A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - The Bust

On August 27th more than five inches of rain fell in twelve hours.  The first dam separating Ida Lake from Ida Falls gave way, and water swept under the Pawling Avenue Bridge to the point that it eventually peaked at the road.  The bridge surface was washed away, and the detritus that had accumulated along the road and the stream’s banks pounded the dam that had controlled the water flow from atop the falls.  This second dam—a recent construction that replaced the one erected by Benjamin Marshall in 1840 to form the reservoir needed for his water tunnel—withstood the surge:

The falls of the Poestenkill on Ida Hill presented a grand sight and their roar could be heard for a long distance.  Many to-day watched the great rush of water go over the new and strong dam just completed, and down the tremendous descent of the gorge through which the falls of the Poestenkill plunge.  Old residents of Ida Hill say they never saw the water so high before.*

The unprecedented volume of water crashed down the gorge and over the falls, all but washing away the first few rickety mills and their ancient foundations.  Had the old Marshall dam not been so recently replaced, the damage would have been much greater.  Many of the businesses along the stream that had helped to pay for the necessary survey and to construct the new dam in 1889 were forced to invest further in their own infrastructure.  Such was not their habit, nor did they budget accordingly.  Some of the businesses were forced to borrow money to meet their expenses.  The fierce independence of Mount Ida’s manufacturers—who had from the beginning depended almost entirely upon entrepreneurs and personal investors for their funding—was heavily compromised. 

[Figure 21] It could not have happened at a worse time.  In 1893 the deepest depression in the nation’s history struck Troy with a greater force than it could seem to withstand.  In the beginning of May foreign investors reacted to a European recession by selling off their American investments and seeking to turn their assets into gold. Wall Street took the first major hit on May fifth, and by the fifteenth of the month stocks were at an all-time low.

* “On the Poestenkill,” Troy Daily Times, August 28, 1891, p. 3.



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