Troy’s master carpenter, “barroom Socrates” dies at 62
Master carpenter, 62, also was known as raconteur, rebel
By Paul Grondahl, Times Union
Published 7:27 pm, Thursday, February 18, 2016
TROY — Anyone who slid a pint of stout or slammed an empty shot glass onto an ornate wooden bar at one of several Troy pubs encountered the fine craftsmanship of a master carpenter they probably never knew.
But when Peter Albrecht, Troy’s “barroom Socrates” died at around happy hour on Wednesday at 62 after a long battle with cancer, friends and family gathered at Ryan’s Wake. They raised glasses and reminisced about a brilliant woodworker, raconteur and rebel spirit who created convivial spaces and bonhomie.
“He built many of the great ‘third places’ in Troy and he was our barroom Socrates,” said Duncan Crary, a longtime friend.
Albrecht’s elegant handiwork could be seen at taprooms and restaurants around town, including Ryan’s Wake, Brown’s Brewing, Jose Malone’s, Daisy Baker’s and Bacchus.
“He was a beloved fixture in Troy,” said Chris Ryan, owner of Ryan’s Wake. He hired Albrecht to create tables, bar sections and other wooden flourishes in his Irish pub.
Albrecht lived a block away on King Street in a 19th-century brick row house he renovated and turned into a woodworking shop and residence.
He knocked off work in time for happy hour and walked across the street to Ryan’s Wake for a glass of Scotch, pint of beer and hours of conversation.
“He’d hold court on everything from philosophy to ancient Roman history,” Ryan said. “He was brilliant and lived life on his own terms.”
Ryan needled blue-collar Albrecht about his blue-blood roots. He was the son of a prominent Troy physician and attended Albany Academy and Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. He left both prep schools after rocky stretches and told funny stories about his Andover classmates Jeb Bush and Lincoln Chafee — long before they gained political fame. He returned to Troy and graduated from Troy High School. He studied anthropology and mathematics at Boston University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
“He was a rebel every inch of the way,” said his longtime partner, Cheryl Derby, who runs The Book Outlet, a used bookstore in the Troy Atrium. “He was a voracious reader and probably read every book in my store.”
Albrecht traveled throughout Europe and Mexico and spent several years in Oregon, where he honed his carpentry skills and built a house of his own design. He spent the past three decades living and working in Troy.
He preferred to live “like an alley cat,” and did not like to draw attention to himself. “He was often the last stop for Trojans down on their luck,” said Crary, who noted that Albrecht provided food and lodging for folks who had hit the skids.
“He helped shape me as a human, a carpenter and a philosopher,” said Chris Hacker, an Albany carpenter who worked with Albrecht on the Ryan’s Wake restoration.
“He had an extraordinary gift for friendship,” said his sister, Anne Albrecht, who flew in from Chicago and met her other sisters at their brother’s home as he lay dying.
Albrecht is survived by four sisters. A celebration of his life is planned in the coming weeks in Troy.
“The word he used all the time was beauty,” Ryan said. “A lot of people are going to miss the beauty he brought to Troy.”