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)

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