A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Quality of Life

The retail establishments on Mount Ida comprised one of the most important elements for the neighborhood’s survival after the economic calamities of the 1890s and later.  By 1875 more than forty-five first-floor businesses lined the road between 300 and 587 Congress Street.  Even though many particular retail establishments did not survive the depressions of 1893 and 1929, they were quickly replaced by what were usually similar businesses.  Although it might sound trite, residents of Mount Ida simply viewed the neighborhood as the ideal place to live, and the loss of jobs did not immediately spell doom for the area.  Apart from its chugging economic engine, upper Congress Street offered a lifestyle hardly equaled in other parts of Troy or elsewhere.  

[Figure 15] Mount Ida still retains much of the character that initially made it a popular village within a thriving city.  The natural beauty of Ida Falls and the Poesten Kill always drew picnickers and day-trippers, even during the height of its industrial prowess. 

In 1878 Rodney Kight, a student from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, attending the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, wrote to his mother that:

As the weather was fine, we again took the streetcar up Mount Ida and stood atop the northern bank of the gorge.  The waters are powerful there, and quite awhile ago Mister Marshall drilled a long sluice through the solid rock in order to drive his mill.  One can still see the tunnel from above.  My chums thought it would be grand to throw my hat into the falls below (I am the underclassman!).  When we finally descended the mount, they attempted to douse me with water.  I know it’s all in good fun.  We bathed in the gorge for most of the day and walked back to the club soaked to save our fare.*   

Although the beautiful vista of which Kight spoke remains mostly hidden from the motorists who commute on upper Congress Street today, it is still the most tangible asset of health and prosperity for those who live on the hill and who are aware of its value.

* “Diaries and Letters of Rodney Kight, 1877-1880.”  New York State Library, Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Uncataloged Collection.

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