by Shannon Butler

Richard E. Lansing was well known here in the city of Poughkeepsie. He had managed to make a name for himself first as a grocer and later as a real estate agent and insurance man. When he was 93 years old, the oldest man in the City of Poughkeepsie at the time, the newspapers asked him how he had managed to live such a full life; his answer was to work hard and never sit idle. Lansing made it his life’s work to sell Poughkeepsie in a time when the city was booming with opportunities in education, manufacturing, and construction. One of the pamphlets in our collection entitled “Illustrated Catalogue of Real Estate in Poughkeepsie, NY” was produced by him, and it’s a fun tool for looking back on some of this city’s great architecture.

By the 1870s, R.E. Lansing (as his name appears in most advertisements) was busy showing and selling properties around the city. Anything from businesses to residentials, he was happy to show it. By 1888, he informed all sellers in the city, “I have several orders on my books for dwellings, from two to six thousand dollars, I wish that all who have property for sale and are willing to have me assist them would notify me at once.” Sometime before the completion of the Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge (under construction from 1886 to 1889), Lansing produced the catalog mentioned above which spoke of the attractions of Poughkeepsie and why one would want to live here. He began by saying that “being on a hill it is naturally a healthy place, and is noted as the cleanest city in the land.” If he had written this statement 30 years earlier, it would not have been true, as Poughkeepsie was known as “the sickly city.” But by the 1870s, Mayor Harvey Eastman had improved the water and sewage system. He then went on to mention the excellent selection of schools, from the Eastman Business College to Vassar College for girls. Along with the educational system came public organizations like the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A., and opportunities to listen to great lectures as well as concerts. From there, he spoke of all of the industries the city had to offer and that taxes had been lowered (certainly appealing to any home buyer!).

As one turns the pages of this small but meaningful catalog, you see the images of the various types of buildings that could be found throughout the city. Drawings of the houses around the fashionable Mansion Square show the residences of W.G. Browning and B.P. Carpenter, and a map of the land around the Carpenter Mansion that had not yet been developed. Both of these houses are now long gone. Examples of the architecture of local churches, schools, banks, and shops shows the city at the heights of Victorian era design. Local architect Arnout Cannon’s house and office is on display, and works as an excellent advertisement for his design services.

Drawings of some of notable houses that are still standing today are also found, including the lovely house on the corner of Market and Jay Street, #94 (just across the street from us here at Adriance Memorial Library). It is mentioned as being the home of Misses Coughlin and was in the process of being built (but not for sale). The home of James E. Seeley on South Hamilton Street is also shown and likewise still stands today. Overall, we get a sense that there were many beautiful options for those looking for a home in Poughkeepsie and that this was the place to be for great opportunities if you wanted to live along the Hudson River. If you wanted to find a nice residence, Richard E. Lansing was happy to be your realtor up until his retirement in 1899. In 1918, he made his final deal when he bought for himself a home on Academy Street, where he later died at the age of 94 in February of 1924.

“Illustrated Catalogue of Real Estate in Poughkeepsie, NY” – LH Collections
Poughkeepsie Eagle News – 11 Feb 1924, 31 Jan 1923, 10 Mar 1899, 18 Aug 1888

01 – Photo of R.E. Lansing, taken by the Vail Brothers in Poughkeepsie in 1874. – LH Collections
02 – The cover of Lansing’s catalog, “Illustrated Catalogue of Real Estate in Poughkeepsie, NY” – LH Collections
03 – Inside Lansing’s catalog showing B.P. Carpenter’s house on Mansion Square – LH Collections
04 – Inside Lansing’s catalog showing houses on various streets – LH Collections