A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Signs and Symbols

[Figure 29] There is little doubt that Mount Ida began to show signs of decay by the 1950s.  The same suburban thrust that struck Troy and the northeast as a whole did not spare the seemingly stable community.  The lack of manufacturing jobs in Troy itself and the population’s general move to the suburbs began to create fissures in the neighborhood’s infrastructure.  Absentee landlordism did not begin in the 1980s, but rather in the 1950s.  The general tenet that either a nearby business owner or an upstairs landlord might normally both occupy and possess a building was no longer the rule.  Because of this, problems of severely deferred maintenance sometimes led to a building’s demise.  Photographs indicate that the general “face” of the neighborhood began to require more than cosmetic upkeep by the early 1970s.  Fortunately, a number of residents along Congress Street took advantage of the city’s Focus Block Grant to improve their facades in the 1970s.*  This has certainly helped to retain many of the architectural elements that are such an integral part of the neighborhood’s character.  

[Figure 30] Urban renewal was hailed as a panacea for downtown Troy, but Mount Ida was either skipped or spared—depending on one’s viewpoint.  Apart from the concomitant “benevolent neglect” that thus allowed much of the unrepeatable architecture of the neighborhood to remain untouched, the movement did not replace the small businesses that are such an essential element for the local economy to thrive once again. Much of the central downtown business section of Troy was razed and replaced with edifices that were architecturally and pragmatically passé by the time they left the drawing board.  A good example of this is the “Atrium,” an economically unfeasible concept and reality that leveled blocks of nineteenth-century buildings to erect what is essentially unusable and unmarketable space.  The Brutalist Troy City Hall is another example, and one that the present administration already hopes to replace if at all possible. 

* City of Troy and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Neighborhood Renewal Task Force, Housing Rehabilitation and Restoration Plan (September 16, 2003 with an August 2, 2004 Update), 1.


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