A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Transition

At the time there was solid foundation for such optimism.  A series of 135 albumen advertising photographs housed in the Special Collections of the Troy Public Library gives some indication of the diversity and richness of Troy’s economy on the eve of its collapse.  Details within the photographs such as political campaign broadsides and theater advertisements indicate that Zephaniah Magill toured Troy with his camera between November of 1890 and February of 1891, crystallizing this remarkable moment in the city’s history. Seven of these photographs depict Mount Ida businesses.  Despite the upheaval that followed, there was a functioning business on each of the same seven sites—in each of the very same buildings—in 1930.  Although none of these businesses was the same enterprise forty years later, they were still contributing members of the community.

As noted, the failure of industry and the absence of growth that followed did not spell doom for Mount Ida.  All things considered, the neighborhood fared quite well in the wake of depression and natural disaster.  The key to understanding its survival rests with the fact that the economy that developed alongside heavy industry still served upper Congress Street perfectly well.  There was very little fat to be trimmed by recession.  There were no dealers of luxury items on Mount Ida; there were no expensive restaurants or even a bank (the least stable of all businesses at the time).  The factories were all of such manageable size that they could be easily retooled and outfitted for other purposes.  The retail businesses provided staples that were just as important during boor or bust.  Almost every retail establishment in 1891, 1930 and 1970 was the first floor anchor of a three-story structure.  The businesses were not required to provide the sole support for the buildings in which they were housed.

[Figure 25]  The Joyce Tinsmiths building at 342 Congress Street was typical of much of Mount Ida, with a ground floor business and two flats above.  Humphreys Joyce owned the building, lived on the top floor (his children are perhaps in the front window of Figure 25), and rented the second floor to Andrew, Augustus, and Charles Diehl—all of whom worked in the bakery on the first floor of 347 Congress.  Thomas Dowd, a melter in one of the local foundries, owned the building at 344 Congress, lived on one of the upper floors, and rented the other flat to his son, John, a bartender.

 

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