The residents of Rensselaer County had easy access to the large markets of New York and Philadelphia as well as points west. Generations of immigrants have settled in the cities and rural areas of this county, tapping into its resources and creating some of the most renowned industries of 19th century America. Iron, steel, Arrow shirts and collars, agricultural machinery, gunpowder, Prussian blue pigments and Troy-Bilt Rototillers have all been produced in Rensselaer County during the past 175 years. One of America’s first engineering schools, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and The Troy Female Seminary one of the nation’s earliest schools teaching math and science to young ladies, now known as the Emma Willard School, were founded in Troy in the early 19th century, and remain leaders in education today.
The rolling hills and quiet river-fronts of Rensselaer County are deceptive, masking the evidence of over three hundred years of bustling settlements and booming industries. Located on the eastern banks of the Hudson River just north of New York State’s capital city, the region was first home to the Algonquian-speaking Mohican tribe before it was discovered and purchased by jeweler, merchant, founder and director of the Dutch West India Company, Kiliaen van Rensselaer in 1630. About thirty decades later, the Dutch and English fought for control until the English finally gained power in 1674, a position they held for just over a century. After the American Revolution, Rensselaer County was organized as a legal entity in 1791.
Beyond its notable entrepreneurial and educational influence, Rensselaer County has been a pioneer in American architectural significance. The landscape of Rensselaer County’s cities, towns and rural areas is brimming with richness.
Architectural style is often an important key to understanding how a community or neighborhood has developed over time. During the 19th century, when many of the County’s residences were built, most architectural styles in use were first developed in the prosperous mercantile cities of this country or in Europe. As styles took hold in developing areas and larger cities such as Albany, local architects and master builders began incorporating characteristic features into the design of their buildings. Keep your eyes open for every major architectural style — from Federal-style farmhouses and townhouses to neighborhoods of sturdy bungalows.