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Brick Row Historic District


Brick Row is located between North Washington Street and the Hudson River, north of the village center.

Historic District [3]

The Brick Row Historic District is a significant and unique section of the village of Athens' historical, architectural, and social heritage. It is a silent reminder of a busy shipping era and continues to be an ethnic working community.

The buildings of the Brick Row District are the last remnants of the Saratoga and Hudson River Railroad in Athens. In 1864, Daniel Drew and Cornelius Vanderbilt organized and built this line which ran from Schenectady to Athens. In Schenectady, merchandise such as grain, flour, and oil, which had been shipped east via railroads and the Erie Canal, was carried to Athens on the Saratoga and Hudson Line. At the Athens terminal and docks, the goods and passengers were loaded on barges and steamboats for the trip downriver.

The initial years of the railroad line were successful, and contributed significantly in making Athens one of the busiest spots along the Hudson in the 1860s. Its volume of shipping business even surpassed that of Albany. [1] A direct result of the line's success was the construction of Brick Row in 1864. The thirty, brick, Greek Revival rowhouses were built to house the employees of this railroad line.

The prosperity of the Saratoga and Hudson River Railroad (which was sold to the New York Central line in 1867) abruptly ended in 1876, when the Athens terminal and associated dockyards and offices were destroyed by a devastating fire. This fire ended "all vestiges of the shipping glory that was Athens." [1] Only the worker housing at Brick Row remains from the community which had risen around the terminal and dockyards.

After the railroad's demise, Brick Row became a community within itself. Various ethnic groups, including a large number of Italian immigrants who worked in the three Athens brick yards and icehouses, came to reside at Brick Row. Also, 32 Brick Row was originally a tavern for this homogenous community. A book by Reverend John Kisselburgh entitled In the Shadow of the Halfmoon, depicts life at Brick Row at the turn of the century. His recollections were "full of festive Italian weddings, the early morning sounds of men tramping off to another day of hard, dirty work, and the simple pleasures of everyday life with friends and family."[2]

Today [1980] Brick Row remains an isolated community with many first and second generation immigrants still residing there. Its architectural significance has fortunately not been substantially altered since its construction, thus preserving the character of this mid-century community which is unique to Athens.

  1. Athens Bicentennial Committee, Athens, Its People and Industry, Athens NY, 1976, page 98.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Powers, Robert M., Village of Athens Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Brick Row Historic District Map

Street Names
Brick Row

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