VICTORIAN BROWNSTONE ERA
In striking contrast to the city’s early buildings is the celebrated Hart-Cluett Mansion at 59 Second Street, the marble-façade federal-style home of the makers of Arrow collars and shirts, and now the headquarters of the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Construction of such a magnificent home in the middle of downtown Troy in the mid-1820s signaled to all that the future of the little community was bright indeed. It dwarfed the 1818 Vail House at First and Congress, a federal-style brownstone built for one of Troy’s earliest industrialists. Following in the same vein as the Hart-Cluett Mansion were a number of institutional structures, such as the imposing St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at Third and State (1828), or the striking Bush Memorial Center (once the First Presbyterian Church) at First and Congress (1836), a six-columned Doric temple that is one of the earliest Greek Revival structures in the nation.
The truly opulent era of Troy’s downtown architecture began about 1840 with the creation of Washington Park between Second and Third, to the south of the immediate downtown. A privately-owned park deliberately patterned after Gramercy Park in Manhattan, it served as the era’s equivalent of a gated community for the newly-affluent upper crust of Troy society. Between then and the end of the century, it was populated with one of the finest selections of Victorian brownstone architecture to be found anywhere, and as such, it is a destination not to be missed. Meanwhile, the many banks that had sprung up with Troy’s prosperity had built a colorful row of commercial structures on First Street. Not long after, the two blocks of Second Street between Congress and Broadway filled up with what may well be the best surviving sampler of urban Victorian architecture anywhere. Serving as an anchor in the middle of it is George Post’s towering 1875 Troy Savings Bank Music Hall at Second and State, one of the most acoustically perfect performance venues in the nation. Rivaling it for its dominance of the urban scene is the Hall-Rice Building on the point at River and First Streets. Built in 1871 as an office building, it served as the backdrop for one of the most important scenes in Martin Scorsese’s Age of Innocence.
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Iron and glass