The Joy of Troy


ONCE-MIGHTY TROY, N.Y., one of the nation’s wealthiest cities in the glory days of the Industrial Revolution (iron, steel, precision tools, shirts and collars), fell on hard times in the 20th century, but much of its impressive — in fact, gorgeous — architecture remains intact. Some of its brownstones are more stellar, even, than Brooklyn’s best, and its commercial buildings, in the uniformly antique downtown area, are great beauties.

There’s much for an architecture aficionada to explore, and explore I did last Saturday, in the company of my travelin’ cousin Susan and Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris), a new Troy resident and now expert on the buildings of that city. (Her recent New York Daily News article on the revitalization of Troy is here.)

photoHere we are at Lucas Confectionery, a hip new wine bar/ restaurant/grocery that retains the name of the original 1863 store in this space, toasting the wonders of the city named after the ancient Troy, whose motto is “Ilium fuit, Troja est (Latin for “Ilium was, Troy is”) — and, young entrepreneurs and real estate developers hope, will be.



Above, Suzanne with Lucas Confectionery owner Vic Christopher, formerly of…Brooklyn!


The obvious place to begin a walking tour of vintage Troy is Monument Square, where a towering column topped by a figure of Liberty commemorates Civil War dead, and around which are a few thriving boutiques like Truly Rhe and a phenomenally unspoiled Victorian bar/cafe, Illium Cafe (photos below of the building that houses it and its wholly original interior). Try the strawberry mimosa.




The elegant 1904 McCarthy building on Monument Square, of terra cotta with a proscenium-style arched window, below, just waiting for the right tenant.



Angling off Monument Square toward the Hudson River — narrower here than in New York City, but the original source of Troy’s commercial success — is River Street, below. The spectacular wedge-shaped Rice Building, an 1871 High Gothic landmark at the corner of River at First, replaced an earlier structure wiped out in an 1820 fire that destroyed all the businesses and warehouses along River Street, which had been a busy commercial district since the 1790s.



River Street is optimistically dubbed Antiques Row. More buildings are vacant than occupied at present, though the potential in its sturdy, attractive building stock, below, is evident. One of the best stores now open: Country Charm at #188, where painted cupboards and iron bedsteads similar to those found in Hudson, N.Y., shops are offered at a fraction of the price. Another goodie: Playing on the Furniture, a place to find cheerily repainted and refurbished secondhand pieces.



Off Monument Square in the other direction, on River and Third Streets, are livelier boutiques, vintage clothing stores and flower shops (The Botanic Studio specializes in terrariums), and more fine commercial buildings in need of tenants.



Above, Dang! That’s Cherry, a vintage clothing boutique that also sells mid-century kitsch and kitchenware.

Troy seems to have no shortage of fine public buildings. Below, the interior of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, an 1870s auditorium with original pipe organ, long famed for its acoustics, has a full calendar of important names in classical, jazz and popular music.



Below, the Troy Public Library, remnant of proud bygone days, with magnificent iron sconces.



Below, two early buildings at Russell Sage College, founded in 1916 in a public park in Downtown Troy.


There are numerous blocks of well-preserved row houses — a few early Federal clapboards and many later homes of brick or stone, in Italianate, Romanesque Revival, and other fanciful late 19th century styles. The best of them seem to be along 2nd Street, which we wandered, admiring bay windows, cupolas, friezes, ironwork, cornices, and other details.

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Above: the Federal style Hart-Cluett House, built in 1827 with a marble facade, now the home of the Rensselaer County Historical Society.







Eventually we came to Washington Park, below, established in 1840 and one of only two private ornamental parks in the state, open by key to residents of surrounding buildings (the other such park is Gramercy Park in NYC). Some of the homes are freestanding mansions, below; others are row houses.



Above, one of the last remaining cobblestone streets in Troy.

We returned to Monument Square along 3rd Street, where the homes are more modest. There are two interesting houses of worship: the 1827 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, below, whose 1890s interior is all Tiffany; stained glass windows, woodwork, metalwork and lighting. And a cute blue-painted 1870 synagogue, in continuous use for the past 144 years.

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Wherever you roam, there’s interesting stuff to see, like the leaded glass storefront and rusting Art Deco hotel sign, below.



That’s Troy 101 for you. What do you make of it?

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
This entry was posted in ARCHITECTURE, HISTORIC PRESERVATION, HUDSON VALLEY, TRAVEL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Joy of Troy

  1. mud4fun says:

    Lovely photos and super architecture

  2. cara says:

    Thanks, Mud. Glad you’re still reading:-)

  3. mud4fun says:

    Absolutely still reading.

    There are so many lovely buildings there that it is hard to choose a favourite but I really do like the hall that on first glance looks like the exterior of the building, it took a second or so before I saw the seats and realised it was the interior!

  4. melanie says:

    As always, fun to read and view.

  5. coppermaven says:

    LOVE the architecture! So glad Troy’s economics led to them being preserved, although under utilized. But even more, I love seeing a pic of Cara in situ!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Great blog post, entertaining and educational. A treasure I didn’t know existed. Would love to visit someday. Thx.

  7. Here’s an example why I love your blog so much. Always something interesting. What treasures they have up there! Including Suzanne. So glad you got to spend some time with her; I was disappointed that she moved to Troy right as I was getting to know her. But now that I see those (amazing) photos, I understand Troy’s appeal for her.

  8. FrankFrank says:

    I live in Troy, not far from where your photo tour took place. I moved here three years ago from Chicago and absolutely love it. Fantastic architecture, lots of great little shops and coffee houses, the feel of a good sized city while being minutes from just about anywhere in the greater Albany area. Thanks for visiting.

  9. Collin says:

    These are amazing pics. Gotta get to Troy! Thanks for this great intro to the city’s architecture. Looking forward to heading a bit further north of Hudson on my next trip to NY.

  10. Peg says:

    Great photos, thanks! I am hoping to buy a fixer upper in Troy this year.

  11. So nice to see this focus on Troy. We get up there about once a year and always enjoy it. Loved the photos.

  12. maggiec says:

    I went to Sage and lived in Troy for four years after graduation (back in the 80s before a lot of the recent renaissance). It’s truly a gorgeous place. Thanks for this. It makes me nostalgic.

  13. Lula says:

    blows me away….who knew??? Thanks to you, now a lot more folks do. thanks, Cara.

  14. cara says:

    Thanks for all the comments, great to hear from so many. This post got 1,400 views yesterday (many times the usual number)… I guess Troy is a popular subject!

  15. lee says:

    Troy has a thriving farmer’s market, summer (outside) and winter (indoors).

  16. Poweltonian says:

    Stopped by Troy last summer during our travels through Hudson Valley and am so glad we did. I was swooning over many of the houses you’ve pictured above.

  17. Myra Thompson says:

    Thank you for your wonderful comments on Troy. I love the city and the people, of course I am a bit biased as I live two doors down from that beautiful rose window. Next time your in town you should take a tour od the Tiffany Stainglass many of the buildings you photographed include would be included.

  18. Suzanne Spellen says:

    Cara, so glad everyone loves Troy! Your post has been linked all over Troy, by anyone with a FB page or a website. Thanks so much for visiting, I had a great time with you and Susan, and look forward to your return!

  19. cara says:

    Nothing like a little justifiable local pride!

  20. Astor C. says:

    Troy is just one of the unheralded treasures of the I-87 corridor. With soaring rents, Hudson (which was a no-persons zone a few years back) seems to be pushing out the antiques stores and looking more like West Broadway. Saugerties across the river is well worth checking out and Kingston too with the most amazing, intact pre-Revolutionary houses (those that weren’t burned by the Brits) in the US.

  21. Lauren says:

    I spent some of the best years of my life in Troy and I am always pleased to see the city and its beauty recognized.

  22. Bill Brown says:

    If you did not see the interior of the Troy Public Library, you missed one of the most impressive libraries in the Northeast, perhaps of anywhere for it’s size. It would be well worth a return trip and the posting of a few photos. The Library brochure explains why it is so architecturally significant as well as beautiful. Sadly, even the City of Troy always seems to overlook one of it’s most important treasures.

  23. cara says:

    Okay, so there are at least three important interiors on the list for my next visit: St. Paul’s Church, the public library, and the Hart Cluett house, which is open to the public. I’d also like to see inside the synagogue.

  24. Harriet W-G. says:

    Give us a call the next time you’re in Troy. Xenia has our number and David has the keys to St. Paul’s. He’s the senior warden and on of the two people who put on the wildly successful Tiffany Conference at St. Paul’s this year. Tiffany Conference webpage

  25. Anonymous says:

    Attended Troy High 1947 to 1951.. What big changes since then. Return to visit from time to time but could never move back. Like going to a big museum.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Another reason to go to Sage reunion.

  27. Kathleen Lisson says:

    Troy is home!

  28. DuckyJ says:

    I just wanted to mention that it wasn’t optimism when that section of River Street got named the Antiques District. At the time it was *full* of antiques shops. Sadly, over the last few years they almost all closed, and though a few interesting stores have moved in since then, the stretch is mostly empty store fronts.

  29. Helen Bailey Bayly says:

    Brilliant and beautiful Troy…. have loved it and lived in it since 1962…..Also, especially delightful because my name is Helen!

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