Take a trip to historic Troy

A classic American city on the Hudson

Author: Tom Carroll
Posted: Saturday, May 01, 2010

Carved out of three Dutch farms along the Hudson River a few miles north of Albany, Troy took shape in the 1780s when early Americans realized that its horizontal water was ideal for commerce and its falling water was ideal for industry. A frenzy of development ensued, making Troy the Silicon Valley of the nineteenth century.


An industrial pioneer, it churned out the world’s first machine-made railroad spikes, the world’s first machine-made horseshoes, the world’s first detachable collars and cuffs, the first Bessemer steel converter in America, the nation’s first steel railroad rails, and the most advanced bells the world had ever seen, including the replacement for the Liberty Bell that even today rings from the tower of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.


As a result, per person, Troy was America’s fourth wealthiest city at the time of the 1840 Census. Doubling in population every decade in the years leading up to the Civil War, it attracted the ambitious from all over, including “Uncle Sam” Wilson (yup, that Uncle Sam), who walked to Troy from New Hampshire in 1789 and never left. Meanwhile, the affluent graced the city with resplendent Victorian buildings, bedecked with impressive ornamental ironwork and some of the world’s best Tiffany windows. This stunning architecture has attracted the likes of Hollywood’s Martin Scorsese, who filmed many scenes for The Age of Innocence in Troy.


Like many cities in the Northeast, Troy struggled in the 1900s, but in the twenty-first century it is proving to be one of the nation’s best comeback stories. That’s because suburban empty nesters, young artistic urban pioneers, and sophisticated tourists are all gravitating back to its eminently walkable and livable historic downtown.


As a consequence, Troy now beckons on a number of fronts. It has several first-rate restaurants, and this summer it will become the home of the famed Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s latest eatery. The city also offers up a healthy serving of art galleries and performance venues. Ample, diverse, and reasonably-priced antiques stores have sprung up everywhere among the unique locally-owned shops. There is a period-appropriate corner bookstore, complete with a little bell that rings when you open the door. Impressive yachts tie up at its dock in the summertime, a local firm offers dinner cruises right in downtown, and two different cruise lines visit from distant shores every year. Tourists gawk at the many sights, such as the first place in the world to publish the poem that begins with “Twas the Night before Christmas,” or the downtown location where James Connolly, one of the radical heroes of the Irish independence movement, used to sell insurance.


If you can, come for the last weekend of the month. On those Fridays, the downtown comes alive at sundown for “Troy Night Out,” with its special sales, free entertainment and refreshments, gallery openings, and live performances. On Saturday morning, you can sample the many scrumptious foods available at the celebrated Troy Waterfront Farmers Market, named “Best Food Festival” in the entire Hudson Valley. On Saturday afternoon, take a leisurely stroll down Second Street to Washington Park to admire Troy’s stunning Victorian architecture, pick up great bargains in the antiques district, or drive to Oakwood Cemetery to pay your respects to Uncle Sam and other notables. Dine that night at one of Troy’s eateries, then take in a performance at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the New York State Theatre Institute, the lively Revolution Hall, or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s futuristic $200 million Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). Then on Sunday, if you time it right, you can attend services at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, each with a world-famous complement of Tiffany windows and other Tiffany appointments.


If you only have a day, consider coming for Troy’s annual Victorian Stroll, held every year on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend, when the downtown is packed with visitors, many in Victorian garb, who come to shop, to enjoy the special entertainments all around, and then to close the day with the annual tree lighting. Troy’s RiverSpark Visitor Center can help to make your stay a memorable one. Call in advance at
518-270-8667, or visit online at troyvisitorcenter.org.

Categories: Cool Places * Hot Trips,Travel

Tags: Troy,travel,vacations,day trips

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