Albany Bagel Co.

History > Van Rensselaer Manor House

In our 1857 lumber district map post we mentioned the Van Rensselaer mansion and showed a picture of it from about 1890. In that picture the mansion's gardens had already been completely denuded (the building was dismantled in 1893). We kept digging and came across a couple of earlier photos of the mansion, from sometime between 1860 and 1873. Here the mansion's gardens are still intact (the family didn't move out until around 1875). Both pictures are from the Albany Institute of History & Art. Here is the mansion from the front:

Van Rensselaer Mansion Front

And here it is from the rear:

Van Rensselaer Mansion Rear

So what happened to the mansion when it was dismantled in 1893? Marcus T. Reynolds moved most of the exterior to his alma mater, Williams College. Originally it was the home of his fraternity, the Sigma Phi house, which opened in 1895. After fraternities were abolished in 1963 the building served several other purposes at Williams until it was dismantled (again) in 1975 to make way for a new library. According to the Williams College website about the building, “many of the original sandstone blocks were transported to a doctor's private barn in the Capitol Region; this doctor planned to reconstruct the original 1765 house in Albany as soon as provisions could be made and funds raised. Twenty-two years have not seen this plan come to fruition, however.” We haven't found any more details about the doctor or whether those exterior pieces are still in existence: if anybody knows please leave a comment! Here's a picture of the Sigma Phi house at Williams College from sometime between 1895 and 1935 (courtesy of the Cornell University Library):

Sigma Phi House

When the exterior was moved to Williams some of the interior details of the original house were given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, where they are still on display.

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