Just east of Lansingburgh and overlooking it is a rise of rock outcrop about 300 plus feet above sea level. Known as Diamond Rock, this stone outcrop is one of the Capital District's most famous natural landmarks. Various geological reports list quartzite, limestone, sandstone, and shale as the ingredients, but on a sunny day Diamond Rock sparkles like diamond from the imbedded quartz crystals found in veins throughout the stone monument.
From standing on top of this summit one can see the confluence of the
Hudson and Mohawk Rivers and more than 100 miles up and down the Hudson Valley. A view which includes the Catskill Mountains on the south and the Adirondacks on the north. A view so beautiful that historian John Wolcott told me that the well to do Albany Trader John Sanders, who owned much of the land that is now Lansingburgh in the 17th century, made it a point to take the missionary travellers Dankers and Sluyter on top for a visit in 1679-80.
For hundreds of years, local inhabitants and visitors from around the world enjoyed picnics or sight seeing on Diamond Rock. Even Gypsy families called it home once in a while. Fireworks were set off there during celebrations like those celebrating Troy Week in 1908.
But today, Diamond Rock is private property for the most part, with housing and commercial developments sprinkled on top, and no longer the haven for those who want to commune with nature . Sadly, it is one more example of the chipping away at the features which made Troy so different from the rest of the world - both in terms of natural and human history.
You see there is a great indian legend about Diamond Rock and how those "diamonds" (Herkimer Diamonds - really double faced quartz crystals) were formed. It is called the "Legend of Diamond Rock" or "The Old Indian's Story of Moneta." This legend was told to Nathanial Sylvester and published in 1877.
The story goes that a Mohican village covered the flood plain on the east side of the Hudson just opposite the mouth of the Mohawk (probably near Freihofers) and was lead by a chief named Hohadora. The chief lived there with his wife Moneta and two sons Onosqua and Taendara.
Onosqua was captured in the north and saved from torture by being adopted by an Adirondack Indian woman who had lost her own son at battle, and Hohadora made several attempts to recapture his son, all failing.
On his death bed, Hohadora instructed his other son Taendara to recover Onosqua live, or his remains, and bury him next to his father and mother. The village members would take care of Moneta during his absence.
Each night Moneta would start a fire on top of Diamond Rock so Taendara would see the light and find his way home. Each night for the next 20 years she sat by the fire crying, her tears falling around her, waiting for her sons to return.
Finally, Taendara carrying his brother's bones climbed the summit to reunite with his now aged mother, and as they embraced were struck by lightning. The next morning when the Indian villagers visited the site the bones of Onosqua lie on the ground, but Moneta and Taendara were gone. The bare ground around sparkled with Moneta's tears - twenty years worth - all of which were turned into diamonds by the force of the lightening.
Diamond Rock, like Moneta and Taendara, is gone, at least in the public sense of things. On top of Diamond Rock are developments like "Terrace at High Pointe," complete with roadways like Ridge Circle, Outlook Court, Woods Path, and Diamond Rock Circle. How quaint! Why is it developers like to name their roads after the area they destroy? Was an archeological survey conducted there before approval?
Another question. How does an area that was in the public use for hundreds, no, thousands of years become private property? You can't park your car unless you live there. There are signs that say "High Pointe Residents Only" and "Unauthorized Vehicles Towed Away."
On the west side of Diamond Rock, along Gurley Avenue, you can find the "Diamond Ridge, Gracious Retirement Living" complex or "Diamond Rock Terrace, Senior Apartments". Opening soon is "The Lansingburgh Store-It," a self storage facility.
One city official told historian Wolcott that Diamond Rock was the last place in Troy where people with money could live comfortably and developing there was considered "progress."
Sorry. I differ on that assessment. Building houses is for a place to live and is no different that a deer bedding in the woods, or a woodchuck burrowing a tunnel. That isn't "progress."
Progress is humanity learning to Live in harmony with itself and having respect and stewardship for the land. Obviously, we have a way to go yet.
I even bet that Moneta is still weeping, but this time it's over the destruction of one of Troy's ancient natural wonders.