A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - Immigration

Yet the seeds of growth were indeed planted.  Although the large numbers of famine Irish had yet to arrive in America, the Fifth Ward could claim that almost twenty-five percent of its residents had been born outside the country.*  Many of these were skilled mechanics who had emigrated from England and Scotland to work in the mills and in this sense the area was actually ahead of its western neighbors who would soon be struggling against or with the tide of immigration.  The Fifth Ward needed these workers in its labor-poor economy, and the Irish fleeing the Great Hunger soon flooded the area, changing both its physical and ethnic nature.**  Ida Hill was becoming a neighborhood.

[Figure 8] By 1855 Troy had expanded its organization to ten wards, but the area under study was still entirely contained within the Fifth Ward.  The population of Ida Hill had more than doubled since 1845 (something it would never do again in any other ten-year period) and its foreign-born segment comprised an astounding forty percent.

More than twenty-seven percent (358) of the ward’s new 1,308 residents had been born in Ireland.  Foreign-born Irish, a nearly non-existent segment of the population in 1845, now made up more than fifteen percent of the population east of Thirteenth Street.*** 

Census of the State of New York for 1845.

Howe makes the salient point that water-powered mills “substituted capital equipment for a scarce labor force” (p. 42).  Once these businesses sought to diversify and grow, however, it became necessary to employ individuals to design, build and install machinery, to maintain and inspect equipment, and to keep watch over both the operation and its employees.  A grist mill turning wheat into flour, for example, was a fairly straightforward operation, and few people were needed to supervise it.  A foundry, on the other hand, provided a far more complicated and dangerous atmosphere.  As there was generally more money to be made in a foundry than a flour mill, the immigrants were welcome keys to diversification.      

Census of the State of New York for 1845.


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