Schenectady is a city in Schenectady County, New York, United States, of which it is the county seat. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 61,821. Schenectady is the ninth largest city in New York. The name “Schenectady” is derived from a Mohawk word for “on that side of the pinery,” or “near the pines,” or “place beyond the pine plains.”
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 (29 km) northwest of Albany.
Schenectady is a city rich in history and accomplishment. It was here where Thomas Edison founded what would become the General Electric Company, where George Westinghouse invented the rotary engine and air brakes, where the American Locomotive Works once made virtually every steam and diesel locomotive to pull passengers and move freight across our country, and where New York States first historic district, the Stockade, was named.
Once known as the City that Lights and Hauls the World, Schenectady today is poised for a new generation of growth and opportunity. Since 2004, more than $150 million in new investment has been made in our downtown. In the coming months, we will welcome the completion of a new hotel, cinema, restaurants, high technology companies, a YMCA, cafes and loft housing in our resurging downtown, joining our magnificent and historic Proctors Theatre.
Throughout its 300 year history, Schenectady has proved to be a city of remarkable resiliency and renewal. As Mayor, I invite you to experience all that our beautiful city has to offer.
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 62 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). 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.
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.