A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Immigration

 It is likely that no more than three or four homes built prior to 1845 remain standing east of Thirteenth Street.  The earliest of these—the 1830s Greek Revival worker’s cottage at 541 Congress—is perhaps the structure most indicative of that initial period of expansion.  The house was more than likely built by its first resident, John D. Fitch, a worker in the Merritt mill at the foot of Ida Falls.*  The wooden-framed home retains its original setback from the road, and although there is an addition to the structure this too dates to a very early period, appearing on the Barton Map of 1858.  More importantly, the building is and always has been a single-family residence.  Any house constructed between 1850 and 1890 in the Mount Ida neighborhood was likely to be erected with income-producing flats, and roughly sixty percent of those extant homes either housed a first-floor business or evolved to accept one.  A good example of an early version of the latter is the brick structure at 336 Congress, a building much altered to meet needs for which it was not primarily designed.  In the 1830s a grocery or bakery would probably not have survived atop the hill, but in the 1870s almost any well-run retail establishment would have thrived.

Figure 7

 

[Figure 7] In 1845, however, the area was still largely agrarian and considered remote, claiming more farmers (10) than merchants (5), and more inns (2) than grocery stores (1).  There were no wholesale stores or banks; only three physicians and one clergyman practiced in the area, and there was no attorney with offices east of Fifth Street. The ward was among the largest in area, but it was the smallest in population—only 1,067 persons (4.9 % of Troy proper) among 21,709 called it home.  There were no “persons of color,” although Troy itself had 547 people identified as such.  There were no paupers, no Catholics, and no schools.  In 1844 there were but twenty-two births and sixteen deaths, hardly the numbers required for substantial and steady population growth.**

* Census of the State of New York for 1845.

** Information from 1908 Quit Claim Deed in possession of Barbara Gethins.

 

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