Situated on a commanding hill overlooking the Wynantskill and the Hudson River in South Troy, NY the Woodside Church and Chapel stand as the only remaining structures of the once vast Upper Works of the Burden Iron Company, a site of profound significance in the history of American invention, industry, and engineering during the nineteenth century. Built in 1868 and 1869 for Ironworks owner Henry Burden in memory of his wife, on land owned by Erastus Corning, of Corning’s Albany Iron Works, the church was part of an apparent reconciliation between these two often-feuding 19th century industrial giants. The church site overlooks the ruins of the mill where Burden’s nail, spike and horseshoe-making machines and the rotary concentric squeezer were located. These inventions firmly established Burden’s reputation as a highly original inventor and demonstrated the technical feasibility of uniform machine-made products, a key element in the emerging American System of Manufactures. This National Register site marks the emergence of Troy as the “Silicon Valley of the 19th century.” A huge sixty-foot diameter water wheel (*offsite link) at the Upper Works, erected by Burden between 1838 and 1851, was considered an engineering marvel of its time. It was the most powerful vertical water wheel in history.
The stone church building was paid for with the wealth Burden had accumulated, in part, by producing almost a million horseshoes a week during the Civil War. It was designed by Henry Dudley, a prominent English church architect, and played a significant role in the life of the nineteenth century mill workers. It was, for many, their only social outlet, and formed the center of the neighborhood’s community. It has recorded the births, deaths, marriages, trials and triumphs of Victorian era life. The building has a remarkable pedigree that has garnered it a place of importance in the Gothic Revival movement in American church architecture.
The Church was last used by the Presbyterian congregation in 2003.
Thanks to the efforts of Ada Gates Patton and Christopher Burden, great-great-grandchildren of Henry Burden, and facilitated by the Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, the landmark was saved from the wrecking ball. In 2007, the CAC purchased the building from the Burden heirs after they had resumed ownership of the property.
The Church and Chapel are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovations of the first building are complete and our Residency program opened in 2009. Fundraising and rehabilitation for the second building, the Church, will be ongoing through 2012-14 with a grand opening of our Exhibition and Performance space in 2014-2015.
Please join us in our efforts to restore these buildings so that they may remain for generations to come.