Batavia City Hall is located at 10 West Main Street, Batavia NY 14020; phone: 585-345-6350.
Batavia was founded in 1802 by Joseph Ellicott, agent of the Holland Land Company. He established the Holland Land Company Office near the bend in the Tonawanda Creek and chose to call the settlement Batavia in honor of the Dutch land owners. The name comes from the Republic of Batavia by which the Netherlands was known prior to 1806. Genesee County was also created in 1802 with Batavia being named the county seat. Genesee County embraced all the Holland Land Purchase, approximately three and one-half million acres in western New York, which by 1841 was subdivided into eight counties. This large tract of land had a methodical plan of settlement in which towns were six miles square unless adjusted to fit local stream or topographic features. The newly created counties were nearly rectangular in shape.
In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the village of Batavia, incorporated in 1823, was the center of the Holland Land Office operations. The early growth of Batavia as a community can be attributed to its selection as the site of the Holland Land Office, its location at the junction of major north-south and east-west Indian trails and, perhaps the most important, its position as the hub of new transportation routes created by Ellicott. In opening up the tract to settlement, Ellicott first placed emphasis on the Genesee Road (now Route 5) that came west from Utica to Batavia as a means to attract settlers. To help create settlement further south of Batavia, the current U.S. Route 20 was opened to provide access to this area. As time passed, and as a result of Ellicott's continued efforts, many other roads emanating from Batavia were built to open all areas in the Holland Land Purchase, including State Route 63 going northwest to Lockport.
With the promise of agricultural prosperity, many newcomers from other areas of New York and New England eagerly settled the fertile land in the Genesee region of the Holland Land Purchase. Some settlers came as speculators in search of locations they hoped would be focal points for development.
With the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, Batavia found itself for the first time off the main route of east-west travel, subsequently slowing its growth. However, with the coming of the railroad era, Batavia began to grow again and was served by the New York Central system, the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. Population increases occurred as a result of the railroad facilities that encouraged the development of manufacturing in farm related products, some of which continues today.
After 1850, the Genesee region of the Holland Land Purchase lost its status as a major wheat producing area to the Midwest. However, the area emerged as a barley growing region with the railroad facilities in Batavia being a valuable asset. The railroads also encouraged farmers in the area to emphasize dairy products, fruits, vegetables and other horticultural enterprises that still exist today.