Historic neighborhood tours return to Schenectady
GE Realty Plot, Stockade to open doors after hiatus
SCHENECTADY Schenectady’s long and varied house history will once again be prominently on display in 2013.
The city’s two most celebrated neighborhoods, the GE Realty Plot and the Stockade Historic District, are opening their doors again this year, giving history buffs and architectural enthusiasts an intimate look at some of Schenectady’s most interesting homes.
The GE Realty Plot, where executives of the General Electric Co. began building regal residences at the turn of the 20th century, will hold its house and garden tour June 22 and 23. The Stockade Walkabout, meanwhile, is scheduled to return in its old form on Saturday, Sept. 28.
The GE Realty Plot House and Garden Tour was usually held every other year. But after the 2009 tour it was not held in 2011 or 2012. This year, however, it’s back and the plan is to keep it on an every-other-year basis.
“When we have enough time to do it, it’s really not that hard,” said Maureen Gebert, a resident of the neighborhood and chairwoman of the house and garden tour committee. “It’s the fundraiser for the association, and most of the time the people are very willing to open their homes and share them.”
The GE Realty Plot Association recently erected new road signs in the neighborhood.
“They’re like the ones up in the Stockade, and we have other various projects that we’re planning that we need money for,” said Gebert, who recently moved into a house in the plot. “We did miss one event, but I think a lot of it had to do with people being busy and the old president of our association moving. But we’ve been planning this for two years now, and everyone’s looking forward to it. The homeowners enjoy talking about their house and its history, and lots of time we get architects and historians that come through and add their knowledge.”
There will be six houses on this year’s tour, including Union College’s Abbe Hall. The first house constructed in the plot in 1900, Abbe Hall served as the residence of Edwin Wilber Rice, president of GE from 1913 to 1922.
Among the gardens on display will be that of the First Unitarian Society on Wendell Avenue, designed by prominent architect Edward Durrel Stone.
The plot is just east of the Union College campus. GE created the GE Plot when it purchased 75 acres of land from the school in 1899.
Another stop on the house and garden tour this year will be 1286 Wendell Ave., formerly the home of Judge Alexander Vedder. Now occupied by Andy and Heather Chestnut, the home was included in several scenes from the recently released film “The Place Beyond the Pines.”
For those interested in older architecture, the Stockade Walkabout will have approximately 10 houses available for public viewing. The walkabout was held first in 1958 and then conducted intermittently throughout much of the 1960s. It was held on an annual basis for much of the past four decades up until 2011. In that year, the walkabout was held but focused on various re-enactments in the Stockade, while the houses remained closed. Last year, the event was not held in any manner.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing that the walkabout is back,” said Ryan Mahoney, curator at the Schenectady County Historical Society on Washington Avenue in the Stockade. “It brings exposure to the historic district. So many people come to the neighborhood for the first time because of the walkabout, and they’re able to learn about Schenectady’s history and culture.”
Having the houses again be a part of the walkabout ensures the event’s success, according to Mahoney.
“People can see architecture from the 17th and 18th century, so it’s great that the houses will be open again,” he said. “They are truly amazing, and the Stockade is a one-of-a-kind historic district.”
Tickets for sale
Tickets for the GE Realty Plot Tour are $25, and will be available at a handful of locations in the city, including Marty’s Hardware on Van Vranken Avenue and online at proctors.org.
Advance tickets for the Stockade Walkabout are $15 ($20 day of event), and are available at the Schenectady County Historical Society, Proctors, the Open Door Bookstore and Kulak’s Nursery.