Sunday, January 30, 2011

Van Rensselaer Park - Circa 1905 [Part 1]

Forbes Manor, also known as Beverwyck, is one of Rensselaer's historic register sites, and has been under private ownership for decades. But in 1905, the manor enjoyed a brief career hosting excursions and picnics.

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



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].


Jennifer Curtis said...

I am looking forward to Part II! Do you have any information on the two large homes that are located on the left hand side heading up Red Mill Road toward East Greenbush? They have always fascinated me!

Thomas Concolino said...


I live near those houses and worked at home closest to the creek as a teen in the late '60s. Gone from the properties was a large co-owned garage/barn where farm machinery, tools and hay was stored as there was a grazing field where there are now homes and tennis court. It was owned by Frank Wells McCabe who was chairman of the board for the National Commercial Band and Trust Company (later Key Bank). This house's uppermost level was destroyed by fire. I believe it was first owned by an individual named Irwin who operated a grain mill near the dam near the sharp turn along the top of the steep slope. There are still some remnants of the base of the mill that can be observed. Perhaps the moderator could fill in the details on ownership.

Thomas Concolino

Anonymous said...

Do you have any information on how many churches back then were in bath-on-hudson and what their names may be? When my Mother bought her house the title search revealed it was a church in the town of Bath. Would be interested in more info or how to find info. Thanks!

Beth said...

"History of the Seventeen Towns of Rensselaer County" (1880) lists 3 churches in Bath: First Baptist Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Free Methodist Church.

If you think it was still a church in 1905, it would be listed in the Rensselaer directory: