TROY – Walking around downtown with architectural historian Diana S. Waite is to discover there’s a story for every building in a city that’s a treasure chest of architectural history.

Often, a building’s historic secrets are hidden in open sight. Waite opens them to public view in “The Architecture of Downtown Troy: An Illustrated History.”

Looking up at her favorite building, the Troy Public Library, Waite points out that the lack of windows on the second story. The absence reflects the architect’s plans for an art gallery with walls large enough to offer space on which paintings could be hung.

“It was built as a gift for the city. There are really good buildings downtown,” said Waite who is as entranced by the library’s interior with its unique book stacks as she is its exterior on Second Street.

“The Architecture of Downtown Troy” is Waite’s account of the city’s history as told through buildings construction from the 18th century through the 1926 dedication of the Hendrick Hudson Hotel on Monument Square.  The book’s richness was recognized earlier in November with the presentation of a 2020 Excellence in Preservation Award by the Preservation League of New York State.

“’The Architecture of Downtown Troy’ impeccably researched and features gorgeous photography. For those who have never been to Troy, it might inspire you to make a trip to see one of America’s most perfectly preserved 19th-century downtowns,” said Preservation League President Jay DiLorenzo.

Troy was once one of the nation’s richest cities. It was an industrial, banking, commercial and cultural center that displayed its riches along its downtown streets. Much of that 19th century streetscape is intact, luring filmmakers who have used it as a backdrop for period pieces.

“Along with Troy’s economic success came the public, commercial, educational, residential and religious buildings to prove it. Stores and shops, banks, churches, firehouses and schools, both modest and sophisticated. Sprouted up in the latest architectural styles, all contributing to a lively and fashionable downtown,” Waite wrote in the preface to her book.

Not sure of Troy’s banking history. Turn to page 75 and read the account of Troy’s “Little Wall Street.”  That’s when the banks stood shoulder-to-shoulder at 13, 15, 17 and 19 First St. just up from the thriving businesses along River Street, which borders the Hudson River.

“Diana’s book about the architecture of Troy appeals to both the casual reader and the student of historic architecture. It showcases the outstanding specimen that Troy’s downtown architecture is in North America,” said Karin Krasevac-Lenz, executive director of the Hart Cluett Museum.

The book was published by the State University of New York Press in collaboration with the Rensselaer County Historical Society.

Waite’s curiosity about the past and revealing it to the present provided the motivation for the years it took to write her book and put together the photographs and drawings that illustrate it.  Whether it was local archives in the Hart Cluett Museum’s research library or the New York Historical Society in New York City she unearthed the stories of the buildings and their architects.

“I like digging through old records and finding things people have forgotten” said Waite, who is president of Mount Ida Press in Albany and edits the “APT Bulletin: The Journal of Preservation Technology.”

Troy’s architecture is familiar turf for Waite who lives on Fifth Avenue with her husband, architect John G. Waite. She’ll will lead you around downtown to point out her top ten favorite buildings.

Waite starts with the Troy Public Library, then quickly adds the Rice Building at River and First streets, the McCarthy Building on Monument Square, Washington Park at the far south end of downtown, the Hart-Cluett House, at 57 Second Street, home to the museum.

Then it is on to the Frear Building at Third and Fulton streets, with its ornamental ironwork staircase, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Gurley Building at 514 Fulton St., the Rensselaer County Court House at Second and Congress streets and The Castle, as the Paine House is nicknamed, at 47 Second St.

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