A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood

[Figure 1] Few places can claim both the natural beauty and the architectural integrity of the Mount Ida neighborhood of Troy, N.Y.  It is unique not only in its mostly unbroken stretches of nineteenth-century worker housing and cast-iron-columned storefronts, but also in its proximity and relationship to the source that created and nourished it as a distinctive village within a city.  Sitting atop the precipice that the Poesten Kill slowly formed from solid rock nearly 100 million years ago, the village remains joined to the banks of the stream below by its heritage and its future. 

Figure 1

What first drew the attention of early eighteenth-century Parisian engravers today captures the imagination of those who take the time to discover the nearly two-hundred foot tumble of water tucked away in this section of the city.                           

The story of Mount Ida is partly one of the rise and fall of an industrial powerhouse; but it is equally one of persistence and survival.  The businesses on the Poesten Kill diversified in time to ensure their survival during the economic vicissitudes of the 1870s and 1880s.  The neighborhood’s successful transition from an industrial to a service economy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century evinced a resilience that eluded many of the cities and towns of the northeast.  People first came to the neighborhood largely for employment, but once the work itself left the people still made it their home and chose to travel to their work.  When the workers finally began to leave their homes in large numbers in the 1950s, students began to take up residence.  Mount Ida has remained largely intact as both a physical and mental entity in a city where neighborhoods have sometimes been deprived of what once made them distinct.  While urban renewal claimed large sections of Troy in the 1960s and 1970s, the very footprint of upper Congress Street resisted most attempts to re-shape it.  Its jutting crags of rock and almost frantic descent into the heart of the larger city generally presuppose its resistance to the parameters of any grid.  It is this individuality that best characterizes the neighborhood and helps one to understand and appreciate its legacy.


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