Beginnings [1,2, 3]
The City of Utica was incorporated in 1832. Over the course of the nineteenth century, Utica evolved into the principal commercial, manufacturing and industrial center of the western Mohawk Valley. From its origins as Fort Schuyler, a frontier outpost during the colonial period, Utica grew to prominence as a seat of milling, heavy industry and regional commerce. Located astride the principal transportation route between the Great Lakes and the Hudson River Valley, the city and its fortunes rose with the building of the Erie Canal (1817-1825), the Chenango Canal (1836) and the New York Central Railroad (1853). Utica's population reached 60,000 by 1900 and continued to expand until the onset of regional economic decline after World War II.
The site of Utica, called "Yah-nun-da-da-sis" in the tongue of the Oneida Indians, is translated to mean "around the hill." Post-Revolution settlers around Old Fort Schuyler petitioned the legislature and in 1798 Utica Village was incorporated. Historians suggest that the name came to be as a result of a village meeting at Bagg's Tavern, were those in attendance cast lots, agreeing that the first-drawn would become the name. By 1817 Utica had grown sufficiently to warrant the publishing of it's own "Directory." Utica was re-incorporated, this time as a city, in 1832.
The early settlement lay wholly south of the river, chiefly upon one street, called Main, running parallel with the river. The western end of this street was known as the Whitesboro Road. The Genesee Road, meeting Main Street, formed a square known as Baggs Square. About 1800, Hotel Street was laid out as an avenue to the Genesee Road, from Utica's first hotel, the York House.
1808-1810, Broad, First, Second, Third and Bridge Streets were laid out. The latter, now Park Avenue, was named from a bridge over the river, which it crossed.
By the 1830s Utica's business district was crowded with stages carrying passengers and wagons hauling freight. With the expansion of the railroads, however, both freight and passengers passed through so swiftly that the necessity of stopping over in hotels was eliminated. Population dropped and businesses declined in the mid 1840s. Investment in the development of steam powered mills, however, proved successful, and soon cotton and woolen mills assured the town's security for several generatons.
Many Uticans prospered during the latter half of the 19th century. During the "fabulous nineties," as local historian Dr. T. Wood Clark called the final decade, the undertaking of ambitious construction projects indicated Utica's confidence and wealth. A new armory was opened; a home for aged Masons was built; industrial mills expanded; the Saving Bank was founded; and the Jacobs Opera was redecorated.