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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 Museum)

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

                Hudson River at its doorstep, West Troy became a fledging commerce center.

1896    The city of Watervliet was incorporated, having formed from the village of West Troy. 


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.



Maps of pre-Watervliet, one showing the Erie Canal going north-south (right to left) through what would become the city. 


Photo of the Erie Canal in Watervliet (Port Schuyler section) about 1912


Photos (5) of the Erie Canal in Watervliet


Photos of Watervliet Arsenal


Photos of West Troy and Watervliet



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