History of the Mansion Neighborhood
~ Development ~
Until the early 19th century the Mansion Historic District was considered a "suburb" of Albany. For many years, the country estate of James Kane, located at Trinity and Ashgrove Place, defined the area as a delightful resort for all ages and ranks. Albany's population having doubles in the 1820's reached over 24,000 by 1830. Population doubled again by 1850 to more than 50,000. Speculators and builders saw the financial opportunities in an area such as the Mansion District because of its proximity to the downtown and the newly developed Pastures. The neighborhood underwent major subdivision in the 1840's and again in the years following the Civil War. Most of the district's architecture dates between 1840 and 1875 though many later structures are found on Madison Avenue. The Mansion District typifies the early residential urban enclave, which in many cities preceded the development of streetcar suburbs. Commercial uses here have been confined to major thoroughfares such as South Pearl Street and Madison Avenue or to the neighborhood's peripheral areas.
~ People ~
The Mansion District was a mixed income neighborhood from the first with the more affluent clustered on Madison Place. Middle income residents, small businessmen, managers, and manufacturers resided on all streets north of Myrtle Avenue. Irish laborers, mechanics, and ironworkers rented homes in the far southern end of the district. The area's most distinctive and still-visible association has been with the early 20th century Italian immigrant. Albany's "Italian Core" centered on Madison Avenue where Italian credit unions, banks, small businesses, churches, schools, and clubs knit the community together much as their counterparts served the German district further south. Much of the Italian community dispersed following construction of the Empire State Plaza and population shifts of the 1960's. Yet their influence is still apparent here in businesses and shops along Madison Avenue.
~ Architecture ~
All major 19th century styles are represented in the Mansion District. A number of buildings employ elements of both the Greek Revival and Italianate styles, but there are also some highly refined examples of these individual styles. There are also some unusual examples of the application of Gothic Revival decoration to rowhouse construction. Italianate is the most widely represented style in the district and it is present in many levels of sophistication. The rowhouse predominates here as it does throughout Albany's historic core. Typical of mid-late 19th century speculative development are long rows of five or more structures found throughout the area.
~ Also Known As ~
Alternate names for Mansion neighborhood streets.
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Special Thanks to the Historic Albany Foundation for providing us with this text.