The Mansion Historic District which is located south of the Empire State Plaza, is right below the NYS Executive Mansion. When it was first created, it was meant for wealthy citizens and some middle class were allowed to live there depending on how close to wealthy they were. The people that lived there were known as prosperous individuals and they often built gardens and things of the sort to beautify their homes. The district consists of about 500 buildings and most of the buildings still remain intact today. Over the years the district transitioned from a place for the wealthy to the homes of Albany’s immigrants.
In the seventeenth century, the area that would become the location where the mansion district is located was unsettling to many. The first person to settle there was a farmer by the name of Hendri Hallenbake. Hallenbake died in 1766 and his family divided the area and sold parts of it to wealthy people throughout Albany who built large houses to live in. A few years after the Revolution, one of the residents living in the district by the name of Peter Yates sold his home to James Kane. Kane is accredited as the landowner that impacted the district the most; he expanded the district starting with his estate during his short stay in the neighborhood through a series of purchases. Unfortunately, Kane was left with little no money in the Panic of 1819 and the estate was taken over by those who had lent him money in the past. Throughout the years Kane’s estate was passed around from person to person and was eventually acquired by Archibald McIntyre and Henry Yates in 1834. The estate was used as temporary governor’s mansion at one point but some years later, Yates sold parts of it. When he died, the house became the Albany Female Academy and eleven years later, the school moved to a different location and Kane’s estate was destroyed to make space for a church.
During the 1840s, due to the Panic of 1837, there was hardly any additions to the district except for a small row of houses built on Hamilton Avenue. Things began to pick up in the late 1840s and the Mansion District reached new heights by the 1850s. The economy was doing very well due to the railroads, canal and industrialization. With this came an influx of immigrants seeking jobs and opportunity. Irish immigrants were one of the first groups of the new workers to arrive and it was clear that they needed housing and developers began to look for empty lands throughout the district to build new homes. New architectural styles were brought to the district by James Eaton and this drew a new group of immigrants, Germans. By 1876, the district was almost complete and the neighborhood continued to prosper with the help of another immigrant community, the Italians. The Italians grew more and more and displaced the Irish over the years.
The district continued to thrive until the development of the Empire State Plaza; the Empire State Plaza had a negative impact on the mansion district to the point of potential demolition. People were not buying the properties in the districts for the prices that were being asked and many of its residents moved elsewhere. When all hope seemed to be lost and the district was going to be destroyed, some new residents that had acquired property decided to create the Mansion Neighborhood Association to fight for the community and put a stop to any talk and ideas of demolition. Due to the organizations persistence, the community has been rejuvenated in recent years but there still remains work to be done.