Settled in the early 1600s, the city of Albany combines its historical roots with visionary thinking, empowered by hundreds of years as the governmental seat of New York.
Albany History & Heritage
Albany, New York (then known as Fort Orange) was settled by the Dutch in the early 1600s after being discovered by Henry Hudson. Prior to the Dutch settlers, the Tri-City area was inhabited by Algonquian Indian tribes the Mohican and the Iroquois. Looking for a faster trade route in 1609, Hudson explored the River, later named for him, northward from Manhattan. By 1664, nearly 10,000 Dutch were settled in Fort Orange when the English captured the fort and renamed it in honor of the Duke of Albany. Though technically part of Britain's crown until the Revolution, Dutch merchants continued to influence the City, and under Dutch guidance, Albany played an important role in maintaining communication between the French, the British and the Iroquois. Albany's Annual Tulip Festival in historic Washington Park honors this Dutch heritage each spring. Thousands view nature's spectacular color show while enjoying the music, art and food of this popular event. Albany became the official capital of New York State in January 1797.
Robert Fulton initiated a steamboat line from Manhattan to Albany, making it the first successful enterprise of ist kind. By 1825, the Erie Canal was completed between Albany and Lake Erie forming a continous water route that enabled the shipment of local resources and strengthened trade and business.
Prior to the Civil War abolitionists were active in the Albay area. Stephen Myers was on the forefront of the movement and acted as the “conductor” of the Albany stop on the Underground Railroad. With the outbreak of Civil War, Albany again served as a major supply center, providing men for battle through the 25th regiment, Burgesses Corps, Albany Zouaves, the 3rd, 10th, 43rd, and 91st regiments.
Visitors to Albany are delighted by the many architectural styles found throughout the city. The New York State Capitol building, located on State Street, was completed in 1899 and inspired by the Hôtel de Ville in Paris.
The Capitol features an eclectic blend of Gothic Revival, Romanesque and Moorish influences due in part to the five different architects who played a role in its construction over a 25 year period. Notable details in Albany's Capitol building are three massive staircases that are works of art in their own right, and the Senate Chamber complete with 23-carat gold leaf, Italian marble, and massive fireplaces. Free guided tours are offered daily.
Albany's Cultural Scene
Continue your tour with a walk through the ultra-modern complex of the Empire State Plaza which holds one of the finest collections of modern art you'll find outside of a museum. The Plaza was completed in 1978 and designed by Wallace Harrison, the chief architect of New York City's Rockefeller Center.
Take the elevator to the top of the Corning Tower and view the Green Mountains from the 42nd floor observation deck. Visit "The Egg" - a stylistic building of curved lines that houses two theatres and often hosts concerts and other special events.
Throughout the summer and fall enjoy musical entertainment and family events on the Plaza grounds, and any time of year, visit the New York State Museum for a cultural exploration of Albany, the state, and the nation.
See our Fast Facts page for general information and demographics.