to brick-and-mortar responsible for furnishing and decorating living spaces all throughout the Capital Region. Its iconic red-brick façade adjacent to Interstate-787 is nearly impossible to miss as you venture your way south into the heart of the city.
For many of us, the building is an unmistakable Albany landmark.
But maybe there are some of you out there that are curious to know some of the history behind this iconic building and site long before it became the furniture destination we now know it to be.
The building was in fact one of several mills constructed back in 1918-1920 by the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co. (APW), considered by many as the largest maker of toilet paper and paper towels in the world at that time.
In order to keep up with a $2 million federal contract, the owner and founder of the company Seth Wheeler (who also invented the toilet tissue roll) decided on strategically constructing several mills alongside the once-bustling corridor of the old Erie Canal, between the Delaware & Hudson rail line and the Hudson River.
The timing of this project would signal a tremendous economic change for North Albany, marking the end to the waning years and demise of the Albany Lumber District — an area once deemed a North American epicenter for lumber manufacturing and shipping back in the 1800s.
With Wheeler at the helm, APW would continue to grow and flourish in the years to come, opening up branches throughout the world including in London, Paris, NYC and Chicago. Employment would peak in the thousands.
Control of the company would change hands a number of times in the forthcoming years — first to Roger W. Babson (founder of Babson College) and then onto the Baum family, a NYC-based paper maker in 1950.
In 1956, sale of the company to Chicago-based Allied Paper Corporation would prove to be unsuccessful and the purchase by The Steiner Co. in 1958 would only last until 1964, when the mills were permanently closed for good.
In 1995, the building at 21 Erie Boulevard would be resurrected into what we know today as Huck Finn’s Warehouse. Edwin Sperber, who founded his successful Huck Finn’s chain of furniture stores in the early 1960s, adopted the name because his original location on Western Avenue in Albany was once situated next to the former Tom Sawyer Motel.