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lthough the City of Albany, New York's Capital City since 1797, is at the district's focus, the Capital District is really a metropolitan area of three cities, Albany, Schenectady and Troy, with a large suburban population. The City of Albany has a population of near 100,000, while the Capital District has near 800,000 people living in it. The cost of living is comparatively low, and the quality of available public services is high. There are fourteen colleges and universities in the Capital District. They include the State University of New York at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy; and Union College in Schenectady.

The Capital District and the surrounding region of Upstate New York are rich in history and scenic beauty. The nearby Adirondack and Catskill Mountains of New York and Berkshire and Green Mountains of New England, along with the rivers and many lakes and parks in the region, offer a year-round diversity of outdoor recreational opportunities. Spectator sports are available with a minor league professional baseball team, and minor league hockey and basketball teams playing in the district. The district also offers college hockey, basketball and football. During August, nearby Saratoga Springs becomes the national center of thoroughbred racing. The performing arts have a strong presence throughout the year. The performing arts centers support dramatic productions of all types and musical events from chamber music and symphonic performances to rock concerts. Worthy of note are the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, summer home of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet, and Tanglewood, located in the nearby Berkshires, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Both Albany and Troy rose to economic power after 1825 when the Erie Canal opened. As the eastern terminus of the canal, and located at the northern end of the navigable portion of the Hudson River, the two cities became the focus of transportation between the frontier west of America and the economic powerhouse of New York City. As the political capital of the state, Albany's power grew into an econimic collusus. Troy, across the river, turned into one of the most important industrial manufacturing centers in the country, converting raw goods into finished products, then shipping those products down the river to the world.

Troy, a city of 55,000 people, is more than 200 years old. Located along the Hudson River in New York, Troy was a major center for the industrial revolution in the 1800's. It was the home of the detachable shirt collar, stove manufacturers, textile mills, stagecoach and carriage builders, breweries, bell manufacturers, iron and steel centers, and more. Iron plates for the Civil War ship the "Monitor" were rolled in Troy. Even Samuel Wilson, better known as Uncle Sam, lived and worked in Troy during this time.

Most of Troy's buildings stand from the 18th and 19th centuries; fine homes of former industrial tycoons, worker and factory housing, and homes of the emerging middle class are still used and lived in today, many retaining their original character and features. Wood frame, terra cotta, brownstone, and brick houses line the streets of the city. Queen Anne, Mansard, Beaux Arts, Romanesque, Italianate, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and other kinds of buildings can be seen everywhere in Troy. Restoration is an ongoing event here. In fact, a section of downtown has received an impressive collection of art galleries and boutique shops.

A Very Brief History of Albany

Henry Hudson discovered Albany while seeking a shorter route to the far-east in 1609. Soon after, Dutch merchants settled here to bring furs from the north and ship them to Europe. Fort Orange, a fur trading post erected in 1624 by the Dutch West India Company, served as their trading headquarters controlling the upper "North", or Hudson River. The small, wooden structure with four bastions was to be the West India Company's official outpost in the upper Hudson Region. The Company staffed the "fort" with employees to conduct business, kept a small detachment of soldiers to protect the outpost and maintain order, and sponsored a number of farmers to provide food and other necessities.

The Company realized the great potential of bartering for furs and many of those living in the area committed their best energies to securing beaver and other skins from Native American hunters. By 1639, the Company realized the folly of trying to maintain its fur trading monopoly and instead sought to tax the furs exported from Fort Orange. By the 1640s, these new traders had come together in a community of interest surrounding but mostly north of the fort. In 1652, a court was created to help structure activities in the fledgling, multi-purpose settlement called Beverwyck.

In 1664, when the Dutch surrendered to the British without a battle, King Charles II granted a large tract of land including Fort Orange to his brother James, the Duke of York and Albany. Thus, Beverwyck became Albany and New Amsterdam became New York. By 1676, the English had built a new fort overlooking the community on upper State Street.

The so-called Dongan Charter of 1686 established Albany as a corporate entity. From that time on, the city's municipal rights and privileges have made its growth and development substantially different from that of the settlers and settlements of the surrounding countryside known as greater Albany County.

In 1631, seven years after Fort Orange was founded on the shores of the North River, one of the principal investors in the West India Company, a Dutch diamond merchant named Killiaen van Rensselaer, bought a sizable tract of land around the fort from the Mahicans who had long lived there, and proceeded to establish a “patroonship,” or private farming community, which he named Rensselaerswijck. The West India Company, frustrated as to how best to populate its colony, had recently opened it up to private entrepreneurs, with the condition that in exchange for a piece of land each entrepreneur had to ship fifty colonists to it within four years. Of several such attempts, Van Rensselaer’s was the only patroonship that was even marginally successful—indeed, it lasted into the nineteenth century, passing down through generations of the Van Rensselaer family. The patroon’s idea had been that Fort Orange and Rensselaerswijck would be mutually supporting: the fort would provide protection, and the patroonship would supply the fort with goods.

If Fort Orange and Beverwijck were founded on the trading of animal skins, Albany, the city into which those settlements grew, would be centered on another kind of trading: political favors.

Albany and Troy are spectacular places to visit and live. Albany is filled with historical sites, theatres, cultural institutions, great parks and all manner of consumer shopping. And Troy, just across the river, is a jewel of 19th century architecture coming back to life under the tender care of concerned residents.

Capital Region Map
This map is not meant as completely accurate representation of the terrain, roads and trails. HV/Net suggests that before you visit you first obtain an accurate map of the area. They are available in many locations throughout the region.

A few links to follow for New York's Capital District on HV/Net:

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