Thursday, October 25, 2012

Exploring Schenectady Homes with Vault Book 79

Many of the entries in VB 79 utilize a form, such as this entry, number 226, for 81 Lafayette Street.

Researchers investigating house histories use a variety of sources, such as deeds, maps and city directories. Another helpful resource -- although less commonly found -- are descriptions of properties compiled for real estate sale listings. In our collection of Vault Books, a term used to refer to a variety of account ledgers, letter books, meeting minutes, and even diaries in our collections (click here for a complete list of all of the Vault Books in our collection), is one such example.

Vault Book 79 contains descriptions of properties for sale compiled by Fitch and Griffes, an insurance and real estate company in Schenectady, from 1870 to 1880. Virtually all records refer to properties in the city of Schenectady. The earliest entries are written in a brief narrative format; most entries utilize a printed form that includes spaces to indicate owner's names and descriptions of properties, including lot dimensions, stories, building material (frame/brick), number of rooms, any associated outbuildings such as a barn or carriage shed, price and terms, information about cellars, roofs, water, and fruit trees or gardens on the property.

Listing for home at 120 Front Street, between John Street and Jefferson Street, which after numbering changes became 210 Front Street. The house was demolished around 1966.

"Two story brick dwelling, no. 120 Front Street. Large lot 120 x 60. Garden prettily laid out. Fruit in great variety and abundance. Small barn on alley in rear. House in perfect order and condition, and well arranged for convenience. Good well and cistern, both in-doors and with pumps to each. Thorough drainage. Best of water. Slate roof on house and finish and trimmings of the best material, doors are heavy & well hung. Large dry cellar, abundance of closet room, clothes press large, with drawers, etc., pantries, etc. One of the best constructed and most convenient homes in the city. Price: $4,500."

In addition to those researching a house history, Vault Book 79 is also useful in examining local history and genealogy. Those conducting genealogical or biographical research can find contextual information about the home of the person or family they are researching. Those who examine the book as a whole can chart the development of neighborhoods such as the Stockade or Prospect Hill and compare prices and dimensions of homes and lots. The entries can also help to identify when street names or street numbers changed.

The Grems-Doolittle Library has compiled an index of all entries in VB 79, extracting the street name, street number or location description, and the owner's name, if given. We have created two lists; one arranges properties alphabetically by street name, and the other arranges entries by owner's name.  Both indexes can be found by clicking here.

No comments:

Post a Comment