Early in the development of Upstate New York, the extensive network of rivers and streams were of the utmost importance in developing forts along the early frontier, some of which grew into cities. However, those cities situated by or near canals (the Erie and the Champlain) experienced even greater growth as key trans-shipment points into the vast interior of Upstate. Later, those cities that sat astride railroads grew astronomically compared to those areas bereft of train service. In the mid-1900s, air travel loomed large, but with few Upstate cities taking advantage of it. However, Albany International Airport filled the gap (though it is actually located in the town of Colonie).
After the age of air travel came the age of the interstates. Unfortunately, the interstates did as much to hurt the cities as it did to help them. Sure, the larger cities mostly benefitted, but the smaller ones had their downtowns and economies gutted by now easy access to sprawling malls in the suburbs. Some were able to take advantage of this change (Albany especially); however, most were not as interstates bypassed them altogether.
The next frontier is the age of the internet and cyberspace, and the Greater Capital Region is doing its best to capitalize on that as well. With the massive and state-of-the-art College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, at SUNY at Albany, and various technology parks such as the Luther Forest Technology Campus and RPI’s Rensselaer Technology Park, the Greater Capital Region has placed itself at the core of the Tech Valley of the northeast. So, we’ve already been through wars, boats, trains, planes, and automobiles. Now we’ve moved on to fiber optics, silicon chips, and the ether itself. Get ready for the next wave of massive economic growth in the region.
10. The City of Saratoga Springs:
County: Saratoga Incorporated: 1915 Population: 26,586 Area: 29.06
The City of Saratoga Springs has been going through a decade of construction. Of the thirteen cities of the Greater Capital Region, Saratoga Springs is foremost in experiencing rapid and aggressive growth. Its entire skyline has changed in a relatively short period of time. It’s the largest city in area by far of this group of cities, and fourth largest in population, though a distant fourth. Still, thanks to its near constant growth, it’s the most modern of the cities, apart from only Albany.
Saratoga Springs started out as Fort Saratoga, in 1691, along the Hudson, far from where it is today. The area around the mineral springs themselves was largely unsettled until after the American Revolution, though the area played a pivotal role in the same war. By 1819, Saratoga Springs had grown into a small hamlet and was incorporated as a village in 1826. Once again, with the arrival of the railroads, in this case the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad, the area experienced an economic boom, especially in tourism. By 1870, the village had gained international renown as a spa and resort, a playground of the rich and famous, becoming a prime destination with its own train service, the Empire State Express, running directly to New York City.
And, of course, the Saratoga Race Course, established in 1863, is really what this city is most renowned for today. Saratoga: the August place to be.
11. The City of Schenectady:
County: Schenectady Incorporated: 1798 Population: 66,135 Area: 10.99
Schenectady, regardless of its urban blight, has always been, and will always be, an important part of the tripartite anchor of the area sometimes known as Albany-Schenectady-Troy. Where Albany lords over the Hudson, Schenectady keeps watch on the Mohawk.
Where the Hudson cities came into being mostly as Mahican settlements, Schenectady started as a Mohawk settlement. It became known to the Dutch as Schaunaughtada, The Place Beyond The Pines, the name the Mohawks reserved for the settlement that would become Albany, with the two settlements separated by the Albany Pine Plains. By 1661, the Dutch began to settle the area. The settlement figured prominently in the various French and Indian Wars of the area.
The Erie Canal turned Schenectady into a great trading center since it was on the gateway to the west. Later, Schenectady would become an important railroad hub as well, with one of the earliest railroads, the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, established here in 1831. And where Albany has its colleges and university, Schenectady has Union College, founded in 1795, before Schenectady was even a city.
By the 1900s, Schenectady was a large manufacturing city, known especially for its two key corporations: General Electric (GE) and the American Locomotive Company (ALCO). It was known as The City That Lights And Hauls The World. And while ALCO later went bankrupt in the 1960s, GE has become even more of a powerhouse today. The city is also headquarters for the Price Chopper Supermarkets chain.