Schenectady’s oldest extant religious building, St. George’s Church, sits in the center of the Stockade Historic District in Schenectady, New York. As Schenectady was settled and dominated by Dutch settlers, English settlers began moving to the riverfront town, due to its rich fur trade and opportunity. With the growth of English residents, a church where the services were conducted in the English language became necessary. The blossoming congregation hired architect Samuel Fuller, who arrived to Schenectady from Boston in 1758, at the height of the French and Indian War. Ground was broken on the stunning Gothic church in 1759 and it was finally completed in 1763, delayed due to fighting nearby. The church was originally more modest for the smaller congregation, but underwent a large building campaign in the mid 1800s thanks to Reverend William Payne. He oversaw the construction of a new parish house, a new rectory, as well as two successive expansions of the church and the addition of a stone tower and spire to the west front of the church, giving it the appearance we see today. The congregation is still highly active and maintains the building beautifully to this day.
The First Reformed Church of Schenectady is the oldest congregation in the city. Founded by Dutch settlers, Schenectady’s first colonists, the first church lasted over a decade until it burned in the Schenectady Massacre in 1690, when a party of more than 200 French and allied Mohawk warriors attacked the unguarded community of Schenectady, destroying most of the homes, and killing or capturing most of its inhabitants. Sixty residents were killed, including 11 enslaved Africans. An expanding congregation after, outgrew its second and third buildings, replacing them with larger structures. The fourth was lost in Schenectady’s Great Fire of 1861, causing yet another building campaign. The present church building, an architectural landmark in Gothic design, was completed by the highly regarded Victorian-gothic architect Edward Tuckerman Potter in 1863. Potter is also known for his designs of the Nott Memorial Building (previously featured), in Schenectady, and Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, CT. A fire in the church gutted it in 1948, but the community at large banded together to fund the restoration efforts of the amazing architectural landmark.
Tobias H. Ten Eyck was born in 1717 to a wealthy family from Albany, New York. He lived in Schenectady as a child and met his wife, Rachel De Peyster. The year he married Ms. De Peyster, he had this brick Georgian mansion built, which at the time, had a gambrel roof. Tobias was counted among Schenectady’s wealthiest businessmen, dealing in trade here until his death in 1774. The house was purchased next by James Ellice, who lived in the home with his wife Ann. While on a business trip to Montreal as an “Indian fur trader”, Ellice died at the young age of 33. His widow Ann remarried Joseph C. Yates, a lawyer. The couple occupied this home and Joseph built the one story law office to the side of the building to run his firm out of. He also had this home “modernized in the early 1800s, boxing off the third story and adding the Federal period detailing. He served as the mayor of Schenectady (beginning in 1798), being appointed successively to twelve one-year terms. In 1805 he was elected as a state senator, in 1808 as a State Supreme Court justice, and in 1823, as the seventh governor of New York (1823–1824).
This home in Schenectady’s Stockade Historic District appears to have been built in the mid-19th century, and is an excellent example of a modestly sized Gothic Revival cottage. The house was occupied around 1860 by David P. Forrest, who served one term as Mayor of Schenectady in 1859, later becoming an Inspector of State Prisons from 1860 to 1862. The amazing Gothic bargeboard and other trimmings have remained and add so much intrigue to the home’s design. And that lancet window in the gable end! Swoon.
Welcome to the Stockade Historic District in Schenectady, NY! The National Park Service has described it as “the highest concentration of historic period homes in the country,” from this, the Stockade became New York State’s first local historic district, protecting it from demolitions and unfettered development. The neighborhood began in 1661, when a group of Dutch settlers, mostly merchants and fur traders looking to do business with Native Americans, settled the banks of the Mohawk River. This group of settlers built twelve houses surrounded by a wooden stockade (wooden defensive walls), to protect them from invasions, the neighborhood was named after this feature. The neighborhood developed over the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, providing an amazing layered neighborhood that showcases the best of designs throughout history! This home is no different. It was built around 1850 as an early example of Italianate architecture. It was most notably occupied by the famed Dr. Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a German-born scientist who beat the (then) impossible odds of succeeding with from dwarfism, hunchback, and hip dysplasia. Born Karl August Rudolph Steinmetz, he emigrated to the United States in the 1880s He changed his first name to “Charles” in order to sound more American, and chose the middle name “Proteus“, a wise hunchbacked character from the Odyssey. He got a job with General Electric in Lynn, MA, and was later transferred to Schenectady where he lived out his days. He settled in this quaint home between 1893-97, running a laboratory out of the first floor rooms. He went on to bigger homes, and never married or fostered children. I highly recommend that you all read more about him, he was a truly fascinating person!
Daniel Campbell (1730-1802) emigrated to Schenectady, New York from Ireland, in 1754 at just 24. When he arrived to New York, he became involved in the fur trade, buying furs of animals from native people in the undeveloped lands of upstate, and selling the furs back to Europe. He began to purchase valuable land in the river town of Schenectady and nearby Albany, solidifying his position in those cities. In 1760, he married Engeltie Bradt, daughter of the Schenectady branch of a prominent New-Netherland era family. Soon after his marriage, he hired architect Samuel Fuller to design a spacious new Georgian mansion. The couple split their time between Schenectady and Albany until Daniel’s death in 1802. His widow resided at this home until her death ten years later. As State Street (where this mansion sits) turned more industrial, this home was modified with storefronts and later alterations in the mid 19th century.
Walter McQueen, a Scottish-born engineer, built this Second Empire style home with money he made in his role at the Schenectady Locomotive Works. The Schenectady Locomotive Works built trains from its founding in 1848 through its merger into American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1901. The company grew as railways connected the east coast to the west, coinciding with the California Gold Rush and westward expansion of the United States. The company manufactured trains for various railway companies all over the United States. The company grew so fast that they had hundreds of workers, with many children in their factories. Walter McQueen was master mechanic (the best master mechanic in the country on many accounts) at the Schenectady Locomotive Works, becoming superintendent in 1852 and subsequently a vice-president. It is likely that McQueen sought more expensive housing with his increased role and relocated from this brick mansard roof home. The home as of late has been adaptively reused into commercial use, most recently for Bier Abbey, a restaurant.
The 16-sided Nott Memorial Hall is one of America’s most dramatic High Victorian buildings, is the centerpiece of the Union College campus (and a major reason for my stop in Schenectady when driving through New York). Union was the first non-denominational institution of higher education in the United States, and the second college established in the State of New York. Eliphalet Nott became college president in 1804, and envisioned an expanding campus to accommodate a growing school. In 1806 a large tract of land was acquired to the east of the Downtown Schenectady, on a gentle slope up from the Mohawk River. In 1812 French architect Joseph-Jacques Ramée, equally skilled in landscapes and structures, was then hired to draw up a comprehensive plan for the new campus. Ramée worked on drawings for about a year, and construction of two of the college buildings proceeded quickly enough to permit occupation in 1814. The Union College campus thus became the first comprehensively planned college campus in the United States! As part of Remee’s plan for the campus, a round, Neo-Classic “pantheon” building was proposed at the center of campus (a prescendent for Thomas Jefferson’s plans for the University of Virginia just four years later). The building never materialized in Unions early days. Construction finally began on the building in 1858, based on designs by Edward Tuckerman Potter, grandson of President Nott, but apparently took nearly 20 years to complete due to the Civil War and funding issues. The Nott Memorial as completed, is 89 feet in diameter and capped with a ribbed dome. The dome is sprinkled with 709 small colored glass windows, making it one of the finest buildings on a college campus in the United States!
St. John the Evangelist Church in Schenectady, NY is probably the most imposing church I have ever seen (outside of European cathedrals). The church began in 1898 when Monsignor John L. Reilly purchased land across from Union College’s campus to erect a new church. He began collecting donations to fund a church suitable for Schenectady, and visited Europe to seek inspiration for the design. He worked with architect Edward Loth of nearby Troy, NY on the design which resulted in this massive 120’x130′ structure. The stone church has a small tower at each of its four corners with a central spire reaching 230′ high. The center spire was constructed of steel and glass to cast light onto the sanctuary below (sadly has been replaced with a metal roof). This is definitely one of the more memorable churches I have ever seen! What do you think of it?
Henry Schermerhorn DeForest (1847-1917) was born in Schenectady, New York and became a leading citizen of the bustling upstate city. He attended school in his hometown before leaving to study at Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie. He returned to Schenectady and married Lucie Van Epps, soon after gaining employment by her brother at his broom manufacturing company as a clerk and bookkeeper. He began using his earnings to buy and develop property in the city, eventually making him the city’s largest landlord. He was also a building contractor, with his company constructing more than 1,000 homes in the Schenectady area. He served as Mayor, in a role that he successfully advocated for General Electric to locate in Schenectady when it was formed from the mergers of several other companies, including Edison Machine Works, which had moved to Schenectady in 1886, creating a huge boom in development and growth for the city. After this, he has this large stone mansion constructed to showcase his wealth and success as a developer and Mayor. After his death in 1917, the home remained in the family for some time until it was acquired by the Schenectady Veterans Association not long after WWII, who maintain the building to this day.