NISKAYUNA — Sometimes the most fascinating stories are hiding in plain sight.
Such is the history behind a Niskayuna home located at 3483 Rosendale Road, situated just a few dozen yards from the former train station along the bike path.
Thanks to extensive research by current resident Denise Stringer, in her publication “Finding Home in Niskayuna," I am able to write and share this article. Given the extensive volume of information in this history-rich document, I plan to generate several future historical articles.
The tract of land on which the home is situated is associated with one of the earliest known Niskayuna land acquisitions. Sometime in the 1670s, a seasoned Dutch sea captain named Jan Cloet (later spelled Clute) obtained nearly 2,800 acres along the Mohawk River, which became known as the Cloet patent.
This extensive holding included land on both north and south sides of the river along with several islands. For centuries Native Americans fished, hunted and farmed this fertile terrain alongside the Mohawk. There is quite a bit more to this early history, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll fast forward to the 1820s when there were still only a few scattered homes and farms that populated the Rosendale and Niskayuna hamlets.
Two key events took place in the 19th century that would dramatically recast development of this region and launch Niskayuna on a new path that would ultimately morph into the present-day community we now know.
The first was construction of the initial Erie Canal, which first opened here in 1825. Increased river traffic brought more goods and people through the area, initiating a slow transformation from the rustic rural routines. Up until this time, very little population or lifestyle change had taken place since the American Revolution.
A further impetus for change began in 1843 when the Troy-Schenectady Railroad, including the Niskayuna depot, was built and began operation. Regular rail service dramatically accelerated shifts that would have lasting and far-reaching impact on the town. Ease of transport for people and a wide variety of raw materials and manufactured wares continued the transformation from rural farming, creating new options for commerce and industry.
Mathew Winne Jr. (1806-1897) was the ambitious namesake son of a well-respected and successful local Dutch farmer. While many farmers in this era were adept at multiple skills, Winne Jr. was especially capable and keenly recognized opportunities in the changing environs. While his father mostly focused on farming interests, the younger Winne ventured into operating a river ferry, building/repairing canal boats and even started a brick-making business using nearby clay-rich soil.
Sometime in the 1840s, Winne likely built the house at 3483 Rosendale, using bricks from his company, lumber from a nearby mill and incorporated an indigenous blue stone foundation. This industrious fellow also leveraged the newly established rail service to launch a coal, feed and grain business on his property, ideally located along the track siding.
Knowing the family heritage, it shouldn’t be surprising that Winne’s son, Thomas, would become Niskayuna supervisor from 1880-1886 and 1906-1911 — plus a state assemblyman from 1895-97.
The home at 3483 Rosendale, now owned by Jeffrey and Denise Stringer, has since undergone a number of changes, including the addition of white metal siding which hides the original underlying brick structure. It still sits adjacent to a small creek, hiding its many historical secrets, just a stone’s throw off the Niskayuna bike path.
Editor's Note: "Gleanings from the Corn Flats," written by members of the Niskayuna Historical Committee, examines town history. The feature runs the first weekend of the month in "Your Niskayuna."
The Niskayuna Historical Committee encourages any past or present town residents to contact the Niskayuna Town Historian at [email protected] regarding any information, resources, or stories they might like to share about Niskayuna’s distinctive history.