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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Exploring the Historic GE Plot in Schenectady, New York

One neighborhood in Schenectady is called the GE Plot.... What's that?

The GE Realty Plot is the
area of the city east of
Union College.

General Electric, through its subsidiary, Schenectady Realty Company, bought 75 acres from Union College in 1899 for $57,000 to develop the property and build "villa style homes."  The real estate transaction saved the financially strapped college and provided funding for much needed expansion.

The neighborhood east of Union
 College is formally known as the
 GE Realty Plot Historic District.

Large homes were designed and built for General Electric's executives, scientists, engineers and wealthy people desirous of living in this  exclusive neighborhood by E.K. Rossiter, T.H. Ellet, A.J. Russell and W.T. B. Mynderse.

I've lived in Schenectady County for more than thirty years and have driven along some of these tree-lined streets, admiring the homes on my way to and from Ellis Hospital.  For years I've wanted to know more about this park-like neighborhood, but just never hot around to it.  A June 25, 2017 Daily Gazette  article on the GE Realty Plot was the impetus I needed to explore this section of Schenectady on foot.

This large Queen Anne style
home, considered to be the
first house in the Plot,
was built in 1900.

Its owner, Edwin W. Rice, Junior, worked his way up from Plant Superintendent to President of General Electric Company.  He brought Charles Steinmetz to Schenectady to join the engineering staff in 1893.  A prolific inventor, Rice held more than 100 patents.

I recognize Rice's name from Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady by Julia Kirk Buckwelder.  This dryly written book, published by Texas A & M University Press, does a meticulous job chronicling Schenectady's industrial and social history.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz...  I pity the person who does not recognize the name of this "electric" genius.

In 1976, the home was given
to Union College & is
the Alumni Center.

Created to be a suburban neighborhood within the city, restrictive covenants were included in the property deeds.  These limiting clauses included: all the homes must built be for single families; no houses can not be smaller than 70 feet by 140 feet; each house can not be closer than 25 feet from the road; fences can not be taller than three feet six inches and no house could cost less than the stated minimum.  Early on, the minimum price per house was $4,000.00 to $5,000.00.  

Because the GE Realty Plot is an exclusive neighborhood, many of the original owners built houses that exceeded the required costs for construction.  Over time, with rising inflation, the minimum cost of homes increased.  

This section of the city has
many stately homes,
including this Colonial.

I love the decorative features on
this house... the header above
the attic window, oval window
above the entry & the
 welcoming porch.


Please watch your step
on the broken, irregular
sidewalks you will find
in this neighborhood.

The shade trees helped cool
this large home in the

I'm a sucker for a house
with a clay tiled roof.

Irving Langmuir, chemist, physicist, inventor and winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, lived here.  He worked at General Electric for more than 40 years and is credited with advancements related to physics and chemistry.

This front yard teems with
plants & decorative

runs through the GE Plot.

Large trees can make
 photographing these homes
 challenging, especially when
trying to stay on the sidewalk.

George R. Lunn, former pastor of the First Dutch Reformed Church, Socialist, Schenectady Mayor and Congressman lived in this Colonial.

It looks like the entire
front yard is filled with

The GE Plot Home and Garden Tour occurs in early June. 

This is one of the simpler
styled homes in the
GE Plot.

This home is located on
a spacious corner lot.

This house is unlike others
I've seen on my walk.

I'm looking for more
information on this
 particular style.

I took this photo for the

It's not centered on the
Colonial's front door.

Greenery provides seclusion
for residents sitting on this
Victorian's front porch.

Ernst F. Alexanderson had a storied career at GE.  He worked for many years on wireless transmission technology and on advances in radio.  Alexanderson is the first person to receive a television broadcast, sent from his GE office to this home in 1927. 

This house is small,
compared to its

Harry W. Hillman was the head of the Electronic Heating Department at GE.  His 1905 Bungalow was built to demonstrate electrical design advances for houses.  Each room was built with two circuits, one for a light bulb and a second one for appliances, allowing both to be used at the same time.  This is called "The First All Electric House."

I like the simple look
of this large home.

I walked to 1221 Wendell Avenue
in search of the marker for 
found the Unitarian Church.

I walked northeast along
Wendell Avenue &
found this path.

It leads to a quiet, wooded
area and the Charles 
Steinmetz Marker that
indicates where his
house once stood.

Charles Steinmetz, mathematician and electrical engineer, analyzed the values in alternating current circuits.  His work changed the way engineers thought circuits and machine design, earning him the moniker, "Wizard of Schenectady."

Sadly, after sitting idle for many years, Steinmetz's home was torn down.  The Washington Avenue house in the Stockade he lived in after arriving in Schenectady still exists.

I love the landscaping in
front of this Colonial
 Revival house.

John F. Horman, owner of Barney's Department Store in downtown Schenectady, built here to spend time with the city's best and brightest.  

This For Rent sign
was a surprise.

A massive Queen Anne
awaits new tenants.

I took this photo to show
off the vine covered
section of this Tudor.

Martin Rice, the first Director of Broadcasting for General Electric, supervised the opening of WGY. Scientifically inclined, he worked on the fluoroscope, one of the first X-Ray Machine.


I see you!

Chester W. Rice lived in this Colonial.  His work laid the foundation for the development of loudspeakers.  In 1927, his devices were installed in theaters across the country for the first "talkie," The Jazz Singer.  

This simple looking home
had a complex owner.

After a successful acting career, Izetta Jewel Miller ran for US Senate in West Virginia in 1922 and lost the nomination.  In 1924, Izetta was the first woman to deliver a speech seconding the the nomination of John W. Davis for President at the Democratic National Convention.  She returned to acting and was a radio commentator.

***Daily Gazette article on November 7, 2017: Izetta Jewel Miller was just honored at Schenectady's MiSci Museum.

Of all the properties I took pictures of today, Izetta Jewel Miller was the only name I didn't recognize. The Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady was good preparatory reading.

I find this house to be
very welcoming.

Probably because GE was downsizing when I became familiar with the area, I never thought about the brain trust that lived in this city, its politicians or of business owners that prospered here. Schenectady's multi-faceted history exists in this neighborhood, and others across the city.

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