As the world continues to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, a city in the Hudson Valley focuses on another sovereign: Queen Victoria. She ruled England from 1837–1901, making her the second-longest reigning monarch in UK history.
She’s best known for the era named after her, the Victorian Era. Up until World War I, England experienced a period of high fashion, ornate architecture, explosive industrial growth, fine art, and breakthrough science. Across the pond in America’s bigger cities, Victoriana was equally in full force—especially in Troy.
In the mid-1800s, Troy was the 16th largest and fourth wealthiest city, per capita, in the country, thanks to its own contribution to the Industrial Revolution: shirt cuff and collar production, which earned it the moniker the “Collar City.”
Today, Troy has been discovered by Hollywood, serving as the backdrop for many Victorian-themed productions including HBO’s “The Gilded Age.” But the city has been celebrating its Victorian past for decades.
In 1956, the Rensselaer County Historical Society launched the Holiday Greens Show, an event where the city’s garden club would decorate rooms in the circa-1827 Hart-Cluett Mansion with fresh flowers, greenery, and Christmas trees. “The Greens Show originally began to bring attention to the building and draw the community into the space,” says Kate Manley, president of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The show was—and still is—the kickoff for the holiday season in Troy and is part of the city’s hugely popular 40th annual Victorian Stroll.
According to Manley, after many years of success with The Greens Show, the Victorian Stroll was formed to expand the season of celebration. In 1982, organizers chose to focus on the city’s stunning 19th-century architecture and history, which made adopting a Victorian theme a natural choice. The Chamber now produces the Stroll, slated for Sunday, December 4.
The walkability of downtown Troy makes it picture-perfect for, well, strolling. Beginning on opening weekend, Troy residents, revelers from all over the Capital Region, and even Victorian groups from across the Northeast flock to the Collar City. Most will be dressed in period garb—like swooping dresses in rich jewel tones, frock coats, and a wide variety of Victorian hats. Throughout the stroll, there’s plenty to see and do including circus acts (kids love the jugglers), the Pokingbrook Morris Dancers, a Christmas tree lighting, antique firetruck rides—and even Sax-o-phone Santa. Plus, the elegant Hart-Cluett Mansion will be open from noon–5 p.m. for self-guided tours of the 14 decorated rooms. For a full list of events and more information, visit victorianstroll.com.