The area that is now Schenectady
was originally the land of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois
Nation. When Dutch settlers arrived in the Hudson Valley in
the middle of the 17th century, the Mohawk called the
settlement at Fort Orange "Schau-naugh-ta-da", meaning "over
the pine plains." Eventually, this word entered the lexicon of
the Dutch settlers, but the meaning was reversed, and the name
referred to the bend in the Mohawk River where the city lies
Contrary to popular belief, the areas consisting of Schenectady and
nearby Niskayuna were not actually inhabited by the Mohawk --
at most there were "lean-to's" scattered throughout the area,
enabling weary travelers and hunting parties the opportunity
to stop and rest before heading to the settlements near
present-day Fonda. If there were indeed settlements in the
immediate area of Schenectady and Niskayuna, they most likely
belonged to the Mohican, who by 1634 had been forced east of
the Hudson River.
Schenectady was first settled in 1661 when the area was part of the Dutch
colony of New Netherland. Settlement was led by Arent Van
Curler of Nijkerk in the Netherlands, who was granted letters
patent to Schenectady in 1684.
On February 8, 1690, the town was attacked and overrun by forces of
France and their Indian allies, who burned the town and killed
all but 60 of the inhabitants. This event is known as The
In 1765, Schenectady was incorporated as a borough. It was chartered as a
city in 1798.
During the American Revolutionary War the local militia unit
the 2nd Albany County Militia Regiment was active during the
Battle of Saratoga and in fights against Loyalist troops.
Union College was founded here in 1795.
In 1887, Thomas Edison moved his Edison Machine Works to Schenectady. In
1892, Schenectady became the headquarters of the General
Schenectady is home to WGY-AM, one of the first commercial radio stations
in the United States. The station was named after its owner,
General Electric (the G), and the city of Schenectady (the Y).
General Electric also generated the first regular television
broadcasts in the United States in 1928, when experimental
station W2XB began regular broadcasts on Thursday, Thursday
and Friday afternoons. This television station is now WRGB,
for years, the Capital District's NBC affiliate, but more
recently, its CBS affiliate. (see: 1928 in television).
Historic population of Schenectady: 13,655 in 1880; 31,682 in 1900;
92,061 in 1950.
The city was once known as "The City that Lights and Hauls the World"--a
dual reference to two prominent businesses located in the
city, the Edison Electric Company (now known as General
Electric), and the American Locomotive Company (ALCO). GE has
retained its administrative core in Schenectady, but many of
the manufacturing jobs have been relocated to the Sun Belt and
abroad. ALCO's operations slowly fizzled out as the company
went through a series of acquisitions and restructuring in the
late 1960s. In the early 21st century, the city is
experiencing difficult financial times, as are many upstate
New York cities. The profound loss of employment opportunities
has led to Schenectady's population decline by nearly a third
Schenectady is located at 42°48'15" North, 73°55'45" West (42.804076,
-73.929289)1. The altitude above sea-level is 211 to 275 feet.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area
of 28.5 km² (11.0 mi²). 28.1 km² (10.9 mi²) of it is land and
0.4 km² (0.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 1.27%
As of the census of 2000, there were 61,821 people, 26,265 households,
and 14,051 families residing in the city. The population
density was 2,199.9/km² (5,699.0/mi²). There were 30,272
housing units at an average density of 1,077.2/km²
(2,790.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 76.77% White,
14.77% African American, 0.36% Native American, 2.00% Asian,
0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.52% from other races, and 3.53% from
two or more races. 5.88% of the population were Hispanic or
Latino of any race.
There were 26,265 households out of which 27.2% had children under the
age of 18 living with them, 32.0% were married couples living
together, 16.7% had a female householder with no husband
present, and 46.5% were non-families. 38.6% of all households
were made up of individuals and 13.8% had someone living alone
who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size
was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.3% under the age of 18,
11.6% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64,
and 15.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age
was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 91.5 males. For
every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,378, and the median
income for a family was $36,458. Males had a median income of
$30,869 versus $25,292 for females. The per capita income for
the city was $17,076. 20.8% of the population and 16.8% of
families were below the poverty line. 30.5% of those under the
age of 18 and 9.6% of those 65 and older were living below the
Places of Interest
Union College, located adjacent to the GE Realty Plot, is the oldest
planned college campus in the United States. The Union campus
features Jackson's Garden, with eight acres (32,000 m²) of
formal gardens and woodlands, and the unique 16-sided Nott
Memorial building, built in 1875.
Schenectady County Community College is located in downtown
Schenectady. The school was started in the former Hotel Van
Curler and is known for its technical, culinary, and music
Central Park is the crown of Schenectady's numerous parks. Central Park
is the highest elevation point in the city. The Common Council
voted in 1913 to purchase the land for the present site of the
park. The park features an acclaimed rose garden, Iroquois
Lake, and a stadium tennis court that is home to the New York
Buzz of the World Team Tennis league.
City Hall is the focal point of government in the city. It is often
remarked that Schenectady City Hall is one of the more
beautiful city halls in New York State
Located in Schenectady is its Municipal Golf Course. The course opened in 1935. It was designed by A. F. Knight
(the inventor of the "Schenectady Putter") and Jim Thompson,
and largely funded by the Federal Emergency Relief
Administration (FERA) and the Civil Works Administration
(CWA), both predecessors of the well-known Works Progress
Administration (WPA). Schenectady Municipal Golf Course stretches to 6600
yards (6000 m) and features fast, undulating greens and tight
fairways blanketed within grasses and native vegetation.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course was ranked by Golf Digest
"Best Places to Play in 2004" and earned a three-star rating.
Proctor's Theater is the major arts venue. Built in 1926 as a
vaudeville/movie theater, it was refurbished and is now home
for live stage events. It is home to "Goldie," a Wurlitzer
theater pipe organ. Proctor's was also the site of one of the
first public demonstrations of television, projecting an image
from a studio at the GE plant a mile [2 km] away.
The Stockade Historic District, which features dozens of Dutch and
English Colonial houses dating from the 18th and 19th
centuries, is New York State's first National Register
historic district, designated in 1965. It is named after the
stockade fence that originally surrounded the settlement.
Another historic neighborhood, the GE Realty Plot, was built
by General Electric Company executives in the early 20th
century. "The Plot," as the locals call it, is known for its
eclectic collection of grand homes.
Director John Sayles was born and raised in Schenectady; the Schenectady
High School of Fine Arts is named after him.
Basketball Coach Pat Riley was born and raised in Schenectady. The
Schenectady High School athletics wing was named after him
after he donated a substantial amount of money for its
The tulip is the City of Schenectady's designated flower. Symbolic of the
Dutch origin of the city, the tulip is a flower extensively
cultivated and nurtured in the Netherlands, although also
extensively grown in North America.
Schenectady is featured in Dr. Seuss's "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut".
Sir Charles Mackerras, the famous British conductor, was born
in Schenectady while his father was taking an
electrical-engineering course. See Medallion man
Schenectady is featured in a poem by Eve Merriam called
Schenectady is featured in a poem by Medora Addison called
Schenectady's General Electric plant has the Zip Code 12345.
Schenectady is the hometown of Grace Adler on the NBC sitcom Will &
There is a collection of science-fiction short stories by
Barry Longyear entitled "It came from Schenectady." The title
is from Harlan Ellison's reply - often repeated - when
people asked Ellison, "Where do you get your ideas?"
Schenectady is the former home of the Professional Wrestling Hall of
Fame. In 2005 the Hall moved to Amsterdam, New York.
In the fictional Star Trek universe, Captain Jonathan Archer of the
starship Enterprise was born in Schenectady.
The fictional comic book character Doctor Octopus from "Spider-Man" is
Schenectady introduced the first commercial television station with the
creation of WRGB in 1940.
Schenectady is the birthplace of actors Mickey Rourke and Ann B. Davis (Alice on The Brady
The official song of Schenectady is "Our Schenectady," composed by John Van Laak
and sung by Judi Merriam. Adopted by Schenectady City
Council Jan. 30, 1995:
What a warm and friendly place it is to be
Nestled among plains and hills
With a beautiful river that always gives us thrills
And stores and shops with all that one might need or wish to
And legends and tales and lots of history
Let us now plan and help to make it grow
If we will all do our best
Then others can do the rest
For places to study and learn in
Places to work and earn in
Places to live in happiness
Source: Daily Gazette Jan. 31, 1995 p. B1
In the fall of 1972, director Sydney Pollack filmed for two weeks on the
Union College campus for the flashback sequences of the movie
The Way We Were, starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand.
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