A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Transition

 Designed by Garnet Baltimore, a Troy native and the first African-American graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Prospect Park became a recreational haven for what was still a growing population.*  The success of the park was immediate, and the attendant businesses both within and outside the gates helped Mount Ida make the difficult shift from an industrial to a service economy.  The park itself gave rise to such businesses as a museum, casino, and even a permanent ice cream parlor.  Businesses near the entrance of the park in particular must have benefited richly.  

[Figure 28]  The stability of the neighborhood was clearly reflected in the area’s voluntary institutions such as churches and schools.  In 1919 the number of parish children made it possible for Saint Francis de Sales Church to open an academy of its own.The school served children through eighth grade, starting with kindergarten through fourth grades and adding single classes each year as the first classes were promoted.**  In addition to its thriving school, by 1957 more than one hundred public school children attended weekly religious education classes. 

This represented the peak of the church’s membership, as many members were lost when the homes along Congress and Ferry Streets were razed in the 1960s and when the University Parish of Christ Sun of Justice was established on Burdette Avenue in 1970.  This thinning of the population was evident in the neighborhood’s other churches. Trinity Methodist Church on the opposite side of Saint Francis Academy was closed and razed in the 1960s.  The Free Church of the Ascension at 548 Congress witnessed a similar loss of parishioners that finally resulted in the church’s closure in 2005. 

* Meg Gallien, “Honoring a Son of Troy,” Rensselaer (Winter 2005-2006), 30.

** Sister Mary Ancilla Leary, The History of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Albany (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1957), 98-99.

 

 

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