Cohoes Trivia

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Arthur Einig

1. What does Cohoes have in common with the Miocene Period? The Miocene Period was when mastodons first appeared on Earth. In 1866, excavation was being performed on Mohawk Street, near the Falls. Bones were unearthed in a few places around the area. Two mounted skeletons and one replica of a mastodon are on display at the New York State Museum in Albany.

2. The Mohawk and the Hudson–and Cohoes. What’s the connection? Cohoes is the where the Mohawk flows into the Hudson. From its source in western New York’s Lewis County, the Mohawk flows eastward. Originating in the Adirondacks, the Hudson River flows northward. The two meet up in the city of Cohoes, and from there, continue on into the Atlantic Ocean.

3. What does the term “the terrible sixteens” refer to? “The Terrible Sixteens” refers to the early years of the Erie Canal as it related to Cohoes. The Canal, before it began to be re-routed and enlarged in the 1830s, ran through Cohoes, and no less than 16 locks were required to get past the 100-foot drop/rise of the Falls. The 1825 Canal had 83 locks. Between 1835 and 1872, it was reduced to 72. That number was further reduced over the years, and today, there are only 35.

4. Are there any National Historic Districts in Cohoes? Those who appreciate great views of natural beauty should visit Falls View Park. Cohoes Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in New York State, sits right in our own backyard! It’s right off No. Mohawk Street, near Canal Lock 18.

5. What is the historical significance of the Van Schaik (pronounced Van Scoyk) Mansion? Firstly, Van Schaik Island sits at the confluence of the Mohawk and the Hudson, a strategic location in wartime, and the 1770s, as we very well know, qualified as “wartime.” Nearly 5,000 American troops were stationed there in August of 1777, as we were very sharply aware that the British were planning to Divide-And-Conquer us with a three-pronged pincer strategy. Governor Clinton and various military agreed that the Van Schaik Mansion was where the plans to thwart the British attack should be formulated. Burgoyne’s invading force, the northern portion of the pincer, coming out of the Champlain Valley, must be prevented from joining forces with the southern pincer, led by Howe, and the western pincer, led by St. Leger. In short, the British were thwarted. The Island was also the site of great military activity in World War II. Today, the Mansion is listed on The National Register of Historic Places, is part of the State Heritage Trail and is one of America’s most intense places to get a real shot of patriotism.

6. How did Van Schaik Island fall into our possession? In 1665, Goosen Gerritse Van Schaik and Philip Schuyler purchased the island from the Mohicans, who called it Quahemesicos. Schuyler’s portion was, eventually, deeded over to Schuyler, who left it to his wife and son, Anthony and it was Anthony who built the mansion.

7. The Cohoes Music Hall is a beautiful, old building. Is it on the National Register of Historic Places? Yes, it has been so honored since 1971. In fact, in 1984, the Downtown Cohoes Historical District, which encompasses 35 acres and 175 buildings, was created and was also put on that list.

8. Wasn’t there a beautiful building in Cohoes, also on the National Register, that was torn down by the city? Silliman Memorial Presbyterian Church, sadly, underwent demolition in 1998. The once-gorgeous church fell into such a state of deterioration due to neglect, that the city decided that it had to go, despite the protests and entreaties of the Spindle City Historic Society. However, the church still lives: it is, to this very day, still listed on the National Register, and the Horace B. Silliman Memorial Park occupies the space where the very impressive Romanesque church once stood, opposite City Hall.

9. Is there anything like a castle in Cohoes? Is it open to the public? Yes. Cohoes City Hall. Elements of Romanesque, which is to say, large and stately, like Silliman Presbyterian, and elements of Chateauesque, which is a style based on the architecture of the French Renaissance, come together to create one beautiful building.

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