ARCHITECTURAL JEWELS FROM THE CITY'S PAST
By P. Thomas Carroll, PhD, Executive Director, Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway and RiverSpark Heritage Area
Quite justifiably, Troy is famous for its charming Victorian downtown architecture, but you have to explore its architectural past far deeper than that to get at the context in which to understand its most famous elements. When the little village that became Troy was first carved out of a riverside Dutch farm in the 1780s, its planners borrowed their design from Philadelphia, with its rectangular grid of streets and its network of little service alleys running behind all the buildings. Unfortunately for the planners (but fortunately for us), the Hudson River refused to cooperate with such a Cartesian scheme, so what would have been an utterly monotonous grid is spiced up with a sprinkling of irregular points and winding waterfront thoroughfares where the grid and the river collide. It’s in this eclectic network that visitors begin to discover the historic city’s beautiful and distinctive architectural landmarks.
Initially, the structures built in TROY.NY were either Dutch or English in design, brick or wood, but save for a rare handful of homes in Lansingburgh and elsewhere, nothing survives from before the nineteenth century. Almost as rare are the few wood-frame homes in downtown Troy, which represent the dominant form of construction in the little village as it was poised for its takeoff around the time of the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Two notable surviving examples are the so-called “Pumpkin House” at 180 Fourth Street (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and the well-preserved house at 125 Second Street. Most of the others have succumbed over time to rot or fire or secondary development.
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Iron and Glass