Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Art In The Garden - Sat., July 16, 2011

Saturday, July 16 from 10am to 4pm.

Free admission
Held rain or shine

A juried art show and sale will be held at the Demonstration Gardens at the Robert C Parker School, North Greenbush, NY.

Features Jewelry, Pottery, Sculpture, Photography, Painting, Notecards, Stained Glass Mosaics, Woodworking (QuiltBoxes!), Textiles, and Collage.

See pictures on FaceBook at Art In The Garden - Rensselaer County.

Sponsored by the Rensselaer County Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mann’s Street Names

On Oct. 19, 1909, a new subdivision called Little Farms was mapped on the north side of Forbes Avenue, beyond the old Rensselaer city limits. The street names appear to correspond to names of prominent local citizens of the era (these are educated guesses based on my newspaper research):

Mann Avenue

Elias Plum Mann was Mayor of Troy, NY from 1906 to 1911 (Republican), and was also a businessman and financier. He acquired the 64.13 acre plot via foreclosure, for development.

Mayor Mann graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1872 with a degree in civil engineering. His family was prominent in banking and real estate, and his father, Francis Norton Mann, also served as Mayor of Troy, as well as a Judge.

The 1911 Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs Vol II said that “The name of Mann is the synonym of uprightness and business integrity, and Elias P. Mann is one of the best-known representatives of the family, which has been an influential one for many years.”

Mayor Elias P. Mann
The Reporter, Sept. 6-9, 1908, NYS Library

Rockefeller Street

William J. Rockefeller was Mayor of Rensselaer from 1907 to 1910, and also ran a business as an undertaker.

Mayor William J. Rockefeller
Renssealer Eagle, 1908

Munger Street

John F. Munger was a broker of fire insurance, real estate, and mortgages. He was also President of the Rensselaer County Bank.

John F. Munger
Renssealer Eagle, Jan. 15, 1910

Quay Street

George H. Quay was a Regents Examiner for the University of the State of New York, and had been school principal at Bath-on-the-Hudson union free school for 6 years. In 1908, he also advertised as a land surveyor.

Rollins Avenue
(only partly developed)

Robert H. Rollins was Pastor of First Baptist Church (then on Second St. at Church), and Treasurer (later President) of the Rensselaer Brick Co. (on Forbes Ave. beyond Tenth). In 1905, Rev. Rollins leased the Forbes Manor and opened it as Van Rensselaer Park, and worked to raise community support for preserving the Manor house.

Reverend Robert H. Rollins
Van Rensselaer Park (974.741), NYS Library

Manders Avenue
(mapped, but not developed)

Harry Manders served in the Rensselaer Police Department’s Second Precinct. He also operated a racetrack associated with the old Half-Way house, just east of the current location of 1001 Washington Ave. Manders purchased two lots from Mayor Mann in 1911.

Patrolman Harry Manders
Rensselaer City History Center

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Little Farms (Mann Ave.)

Until the turn of the last century, today’s North End (then part of North Greenbush) was mostly farmland and pine forest. Even when the Forbes family still summered at Beverwyck Manor, they were gradually selling off the former Van Rensselaer lands.

In 1868, John Bishop bought a 64.13 acre farm plot from Paul S. Forbes. The land bordered on the Plank road on the north side, and the Bishops were already in residence (he was probably leasing the farm).

The Gazetteer and business directory of Rensselaer County, N. Y. (1870-71) reported that John K. Bishop was a breeder of improved Suffolk hogs, and confirms he was farming 64 acres on the Albany & Sand Lake Plank Road.

1876 Beers Map – North Greenbush

John Bishop and his wife Kate eventually sold the land to Eliza and Peter Sheppard, another farming family. In 1880, the Sheppards obtained a mortgage from Charles B. Bishop of the city of Troy. The Sheppard mortgage was foreclosed in 1908, and the property was sold at auction to Elias Mann, who was the mayor of Troy, NY. Mayor Mann paid $1,500 for the entire 64 acres.

The Rensselaer Eagle announced the availability of the building lots on Sept. 25, 1909. On Oct. 14, 1909, the first plans were filed for an ambitious new neighborhood. (Interestingly, the map was made by John Flynn, Jr., who worked as the civil engineer for the city of Troy.)

"Little Farms" originally had five length-wise streets and four cross streets. There were 542 building plots, including a “hotel lot” for the half-way house.

The unfortunate circumstances of a complicated foreclosure were probably amplified by the old inter-city rivalry, and there was little support in the Rensselaer community for this development by "Troy real estate men". Despite a nearly two years of promotion and a free give-away offer, Mann's sales agents were only able to sell about half the lots.

Not surprisingly, the back lots in the deep ravine were the least popular. In 1911 a new map was filed, consolidating the back lots and eliminating a few streets. Rensselaer County tax map 133.73 shows the 1911 layout, including two streets which were never completed. You can check out the actual layout of today's Mann Ave. neighborhood here at Google Maps.

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Origins of Washington Avenue

The roadway of upper Washington Avenue dates back to colonial Rensselaerswyck, when farmers traveled it to bring their rents of grain and poultry to the Patroon, and maintained it as required by their leases. The pre-revolutionary route was called the “Albany Road”, and went from the ferry in Bath-on-the-Hudson to Deerfield, MA.

The road’s importance as a commercial and stage coach route grew, and in 1799, it was incorporated as the “Eastern Turnpike Road”, to finance road maintenance. The toll for a horse and rider was 5 cents, and a four-wheel carriage with two horses paid 12½ cents. For more info, see these older posts:

The 19th century North Greenbush economy was based on transporting perishable farm goods to sell in Albany and Troy. This required good roads, which were expensive to build and maintain. In the mid-1800’s, the cheaper “plank roads” became wildly popular. In 1849, the Eastern Turnpike became the “Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road”, and a thick wooden surface was laid on the 11 mile stretch between the Bath ferry and the glass factory village at Sand Lake (Averill Park). For more info, see:

“Plank Road Fever” was short-lived. Planks had to be replaced more frequently than expected, which was costly. By the 1880’s, the wood surfaces were gone. The toll gates were removed after 1901, making the road, now known as “Forbes Avenue”, more attractive for residential development.

Sometime between 1926 and 1930, maps at the county clerk's office indicate that the road was renamed Washington Ave. (The name Washington Ave. originally only referred a the 5-block stretch between Broadway and what remains of Forbes Ave. today.) If anyone knows more about when and why this name change occurred, please post a comment or send an email to bathonhudson@gmail.com.

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Building Boom

During the Manor years, the only building between the Bath-on-the-Hudson toll gate and Defreestville was a half-way house for travelers (not even shown in this 1854 map). After the Forbes family left, the remaining manor lands along the Plank road were gradually sold.

Vintage Maps from the US Geological Service show little development along the plank road by 1893, almost 40 years later.

In 1897, the City of Rensselaer was formed, and in 1901, the city limits were extended to encompass the remaining Forbes Manor grounds (not including the upper Forbes Avenue tracts, which had been sold as farmland).

Rensselaer had become a manufacturing center and a major freight hub. Housing was tight, and Rensselaerites who were tired of the noise, soot, and smoke from the railroad yards looked for building lots outside the city.

Rumors that the United Traction Co. might extend their street car line made upper Forbes Ave. a very desirable location. The North End’s trendy park neighborhoods were about to take shape.

Rensselaer Eagle, August 8, 1908

Not in five years has building been so active in Rensselaer as it is now. New houses are going up all over the city and there are others in contemplation. ...

Many building lots have been sold out on the "plank road" as it is familiarly known to Rensselaerites, and several houses are in the course of erection there. Others are promised in the near future and the indications are that before snow files there will be a number of very good houses built out there.

The prospect that in the Spring, the United Traction Co. will extend its Broadway and Third Street line has been inducing many people to look for building sites along Washington avenue and upper Forbes avenue.
More Albanians than ever before are finding that they can live in Rensselaer, have a better house and much more breathing space for the same money than they are forced to pay in Albany. ...

That Rensselaer is booming and that it will continue to do so for some time to come is very evident.

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)