Last week my friend and landlady Debii and I met with Troy's City Engineer Russ Reeves and his assistant, Barb. The city is tearing down the long-abandoned building next door, and Russ wanted to go over the plans with us so we'd know what was happening.
The building, which is structurally unsound, needs to be shored up before being demolished, as it is only four feet from our house at the closest point. It is also partially sharing a party wall with the building on the other side, so great care needs to be taken in order to make sure that when the contractors take it down, it doesn't fall down on us, or take the other building with it. We really appreciate Russ' concern, and we greatly appreciate being informed. Let me tell you, that would not happen in New York City. There will certainly be more posts on the teardown as it happens. Meanwhile....
Russ and Barb were still in a meeting when we got there, so he asked us to wait in another office. Deb and I both noticed that there were large atlas-sized books on tables and shelves, and we asked if those were for Troy. Russ took down one for us and we spend a very short fifteen or twenty minutes looking at the books. We were in atlas heaven!
My article about Troy was published last week, and the aftershocks are still being felt. The story in the NY Daily News was the talk of the town for a week. It was re-blogged by the Albany Times-Union, and called a "Love Letter to Troy." That was nice.
I was mentioning to friends about what a big deal the article had become, and Duncan Crary, who has made all things and all people in Troy his business, told me that there have only been four positive comprehensive articles about Troy in the last few years. That's why it's a big deal. Only four? Sheesh. Well, we'll change that, I hope. There is a lot going on here, and not just Downtown.
That topic - the revitalization of Troy's neighborhoods, not just Downtown, was the subject of an article in the Times Union by Chris Churchill. He contacted me in the course of researching his article (Thank you Daily News!) and we had a great conversation. Bottom line - a revitalized city has to include the outlying neighborhoods, not just a vibrant central core.
It's going to be hard, but I hope our communities will be able to rally, city and other money will be allocated wisely, and the new renaissance that Downtown in having spreads outward, especially into North Central, South Troy and Lansingburgh. All of Troy wants and deserves good and affordable housing, safe streets, good schools, jobs and economic opportunities. I'd especially love to see the many shuttered storefronts in our neighborhoods bustling with viable and long lasting neighborhood small businesses.
Anyway, here is Chris Churchill's fine article.
Writing for Brownstoner.com for the last four years has resulted in a lot of fans in unexpected places. One of them is Matt Chaban, the new editor of the Real Estate section of the NY Daily News. He contacted me, and asked me to write a piece about somewhere Upstate for their special Fall Preview real estate section. He suggested Hudson, but admitted that it may have been played out. I know very little about Hudson, so I suggested Troy. He thought it was a great idea, and we ran with it.
Thanks to a lot of invaluable help from new friends like Duncan Crary, who put me in touch with all of the people quoted or spoken of in the article, the article was written, edited and re-edited, and then photographed. The News loved my work, and published our Troy story. I never expected it to be such a large story, and I certainly never expected the excitement it generated here in Troy and the Capital District. More on that later.
Here it is: (much easier to read on line, although the print version looks much better)
Part Two of my story on Kate Mullany, as seen on Brownstoner.com: http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2013/10/walkabout-kate-mullany-a-troy-story-part-2/
By 1864, the detachable shirt collar and cuffs were making Troy, N.Y., one of the wealthiest cities in America. A simple convenience, first conceived by a Troy woman – attaching a separate collar and cuffs onto a shirt by means of buttons, had caused a revolution in men’s clothing. It was really quite amazing, and as the demand for detachable collars grew, so too did the facilities to make them. Cutting rooms, sewing factories and laundries – all were necessary to making the thousands of collars that would give Troy the nickname “The Collar City.”
Troy’s garment factories and laundries made their owners among the richest men in the city, with fine homes, and the best of everything. The thousands of workers who worked in those factories were not as fortunate. While conditions in the factories were certainly not great, nothing was as bad as the conditions in the laundries. Here women, and it was almost all women, toiled for 12 to 14 hours a day, no matter what the season, in incredibly hot, humid laundries, working with boiling water, caustic bleaches and starches, and red hot irons. They washed, bleached, starched and ironed millions of collars, enduring back pain, aching feet, burned limbs, scalding and chemical burns for $3 or $4 a week.
Here's Part One of an article I wrote recently for Brownstoner.com on Troy's own Kate Mullany.
The city of Troy was one of the wealthiest cities in the entire United States by the end of the 19th century. It was blessed by a number of favorable factors, including location and natural resources. Located near the meeting of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, Troy was a major nexus of the Erie Canal. Goods came from the Midwest and Canada along the Mohawk, which basically was the Canal by that point, and then crossed to the Hudson, and down to New York City, much of it ending up in Brooklyn’s Red Hook warehouse facilities. Produce and meat also came west from Vermont and the New England states.
My name is Suzanne Spellen. I've been many things: a writer, historian, preservationist, musician, traveler, designer, sewer, teacher, and tour guide; a long time Brooklynite and now, a proud resident of Troy, NY.