History-laden mission housed morphine

Nov. 18, 1987
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- A minister found a suitcase stuffed with morphine bottles dating back to 1921 in the bowels of a rescue mission - once a brothel and a tavern frequented by gangster 'Legs' Diamond.

The Rev. Perry Jones said he pried open the musty suitcase and discovered 20 handblown, wax-sealed, amber-colored bottles of morphine with labels indicating they came from Spain.

'God, it's amazing to wonder who put it up there and why he didn't come back,' Jones said. 'What a story it must be. It's the last vestiges of sin coming out from this place.'

But the Capital City Rescue Mission -- a shelter for the homeless since 1953 -- had a colorful past. It was once a brothel, an 'opium den' where Chinese immigrants used to smoke narcotics and a hangout for the famous gangster 'Legs' Diamond, the Albany Times-Union reported Wednesday.

The tightly bound suitcase, found in a crawl space on the third floor, also contained newspapers from October 1921.

Jones said he would turn the morphine, which an Albany College of Pharmacy director said may still be potent, over to authorities, but would like the bottles back as souvenirs.

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