A brief history of 'Collar City'

VAN ZANDT, JACOBS & CO. BUILDING, 1896

Manufacturing has long played an important role in Troy’s economy. The invention of the detachable shirt collar by Troy resident Hannah Lord Montague in 1827 led to the rise of an industry which would dominate Troy’s economy by the end of the century.  Mrs. Montague’s invention proved to be an instant success, first locally and then nationally.  What began with small shops producing hand-sewn collars evolved into a major industry, and Troy soon became known as “Collar City”. By the early 1900s, 90% of all detachable collars sold in the United States came from Troy.

In 1889, Clarence E. Van Zandt teamed up with John E. Jacobs to form Van Zandt, Jacobs & Company—a collar and cuff manufacturer operating in a small, rented space.  Their company grew quickly.  Within just a few years, Van Zandt, Jacobs & Company had offices in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Orleans, and a factory in the Burdett Building at 251-253 River Street. When that building burned in 1896, they moved their operations to a lot at the corner of River and Rensselaer.  

To oversee the construction of their new plant, the partners hired the city’s leading architectural firm:  M. F. Cummings & Son.  The firm was headed by Marcus Fayette Cummings, who had been one of the region’s leading architects for decades. He is credited with the Troy City Hall, the Rensselaer County Courthouse, and a number of Troy’s commercial buildings and churches.

The Cummings firm’s design for the new factory combined up-to-date Romanesque Revival styling with practical construction methods. The delicately rendered round brick arcades of the façade are typical of the Romanesque Revival style, and the heavy massing and arch-topped window stacks on that same wall offer a nod to Richardsonian Romanesque style. Like most of the textile mills of the period, the Van Zandt, Jacobs & Co building utilizes “mill-construction”:  a technique that combines load bearing masonry exterior walls with heavy timber framing for the interior spaces.

The building housed Van Zandt, Jacobs & Co. operations from the time it was built into the mid 1900s, and it was associated with other textile companies into the 1980s.  The structure is a prime example of the Troy Textile Factory property type, and for this reason 621 River Street was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.