The year is 1914. You are standing upon slate sidewalks in Downtown Troy. Early automobiles pass you by on cobblestone streets. People on horse and carriage are delivering goods to nearby businesses, and the Caldwell
• What: “At the Corner of Second & State” exhibit
• When: Sept. 8- Dec. 20
• Where: Rensselaer County Historical Society, 57 Second St., Troy
• How much: Free
• Info: www.rchsonline.org
Apartment building, just seven years old, is visible on the corner.
It’s the corner of Second and State streets in the City of Troy, and the Rensselaer County Historical Society wants to bring you back for a peek into life all those years ago.
“We know all the amazing things that happened there — the music hall, anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage rallies, the amazing rescue of freedom seeker Charles Nalle in 1860,” said Ilene Frank, executive director at RCHS. “You can stand on one corner and tell people all these amazing stories, and we can do that.”
The exhibit is called “At the Corner of Second & State: Where Troy’s History Intersects,” and will be displayed in the Grimm Gallery at RCHS.
As a key location in Troy’s original grid pattern, the four corners that make up the intersection of Second and State streets and the surrounding blocks witnessed many important events and developments throughout history.
“It’s easy to do the history of your town and include a little of everything, but the story can get muddled,” Frank said. “What we are doing is focusing on one intersection and radiating just slightly from that intersection, telling the history of Troy using filters — a model we hope to take out into the city.”
Frank believes with a tight focus like this, you can tell a broad story.
Four key themes will be explored in the exhibit — the grid, the architecture, cultural history and social action. The exhibit will explore the grid pattern and how it has organized city life. It will also highlight residential and commercial structures that still exist in the historic district, such as the Caldwell Apartment Building and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Using the archival collections at RCHS, the exhibit will feature historic photographs and objects such as architectural plans of key buildings, a Votes for Women banner from 1915, a seat from the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, photographs of parades and portraits taken on the steps of the music hall.
“Our hope is that you come into the exhibit and get some info, pick up a map and walk the 20 steps to the corner, stand there and see all this stuff — the music hall, the Caldwell Apartment Building — and it takes you back and makes you realize the generations that have been there,” said Frank.
The exhibit will open on Monday, Sept. 8, and remain open for 15 weeks.
A companion exhibit, “Conserving the Welfare and Best Interests of our Depositors — The Troy Savings Bank,” will focus on the history and impact of the bank.
“When we were planning for the main exhibit, one thing that kept coming up was the importance of the music hall. We wanted to tell its story but with a variety of stories, so we decided to break that out into a companion exhibit and give it more space to tell that story more deeply,” Frank said.
She adds that she would be the first to say sometimes banking doesn’t seem like an interesting story, but the Troy Savings Bank was founded at a time when the concept of a savings bank was new.
“There was more morality involved with early bankers thinking they could convince the working class to save their money, and it would improve their morals. They wanted to stress the importance of saving money to better yourself, not to waste money on frivolous things. Because of that, the bank was really invested in the community,” Frank said.
The exhibit will look at the history of the bank, the impact on the community and the legacy left behind with the music hall.
A variety of programming will accompany both exhibits, including walking tours for visitors to explore the area.
“We are blessed in Troy to be in a city that when you come here, even if you are not a history person, you can’t help but be aware that you are in an old city that clearly has something going on in its past and the buildings remain,” Frank said. “History wasn’t my favorite subject in school, but this is the way to have that entry point without being an academic textbook about what happened here and who walked before me.”
RCHS is located at 57 Second St. in Troy and is open Thursdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. The main exhibit runs through Dec. 20, and the companion exhibit runs through Nov. 15. There is no fee to view the exhibits, although donations are encouraged. Guided tours of the exhibit are available for groups. For more information, call 272-7232 or visit www.rchsonline.org.