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Lockport Locks on Erie Canal
For much more on New York state history, check out our Path Through History site.
Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, commissioned by the King of France, sailed to the New World, and into what is now New York Harbor; probably accompanied by Jacques Cartier.
After sailing to the New World on the Halve Maen, Henry Hudson explored the mighty river that would later be named for him. Samuel de Champlain explored the northeastern region of the area now called New York and discovered his namesake, Lake Champlain.
The first Dutch settlement was established; for 40 years the Dutch ruled over the colony of New Netherland.
The British army conquered the colony of New Netherland, which was then re-named New York, in honor of the Duke of York.
The French and Indian War, a fierce contest to gain control of the New World, changed the course of history. The British and American colonists fought against the French and Canadians, with Native American allies on both sides. By uniting the colonies and building their military strength and confidence, this war set the stage for the American Revolution.
New York City hosted the first Colonial Congress, a conference called to discuss the King of England's Stamp Act.
The Revolutionary War. On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and 83 “Green Mountain Boys” surprised the sleeping British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga and took the fort, called the Key to a Continent, without firing a shot. This was the first American victory of the Revolutionary War.
After serving as a colony of Great Britain for more than a century, New York declared its independence on July 9, becoming one of the original 13 states of the Federal Union.
New York's first constitution was adopted on April 20. George Clinton was elected as New York’s first Governor in June. On October 17, the Americans defeated the British at the Battle of Saratoga, one of the decisive battles of the world. This victory marked the turning point of the Revolution, leading to the Americans’ alliance with the French and eventual victory.
On November 25, the last British troops evacuated New York City, which had been occupied by the British since September 1776. This was the last British military position in the US. After they departed, US General George Washington entered the city in triumph to the cheers of New Yorkers.
New York City became the first capital of the United States. In 1789, it was the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first US President; it remained the nation's capital until 1790.
The New York Stock Exchange was founded in New York City.
In January, Albany became the capital of New York State.
The US Military Academy opened at West Point.
Robert Fulton's North River Steamboat traveled from New York to Albany. This first voyage of significant distance made by a steamboat began a new era in transportation.
The Erie Canal opened in 1825, linking the Hudson River to the Great Lakes and leading to greater development in the western part of the state.
New York outlawed slavery. At the forefront of the Underground Railroad movement, New York had more anti-slavery organizations than any other state and strong abolitionist leaders such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and John Brown. From the early 1800s until the end of the Civil War in 1865, thousands of people passed through New York as they traveled to freedom in Canada.
Martin Van Buren, born in Kinderhook, became the eighth President of the US.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and more than 300 other women and men gathered in Seneca Falls for the nation's first women's rights convention.
Millard Fillmore, born in Cayuga County, became the 13th President of the US.
The State of New York supplied almost one-sixth of all Union forces during the Civil War, which began in 1861.
The Brooklyn Bridge, a wonder of design and engineering, opened. P.T. Barnum led a parade of 21 elephants back and forth across the bridge, to demonstrate its sturdiness to skeptics.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States in honor of the Centennial of the American Declaration of Independence, was dedicated on October 28 in New York Harbor.
Between 1892 and 1954, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, an immigration facility that is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
The State Capitol at Albany was completed.
When President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, Theodore Roosevelt (born in New York City), was hurriedly sworn in as the 26th president of the US. Not quite 43 years old, Roosevelt became the youngest president in the nation's history.
New York City’s first skyscraper was built: the 21-story Flatiron building at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.
New York City’s first subway line, called the IRT, opened.
On August 26, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution extended the right to vote to women. After a long struggle, women could vote in the fall elections, including the Presidential election.
Lake Placid hosted the Olympic Winter Games. The Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center at the site features an Olympic Museum and Sports Complex.
The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building were completed and the George Washington Bridge opened, all adding to the New York City's burgeoning skyline.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, born near Hyde Park, became the 32nd President of the US.
The World's Fair opened in New York City, corresponding to the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as first President of the US. Many countries around the world participated; more than 44 million people attended over two seasons.
World War II. Three WWII ships on display at the Buffalo/Erie County Naval and Military Park include the Destroyer USS The Sullivans, named for five brothers who lost their lives on November 13, 1942, following the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal; the guided missile cruiser USS Little Rock; and the submarine USS Croaker.
New York City became the permanent headquarters of the United Nations.
New York City hosted a Subway Series; a Major League baseball championship between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The Vietnam War. The New York State Vietnam Memorial at the Empire State Plaza in Albany commemorates the military service of New York State residents who served their country in Southeast Asia between 1961 and 1975, including more than 4,000 who lost their lives or were declared missing in action.
The World’s Fair opened (again) in New York City.
The three-day Woodstock Music & Art Fair was held on a former dairy farm in Bethel. The open-air festival featured icons of rock music and attracted half a million fans. Today the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts features a 1960s museum and presents concerts at the site. The New York Mets won the 1969 World Series.
The World Trade Center was completed. Each of the twin towers measured 1,368 feet in height. Lieutenant Governor Malcolm Wilson became Governor of NY upon the resignation of Nelson Rockefeller.
Hugh Carey was elected Governor of NY.
The I LOVE NEW YORK tourism campaign was created. Amid a nationwide recession, Governor Hugh Carey and the NY Department of Commerce made a strategic decision—to market tourism as a means to improve the state’s economy. It started with four little words. I LOVE NEW YORK—slogan, logo, and jingle—created an overall theme that was an instant hit. The clear simple message has endured for more than 40 years, reflecting its universal appeal and New York’s cultural and natural wonders.
The New York Yankees won the World Series.
Lake Placid hosted the Olympic Winter Games for the second time. The Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center at the site features an Olympic Museum and Sports Complex.
Mario Cuomo was elected Governor of NY.
The musical Cats opened on Broadway, beginning a run of nearly 20 years. Winner of the 1983 Tony for Best Musical, this show charmed audiences with spectacular choreography and songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The New York State Vietnam Memorial was dedicated at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Commemorating the military service of New York State residents who served their country in Southeast Asia between 1961 and 1975, including more than 4,000 who lost their lives or were declared missing in action, the memorial was the first such state effort in the nation.
The New York Mets won the World Series.
The musical Phantom of the Opera—now a multi-Tony Award winner and the longest-running show on Broadway—opened.
David Dinkins was elected Mayor of New York City. He was the City’s first African-American mayor.
On May 17, the New York Stock Exchange Bicentennial celebrated its 200th anniversary as one of the world’s most vital and enduring financial institutions.
On February 26, a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center killed six people and injured more than 1000. In 1995, militant Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and nine others were convicted of conspiracy charges, and in 1998, Ramzi Yousef, believed to have been the mastermind, was convicted of the bombing. Al-Qaeda involvement was suspected.
On January 1, Rudolph Giuliani was sworn in as the 107th Mayor of New York City. He was the city’s first Republican mayor in two decades. Among other things, he set out to reduce crime and reinvent the Times Square area as a family-friendly tourist destination.
George Pataki was elected Governor of NY.
The New York Yankees won the World Series.
Former first lady Hillary Clinton was elected to the US Senate. She was the first female senator to represent New York.
On September 11, terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. The NY Stock Exchange closed for four days—its longest closure since 1933. Symbolizing our nation’s strength and resilience, it reopened on September 17, setting a record volume of 2.37 billion shares. Today, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum honors the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center site; near Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and at the Pentagon; as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.
The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor opened in November at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site in the Hudson Valley. The facility commemorates the extraordinary sacrifices of America's servicemen and servicewomen who were killed or wounded in combat and shares the stories of America's combat-wounded veterans and those who never returned, all recipients of the Purple Heart. The first beam of the new Freedom Tower was placed at the World Trade Center Memorial Site, now the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Eliot Spitzer was sworn in as Governor of NY on January 11.
In March, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson became Governor of NY, upon the resignation of Eliot Spitzer. He was New York’s first African-American governor and first legally blind governor, as well as the fourth African-American governor in the US. Governor Paterson is nationally recognized as a leading advocate for the visually and physically impaired.
In January, NY Senator Hillary Clinton was sworn in as US Secretary of State. Appointed by President Barack Obama, she is the first former First Lady to serve in a president’s cabinet.
In May, Pedestrian Malls were created at Times Square and Herald Square on Broadway. Beginning on May 22, New York City’s Broadway was closed to vehicle traffic for five blocks at Times Square, turning part of the "Crossroads of the World" into a pedestrian mall with cafe tables and benches. A second promenade was created at Herald Square where Macy's, the world’s largest store, dominates the intersection. The plan is part of an experiment to create open spaces for tourists and make the city even more pedestrian friendly. The first section of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened June 9. The unique public park, built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, offers spectacular views.
Andrew Cuomo was elected Governor of New York on November 2. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was New York governor from 1983 to 1994.
On June 24, New York became the sixth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. New adventure parks opened at ski mountains across New York, including the Outdoor Adventure Center at Greek Peak, featuring an Alpine Mountain coaster; the Sky High Adventure Park, Aerial Adventure and Mountain Coaster at Holiday Valley; and the New York Zipline at Hunter Mountain, the longest and highest in North America. On September 22, Jane's Carousel was installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The first carousel to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was painstakingly restored by Jane Walentas at her studio in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. Set beside the East River between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the elegant 1922 carousel has 48 hand-carved horses and 1200 brilliant lights. Housed in a spectacular Pavilion designed by renowned architect Jean Nouvel, it delights local children and visitors from around the world. The Carousel and Pavilion were a gift from the Walentas family to the people of the City of New York.
Destiny USA, one of the nation’s largest shopping centers, opened in Syracuse. The 2.4-million-square-foot tourist destination features luxury retailers, premium outlets, diverse restaurants and unique entertainment like an Ice Museum, WonderWorks, and Canyon Climb Adventure. Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on October 29. It was the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in US history at the time. New Yorkers and many other volunteers pulled together to help clean up, supply food, and provide overall assistance in the City’s recovery. Voluntourism focused on the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Jane’s Carousel (see 2011) survived Hurricane Sandy.
Raging waters engulfed the carousel, set on a three-foot-high pavilion that usually stands 30 feet from the river. From seven stories above and a block away, neighbors took a photo of the still-lit pavilion—surrounded by surging tides that threatened to wash it away. Amazingly it survived. The photo of the illuminated carousel surrounded by darkness and crashing waves spread across the Internet, as a symbol of New York City’s resilience.
Historic Saratoga Race Course celebrated its 150th Anniversary.