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Vischer Ferry

Clifton Park Town, Saratoga County, NY

The Vischer Ferry Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


First settled in the 1670s by the Dutch from Albany and Schenectady, the hamlet of Vischer Ferry is an unspoiled 19th century rural community which has escaped modern development despite the fact that it is within easy commuting distance of three cities. The hamlet has undergone three phases of growth: the period when the ferry was in operation, the canal period, and subsequently the resort period. The canal period was the time of greatest prosperity. The hamlet as it now exists is as fine an example of a mid-19th century canal town as may be found anywhere in New York State.

The first homes and farms in the Visher Ferry area were built close to the Mohawk River. The original Nicholas Visher brick homestead built around 1730 still remains and is used as a private home. It was Eldert Visher, the son of Nicholas, who began the ferry across the Mohawk River directly in front of the house built by his father. A large brick addition was added to this house in 1800, and for a while it served as an inn. At the time that the ferry was established in the 1780s, the village was also beginning to take shape. A store and a hotel were both established and there were three mills on the Stony Creek. The Amity Dutch Reformed Church was founded in 1802 and gave the name Amity to the quiet village. Throughout the nineteenth century, the village was referred to as both Amity and Vischer's Ferry. The post office, built in 1833, used the name Visher's Ferry, but maps and histories also use Amity. However, by the 1890s the name Visher Ferry won out, and except for the church, Amity was dropped and forgotten.

The Erie Canal, which passed through this quiet village in the 1820s, gave it new life. This period was the heyday of the village. With the enlargement of the canal in the 1840s came a frenzy of building activity. Two dry docks located in the village after 1845 brought many boat builders and ship carpenters to the village. The Greek Revival houses, the major type in the historic district, were built by these men between 1840 and 1860. A number of the houses in Visher Ferry today resemble Greek temples complete with pillared porticoes. Between the years 1840 and 1870 when the canal was essential to the nation's growth, Visher Ferry was a thriving and bustling community. A well-preserved stretch of the canal and lock number 19 are reminders of this vital period.

During the 1880s and 90s, while the traffic on the canal was decreasing, Vischer Ferry became popular as an excursion and resort area. People from nearby Schenectady arrived via excursion boats. When a boat reached Visher Ferry the visitors would leave the boat to enjoy a picnic before returning to the boat for the trip home. Some came from farther away to spend the whole summer at the hotel or at Van Vranken's Boarding House. A booklet entitled "beautiful Visher Ferry" was published to extol the virtues of the area and serve as a guide for the many visitors passing through.

It was at this time, around 1885, that the present church was constructed after the congregation's two previous buildings had been destroyed by fire. It is a handsome structure with Tiffany stained glass windows. Several other houses were also built about this time.

In 1900 a bridge was built across the river at the ferry site, but it was washed out during the winter ice jam of the same year and never rebuilt. Both abutments still stand as reminders. The ferry continued in operation until World War I.

After the spurt of building in the 1880s, Vischer Ferry lay dormant and unchanged until recent years. Electricity did not reach Vischer Ferry until the 1930s. Between 1900 and 1940 the population of the entire town of Clifton Park remained virtually unchanged at 2,000 persons. Upon completion of the Northway in the mid 1960s, the town was opened to development. The present population [2] is about 22,500 and growing. Under these conditions the survival of the hamlet in such an intact state without modern intrusions is impressive. The recently formed Vischer Ferry Association is working for the continued preservation of the hamlet.

  1. Manley, Doris, NYS Offic of Parks and Recreation Division for Historic Preservation, Vischer Ferry Historic District, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.
  2. Keep in mind 22,500 represents the population ca. 1975 which is when the nomination document was written; the Clifton Park website projects population of approximately 37,300 by 2010; www.cliftonpark.org, accessed 09/2007.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Ferry Road • Riverview Road