Uncovering Albany’s Hidden Gem: The Pastures Neighborhood

Historic Pastures Sign


Tucked away within Albany, New York, lies a neighborhood with a history as rich as the city itself, yet often overlooked. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the Pastures Neighborhood, guided by insights from Anthony Opalka’s Hear about Here audio tour and quotations by William Kennedy from his book, “O Albany!” We’ll delve into the historical roots, architectural wonders, and enduring charm of this enclave once known as “The Gut”.

**Stop 1: Madison Avenue and Green Street – Where It All Began**

Our adventure begins at the intersection of Madison Avenue and Green Street, the heart of the Pastures Neighborhood. Once known as Lydius Street, Madison Avenue marked the northern boundary of Albany’s common pasture. Here, the Dutch West India Company established Fort Orange in 1624, a fur trading post that later inspired the growth of a small village called Beverwyck. With English takeover in 1664, Beverwyck was renamed Albany and chartered as a city in 1686.

The common pasture, initially a grazing area outside the village’s stockade, was eventually deeded to the Dutch Reformed Church. Surprisingly, over 350 years later, this designated grazing spot retains its original name in today’s Pastures Neighborhood.

**Stop 2: Madison Avenue – From Steamboats to Urban Renewal**

Moving forward, we discover that Madison Avenue has witnessed centuries of change. After the invention of the steamboat in 1807, a steamboat landing emerged near the former location of Fort Orange. Over the next 200 years, the Pastures Neighborhood evolved with hundreds of buildings and waves of immigrants, from Dutch and English settlers to Irish, German, Italian, Jewish, and African American communities many of those immigrants going from the steamboat landing to living in the Pastures.

In 1972, the Pastures Historic District gained recognition in the National Register of Historic Places, setting the stage for a rehabilitation program in the early 1980s that breathed new life into approximately 100 historic buildings.

**Stop 3: Green and South Ferry Streets – Changing Landscapes**

Continuing our journey, we reach Green and South Ferry Streets. South Ferry Street, the oldest in the former pasture, once served as the dividing line between the north and south pastures. Here, we encounter the evolving landscape of urban renewal from the 1950s to the 1970s and the shift towards historic preservation following the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

We explore the remnants of early urban renewal programs, contrasting modern commercial facilities with the preservation of existing buildings in the Pastures.

**Stop 4: South Ferry Street – From Merchants to Modern Housing**

As we proceed west on South Ferry Street, we encounter buildings with fascinating histories. Numbers 59 and 61, constructed around 1827, witnessed a variety of occupants, including a police station at 59. Nearby, 65 South Ferry Street, built in 1832, stands out with its use of marble and ironwork, showcasing the architectural diversity of the neighborhood.

**Stop 5: Franklin Street Walkway – A Tapestry of Lives**

Heading north to the Franklin Street walkway, we find ourselves amidst historic buildings like 71 South Ferry Street, converted into a synagogue, and 77 South Ferry Street, once home to Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, a founder of Reform Judaism.

**Stop 6: Westerlo Street – An Architectural Showcase**

Green and Herkimer st. Signs

Westerlo Street, retaining its original name, reveals a row of ten buildings constructed in the late 1820s and early 1830s. These buildings, featuring Federal period architecture, are a testament to the craftsmanship of Henry Rector and Darius Geer, two influential figures in Albany’s architectural history.

**Stop 7: Franklin and Herkimer – Lost Landmarks and Resilience**

Our journey concludes at Franklin and Herkimer, where we remember the landmark School 15 and Beth El Jacob synagogue. These historic buildings tell stories of education and community, while surrounding residences reflect the neighborhood’s diverse population.

**Final Thoughts:**

As we return to where our tour began, it’s evident that the Pastures Neighborhood is more than just bricks and mortar. It’s a tapestry of history, resilience, and community. The Pastures might not have the fame of its neighboring Mansion District, but its charm, diversity, and enduring beauty make it Albany’s hidden gem, waiting to be discovered and cherished by all.

Unearth the Pastures Neighborhood’s secrets, marvel at its architectural wonders, and appreciate its unique character on your next visit to Albany. It’s a journey through time that will leave you captivated by this small but significant piece of Albany’s history. Check it all out by taking a walk through the Pastures with Tony Opalka on his HEAR about HERE tour.

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