Washington Park was laid out in 1840 and is one of only two privately owned urban ornamental parks in New York State. At the time, Troy was an industrial powerhouse and the houses surrounding Washington Park were home to captains of industry and commerce.
The buildings imitated the homes in wealthy New York City neighborhoods. As a stand-in for Gramercy Park, Washington Park provided the “old New York” scenery in films like Martin Scorcese’s The Age of Innocence (1993) and will appear in HBO’s upcoming The Gilded Age (2021).
The WPA began in 1840 and was instrumental in preserving the historic integrity of Washington Park.
Lynn Kopka, who served as president of the WPA for more than 20 years, will not be heading the new homeowners association. Instead, she will be continuing her community building work under the banner of “Washington Park Neighborhoods,” serving the Washington Park, Osgood, Little Italy, Riverside and Historic Sage neighborhoods. Kopka will continue in her role as president of Friends of Washington Park, the nonprofit organization created to secure funding for neighborhood improvement projects.
Kopka is especially proud of the stabilization of 8 Washington Place, a row house that was severely decayed and threatened the structural integrity of the adjacent ensemble of houses. While row houses are common throughout the area’s neighborhoods, these 10 feature a single façade. The WPA spent nearly a decade raising more than $90,000 to stabilize the deteriorating building before it was purchased and renovated.
The Friends of Washington Park also completed a $200,000 restoration project to preserve and restore the original Belgian paving blocks on Washington Place, a short street bordering the south end of the park.
Kopka has set up a new Washington Park Neighborhoods (WPN) website where she will continue her monthly newsletter and local classified and real estate listings. The website also includes educational materials on the architecture of the neighborhood and a detailed self-guided walking tour.
Homeowners in the neighborhoods surrounding Washington Park face unique challenges in maintaining old historic properties, and the WPN website lists local contractors and businesses that are equipped to work on these properties.
“You need people who are skilled in working on historic buildings and maintaining them in a historical way,” said Kopka. “When our neighbors need someone to repair old wooden windows, or work on antiquated electrical wiring, they can check our website and find local contractors who know that they’re doing.”
The Friends of Washington Park also contributed to the City of Troy’s recent Historic Preservation Guidelines, which can be found on the WPN website.
The website also promotes other types of local businesses and services, many owned by residents of the adjacent neighborhoods. WPN also has a Facebook page.
“You can assume people live here because they like to walk,” said Kopka. “I like to connect people with businesses right in their neighborhood.”
Photos, from above: Restored Belgian block street, Washington Place; and Drone photo over Washington Park courtesy Washington Park Neighborhoods.