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Gay Albany Neighborhood Guide


Schenectady, NY

Location, History, Landmarks and more...

The city of Schenectady is in eastern New York State, near the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. It is in the same metropolitan area as the state capital, Albany; Schenectady is about eighteen miles northwest of Albany.

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 today.

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, during King William's War the Schenectady massacre, led by France and its Indian allies, resulted in the death of 60 of Schenectady's inhabitants. In 1748, during King George's War it was again attacked by the French and their Indian allies.

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 Electric Company.

Schenectady is home to WGY-AM, one of the first commercial radio stations in the United States. The station was named for its owner, General Electric (the G), and the city of Schenectady (the Y)[citation needed]. General Electric also generated the first regular television broadcasts in the United States in 1928, when experimental station W2XB began regular broadcasts on Thursday and Friday afternoons. This television station is now WRGB, for years the Capital District's NBC affiliate, but more recently its CBS affiliate.

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 reference to two prominent businesses in the city, the Edison Electric Company (now known as General Electric), and the American Locomotive Company (ALCO). GE retains its administrative core in Schenectady, but many of manufacturing jobs relocated to the Sun Belt and abroad. ALCO's operations fizzled as the company went through acquisitions and restructuring in the late 1960s, and its Schenectady plant closed in 1969. In the late 20th century, the city experienced difficult financial times, as did many upstate New York cities. The loss of employment helped cause Schenectady's population to decline by nearly one-third since 1950. Nevertheless, Schenectady is part of a metropolitan area with better economic health.

Places of interest
An accordion-playing guide welcomes visitors to a restored Dutch home in the Schenectady Stockade District.

* Proctors Theatre is an arts center. Built in 1926 as a vaudeville/movie theater, it has been refurbished. 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. Today, Proctors is home to 3 theaters including the historic Mainstage at Proctors, the GE Theatre at Proctors and 440 Upstairs at Proctors.

* The Stockade Historic District, which features dozens of Dutch and English Colonial houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, is New York's first National Register historic district, designated in 1965. It is named after the stockade fence that originally surrounded the settlement.

* The GE Realty Plot, located near Union College, was built by General Electric Company executives and features lovely 18th and early 19th century homes. The historic neighborhood is unique for its eclectic collection of grand homes in a variety of architectural styles, including Tudor, Dutch Colonial, Queen Anne, and Spanish Colonial. The Plot is home to the first all electric home in the United States, and is one of the first planned residential neighborhoods in the US. The Plot also hosts an annual House and Garden Tour.

* Union College, 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.

* Central Park is the crown jewel of Schenectady's 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.

* The Schenectady Museum features exhibits on the development of science and technology. It contains the Suits-Bueche Planetarium.

* Schenectady's City Hall is the focal point of government in the city. It was designed by McKim, Mead and White and built in 1933.

* Located in Schenectady is its Municipal Golf Course. It's an 18-hole championship facility sited among oaks and pines.

The course was designed in 1935 by Jim Thompson under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. The Schenectady Municipal Golf Course stretches to 6,600 yards (6000 m) and features fast, undulating greens and tight fairways with grasses and native vegetation. The course was ranked by Golf Digest as a "Best Places to Play in 2004" and received a three-star rating.

* Jay Street, located between Proctors and City Hall, is a short street closed to motor traffic. It features a number of small, independently operated businesses and eateries and is a popular destination.

* Schenectady Light Opera Company (SLOC) is a small community theater on group on State Street in downtown Schenectady.

* The Empire State Aerosciences Museum, in nearby Glenville, features extensive exhibits and materials on aviation.

* The Edison Exploratorium, exhibits and promotes the physical development of engineering of technology that was developed or produced in Schenectady.

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