Let train enthusiast and town supervisor Tom Richardson guide you through the gems of Mechanicville, New York.
While Mechanicville may be the smallest city by area in New York state, it has a few big claims to fame. Located on the Hudson River just north of Albany, the city was a key point on the Erie and Champlain Canal systems and a major hub for railroads and other industries—including the site of the largest paper mill in the world until 1971. Before Steve Carrel hit it big, he visited Mechanicville in 2001 as part of a comedy bit he called “Everyone Has a Story.”
What do you recommend first-time visitors do?
Go to the waterfront. We’re right on the Hudson. We’ve got a huge dock with room for several hundred boats. As part of our waterfront revitalization project, we built a boat house with showers and toilets for boaters—and it’s all free. We’ve also installed period lighting near the boathouse. We’ve lost a lot of our old history, but if you take a stroll from the waterfront along Park Avenue toward downtown, you’ll see many of the historic homes that used to be all over the city.
What are your favorite historical spots?
I’ve got two.
You’ve got to visit the XO Tower. This gives you a good introduction to the city’s railroad history. At one time, city’s rail yard was the third largest in the country, with more than 1,000 workers. The 20-acre rail yard became popular because of its location at an intersection of the former Delaware & Hudson Railway, which went north to south, and the Boston-Maine Railroad lines, which stretched east to west. More than a dozen steam engines a day traveled through the city during its industrial days. The XO Tower was the traffic control center for the railyard. It is now a visitor’s center, with the chamber of commerce on the first floor. Local staff members are happy to tell you the history of the railyard. Upstairs are lots of old photos and a model of the railyard. It also offers a great view. You can see where the two lines came in. There are plans to convert the former passenger station into a museum.
A monument to Elmer E. Ellsworth (April 11, 1837-May 24, 1861), the first casualty of the Civil War, is a historic site at the Hudson View Cemetery. Ellsworth was a law clerk and good friend of President Lincoln. He was killed while taking down a Confederate flag in Virginia, which could be seen from the White House. Following his death, “Remember Ellsworth” became a Union rallying cry.
Where are some good spots for a meal?
If you’re looking for comfort food, Hildreths is good for homemade dinners. Bubbles offers all kinds of ice-cream—soft serve, hard, and shakes. A good spot for a cold beer or a meal is the End Zone Sports Pub and Restaurant.
What are some unexpected surprises in Mechanicville?
It’s home to the largest Coors distributor in the world. DeCrescente Distributing Company. It’s a local company that’s been here for 70 years. It now provides service to 11 counties in upstate New York. We’ve also got the third largest Nike dealer in the world, DC Sports. The owner, Bob Brown, will give tours of the factory so you can see how basketballs and jerseys are made.
Why do you love Mechanicville?
We have a lot going on and a lot to offer. We’re a busy little city, but we’re relatively small. We’re right on the Hudson River and yet we’re just 20 minutes away from anywhere in the Capital District. It’s a great place to visit and to live.