Friday, July 30, 2010

Doing Research on Troy, NY – What do you find? What do you think?

My wife and I have been remodeling our house since we bought it. In all honesty my wife has been doing most of the remodeling and I’ve been helping. In any case we have been putting the house back into shape, replacing doors, (we found the original French doors in the basement and refurbished them) and removing paneling and suspended ceilings. My wife has plastered walls and repaired windows - bringing the house back toward its original condition. In the winter we work inside and in the summer we naturally have been working outside. While endeavoring to cut down on the amount of grass that needs to be cut and putting in gardens to beautify we found a number of curbs buried in the ground. We started to investigate what they were and where they came from and it led us down a path to a taste of the history of our house and of Troy, NY itself.

As we explored out new property in 2004 we could tell that there was a lot of curbing around the property. It had broken off in spots. Also in the lawn was the tell tale sign of concrete sticking up through the grass. The thought was that maybe there had been a garage or shed there. However, when we began digging up this part of the yard for flower gardens we found old curbing buried about 5 inches below the ground. At first it looked like there was charred wood or charcoal mixed in but with further investigation it was discovered to be old asphalt.

When we found the curbing and possible charcoal we wondered if there had been another house on the property. An investigation into the deeds for the property stretched back to 1920. This revealed the history of the house and some history from before the area was gridded off for streets and lots. It was around then that what we thought was old charcoal was in reality old asphalt.

From county records I traced the sale of the property in 1921 to the building of the house in 1922 to the improvements made in 1935. This information was particularly important to find. You see, the house we are living in was built, according to the deed, in 1935. But from the great wealth of information I have found my wife and I decided there is no evidence to support that the current house is not the original house. The changes in the year theoretically could have occurred when the information was computerized. So in reality the house was built here in1922 with the improvement of a back porch and an asphalt patio occurring in 1935.

Searching county records also gave some pre-15th St. history of the area. Thomas Sausse, who lived near the location of present day St. Mary’s hospital, once owned the land on which the house sits. The entrance to the property was off McAdam Rd. (Hoosick St.) or also from Sausse Ave. East of him was the burgeoning city of Troy from Oakwood Ave down to the Hudson River. West of Sause was Gary Brothers who owned land near present day RPI, across McAdam St. to near the present day Frear Park boundary. Even further east lived Nelson Betts who owned land and a large orchard somewhere near what is now 20th St.

Even more information is found in the old city directories. From the deeds I had a rough idea of who owned the house and when the house was built. There is additional info in the directories than what can be found in county records. The city directories begin to tell you something about the people who lived in the city. There was no 1921 Troy, NY city directory but from the 1922 edition I found that this house and lot was the first one on 15th St. north of Hoosick St. (McAdam Rd.). The first owners were part of the up and coming class of the 1920s. The Jarvis’ moved from a nice section of the city on Grand St. to up on the hill where the new middle class was building homes. William H. Jarvis was probably more than that. He was the Head Teller, an executive level position in 1920, of the Manufacturing National Bank of Troy, NY and Secretary/Treasurer of the Marshall Sanatorium.

Jarvis’ bought the property from Burton W. Feathers, a builder and speculator who bought a number of lots conditionally from Lindenwood Reality Company and its owner William S Hamill. Hamill owned a construction company, the Hamill Construction Co. Feathers eventually settled down on 15th St. years later.

Hamill had drawn the housing parcels of the area for the city while he owned a contracting engineering firm called the William S. Hamill Co. 1905-1918. He had been Asst. Engineer of Troy Water Works 1904-1905 was also Superintendant of Construction for the Hudson Valley Construction Co 1905-1911. This is the same year the Hudson Valley Construction Company finished a contract for building infrastructure at Great Meadows Prison. A side note to all of this is that the Hudson Valley Construction Company was indicted in 1913 with Hamill named in the indictment along with the other officers, who included Cornelius V. Collins, Franklin B. Ware, Charles A. Sussdorf, Charles P. Boland, Millard S. Goyer, Timothy D. Lenehan, Samuel Blumenthal and Frank W. Lynch. [1] On April 17, 1914 they were convicted of grand larceny in a debacle of the building of Great Meadows State Prison in Comstock, NY. Apparently construction costs were inflated to almost twice the actual cost. The Hamill Construction Company began in 1918

The Jarvis’ owned the house from 1922 to 1945, a total of 23 years. His wife Sarah Ann died in November of 1944 and the house was empty until it was bought in 1945. Apparently William Jarvis moved near to the United States Naval Training Center near Sampson, NY after his wife died. His son William H. Jr. had been a student with RPI and could have lived in western New York. The new family moving in was the Marvellis.

Anthony and Rose F. Marvelli bought the house in April 1945. According to the deed they bought the house and property along with screens, storm windows, all the awnings on the premises, hot point refrigerator, gas and coal range, Garwood air conditioner and the coal in the basement. They also had a daughter named Anna Mae. Anna Mae had a dance studio, Marvelli Dance Studio, at 71-73 4th St., Troy, NY. Anthony was a machine operator and Rose it is assumed took care of the house. In January of 1950 Anthony deeded the property over to Rose and then passed away in March of 1950.

Evidence points to around this time Anna Mae met a musician name John F. Romeo. They eventually married with John buying the property from Rose F. in March of 1954. Rose was listed as the owner in the city directories until 1959 passing away in 1990. John Romeo opens Romeo’ Music store with Anne Mae (Marcelli Dance Studio) continuing her dance lessons. In December of 1954 the Romeo’s bought the two vacant city lots that existed between the paper 14th St. and the back of their property, increasing the size of the property to 3 city lots, almost a quarter acre. The Romeo’s own the property until 1980. This is the longest possession by the same family in the history of the house. Anna Mae (Marvelli) Romeo (Julian) lived in the house almost 35 years.

In October 1980, Kathleen M. Avakian bought the house from the Romeos and moved in. She worked at RPI as a waitress with Deka Food Services. She meets and eventually marries Charles A. Pike who is a molder at Ross Valve on Oakwood Ave. In June 1984 Kathleen M. Avakian, now Pike, sells the property to Robert J. and Eleanor M. Wright.

Robert was a machine operator with General Electric. He and Eleanor raised a large family there. They witnessed a number of changes on the street from seeing it as shady tree covered street to when the city came in and cut down all the trees down around 1994. They saw repaving of the street, a sidewalk project and new trees planted. The property itself was covered and shaded with maple trees. The Wrights owned the house from 1984 until we bought the house in 2004 a total of 20 years.

When we bought the house in 2004 a number of kitchen iterations had occurred. A seat had been built in the bay window in the dining room and the plaster and lath walls had been covered with paneling. Drop ceilings were added and extra insulation was added to the windows and doors. Most of this is now gone. We have brought the house back as close as possible to the original design and continue in that direction.

All of this is the mere tip of the information iceberg on the area and even on the home. I plan on researching and writing a history of the area where the house sits from Paleolithic and Native interaction with the land to Dutch contact, to the Patroonship, through the development of Troy and intertwining it with the history of the people who lived on 15th St. near Frear Park.

What do you think?

[1] PEOPLE v. HUDSON VALLEY CONSTRUCTION CO., 217 N.Y. 172 (1916)

See maps that follow this post.

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