The Formation of the City of Watervliet - Timeline 1788-1896
by Craig Carlson
Watervliet Archivist-Historian, and Albany County Archivist at the Albany County Hall of Records
Webpage, Notes and Links by Cliff Lamere Dec 2001
1788 The Township of Watervliet was established from the western half of the Rensselaerswyck Manor.
The township consisted of all of modern Albany County with the exception of the city of Albany. The
Town of Watervliet even extended into the Town of Niskayuna and parts of the city of Schenectady
(both in present-day Schenectady Co.)
1793 Phillip S. Schuyler surveyed and laid out the land from 5th to 8th Streets in the present city of
Watervliet. He called the area Washington.
1805 Albany merchant James Gibbons purchased land from John C. Schuyler and laid out lots. The
boundaries extended from the present 8th Street to 15th Street, and it was known as Gibbonsville.
1813 James and Esther Gibbons sold 12 acres of Gibbonsville land for $2,585 to the United States of America
for the purpose of establishing an arsenal. The arsenal was built to produce cannons and ordnance
because of the fear of a British attack from the north during the War of 1812. It was originally called
the Arsenal at Gibbonsville; later, in 1817, it was officially named the Watervliet Arsenal. The United
States purchased an additional 30 acres from Esther Gibbons in 1828.
1823 The Erie Canal opened to commerce travel, though the canal was not officially completed until 1825.
1824 The Village of Gibbonsville was incorporated.
1826 Meneely Bell Foundry was established. Located at 15th Street and Broadway, that land is currently
the home of the Watervliet Public Library. The foundry molded thousands of bells before its closing
about 1950. These high quality bells are still ringing all over the world today.
(Meneely Bell Online
1827 The Port Schuyler Company purchased land south of the Arsenal and named it Port Schuyler.
1836 The Village of West Troy became incorporated. The newly formed village included Port Schuyler
(1st Street to 7th Street), the Village of Gibbonsville (8th to 15th Street) and the hamlet of West Troy
(15th Street northward to 26th Street, the present northern limit of the city). With the Erie Canal and
Notes by Cliff Lamere
The city of Watervliet is built on the flat floodplain of the Hudson River. In fact, Watervliet means 'water flood' in Dutch. To the west is the steep valley wall of the river. The flat land has been subjected to occasional flooding over the years (see photos of 1913 flood), but upstream control of the Hudson's water has much reduced the problem. At one time, the Erie Canal went through the city parallel to the river (north-south) (see 2 photos). Mules or horses walked on a towpath that was on only one side of the canal. They were attached by a 75-150 ft. rope to a barge. The water of the canal was only 4 feet deep, the hand-dug canal itself being 40 feet wide at the top and 28 feet wide at the bottom ( to allow for sloping banks). It might take only two horses to pull a barge. Men on foot led the animals, or young boys were hired to ride the lead horse or mule of the team.
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