Reverend Robert H. Rollins, Pastor of Hope Baptist Church (on Clinton Ave. in Albany), leased the manor and lived there with his family. As Superintendent of Van Rensselaer Park, Rollins produced a beautiful advertising pamphlet to promote the opening season.
From the manuscript collection,
NYS Library, 974.741 (Forbes)
Van Rensselaer Park
RENSSELAER, NEW YORK
RELIGIOUS SERVICES AND EXCURSIONS
Forbes Manor, "famed in history, verse and legend, peerless among the country seats of the Empire State," is located just north of the beautiful, busy little city of Rensselaer, nearly opposite Albany, and not more than four miles south of Troy.
Historic Ground.- This estate of five hundred acres, with more than a mile of river front, was once part of the famous Van Rensselaerwyck Manor... granted to Killian Van Rensselaer in 1630. It descended in succession to Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer, the fifth patroon, who at the time of his death, divided the estate between his two sons, Stephen and William P. Van Rensselaer, the latter thus becoming heir to the property on the east side of the Hudson.
The Mansion.- Here upon a commanding eminence, overlooking the city of Albany, from which dim outlines of the Helderberg and Catskill mountains are visible, in 1841-1843 the beautiful mansion which still stands, familiarly known as "Forbes Manor House," was erected. In building this magnificent structure, grading and beautifying the lawns, terracing the deeply wooded slopes and ravines, which are still the pride of Rensselaer, Mr. Van Rensselaer dissipated his fortune to such an extent that he was compelled to sell the property in 1850.
The Forbes Family.- The estate was purchased by Mr. Paul Forbes, a gentleman of refined tastes and great wealth, engaged in the China trade, who with his family enjoyed the beauties and luxuries of this quiet, secluded natural park a part of each year until the time of his death. ...
Our Plan.- The present lessee recognizing the natural advantages of this rustic park, which is heavily wooded with large, white pine trees, which add sweetness and strength to the atmosphere, and traversed by walks and paths varied by stretches of well-kept lawn, which extend to the river, will, in the early spring, open for the benefit of Sunday Schools, Churches, Young People's Societies, Temperance Societies, ... Lodges, Singing Societies, Athletic Associations, Schools, Colleges, etc., one of the most convenient and accessible parks in this part of the State. In point of healthfulness and convenience the location of Van Rensselaer Park could not be improved.
This was advertising copy meant to sell the beauty of the site to a religious audience, so the history of the manor was strategically edited. For instance, the anti-rent wars and resulting legal reforms were entirely omitted as the main the reason for Van Rensselaer's sale of the estate. (See NYS Library: The Anti-Rent Wars and The End of Dutch Culture in New Netherland.)
This will be Part 1 of a two-part post. [Or rather, a three-part post! Read Part 2: Transportation and Amusement and Part 3: Religious and Educational].