CoLa: Historical Context

The following historical context was provided by the MVHS SEQR DEIS. BUD has added links to various pages to help add understanding to the CoLa Neighborhood.

The major cultural traditions manifested in central New York State during the Prehistoric Period through the Twentieth Century are described in full report provided as Appendix E. Excerpts from the report are provided below.

Prehistoric (Precontact) Period

The three major cultural traditions in central New York State during the prehistoric era were the Paleo-Indian (ca 12,000-8000 BC), Archaic (ca 8000-1000 BC), and Woodland (1000 BC-AD 1500). Cultural development of the area can be summarized as a gradual increase in social complexity, marked by several important cultural or technological innovations.

Contact Period (AD 1500-1650)

During the late prehistoric and Contact periods, tribal clusters of Iroquoian-speaking peoples were distributed throughout New York State and lower Ontario. Comprising several thousand people in at least one, and usually several, villages in proximity to one another, each tribal cluster was separated from the others by extensive and widespread hunting and fishing areas. Native American groups in central New York were profoundly affected by the introduction of the fur trade, long before the arrival of a permanent European-American population in the area. This period dates the beginning of the end of traditional native cultural patterns due to ever-increasing political, military, religious and economic interactions with Europeans.

Historic Period

As a result of the increasing supply of workers, factories in Utica flourished between ca. 1890 and 1950. Textile mills and knitting factories were especially robust. Industry expansion included the emergence of Oneida Mills, Frisbie-Stansfield Knitting Company, and Utica Knitting Company as national leaders in the knit goods industry. Other large companies included the Mohawk Valley Cotton Mill which merged with the Utica Steam Cotton Company in 1901.

The height of the Utica textile industry was 1910 when nearly two-thirds of the city’s inhabitants worked in textile-related industries. Transportation changes facilitated the industrial development as establishment of the textile industry emerged with the completion of the Erie and Chenango canals. Beginning in 1886 streets of the city began to be paved with asphalt, beginning with Rutger Street.

In 1887, the Utica Electric Light Company began to provide street lighting, “starting in the business section, although lighting for residential districts...soon followed”. The electric streetcar was introduced in the 1890s and an interurban electric line, Utica & Mohawk Valley, ran between Rome and Little Falls during the early twentieth century. The Utica Belt Line Railroad system ran along Lafayette, Columbia, and State streets.

With the closure of the Chenango canal, the northern end of the former filled, although it was still depicted as open in 1888. As noted the canal system was reimagined and modernized during the early twentieth century and the subsequent Barge Canal was completed in 1917 through Utica. Gradually filled, the former Erie Canal channel was leveled through the city by 1923 and became Oriskany Street. The North Genesee Arterial was completed in the 1970s.

The textile industry began a slow decline after World War I as the industry was plagued by over supply and northern textile operations shifted work to mills in the South. While Utica supported more than 40 mills in 1910, only six survived in 1922. Further, transportation improvements like the trolley and later the automobile freed workers from living in proximity to their places of employments. This freedom resulted in workers, especially the better paid, seeking to find living arrangements in less crowded and noisy places and gave rise to suburban housing areas.

By 1940 the city had a population of 100,518. After the war, General Electric opened a factory in Utica which expanded during the 1950s as the Cold War intensified. This factory helped offset the loss of textile jobs as GE employed more than 5,800 people at the close of the 1950s.

During this period large infrastructure projects like the construction of the North-South Arterial (NYS Route 12), the East-West Arterial (NYS Route 5S), and the Sauquoit Valley Arterial (NYS Route 8) helped speed the development of residential suburbs and draw residents from the central city. In addition, the completion of the New York State Thruway (Interstate-90) north of the city in the mid- 1950s helped commerce bypass the area.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, Urban Renewal plans led to the demolition of numerous city buildings, which became vacant lots when proposed projects did not materialize.

In 2006, structures in the area were demolished for a Utica Police Department support facility.

A major economic development in the area during the twentieth century was the construction of the U.S. Air Force repair and maintenance depot, which served the entire northeastern section of the nation. This facility would develop into Griffiss Air Force Base, northeast of the City of Rome.

The base closed in the late 1990s, although Rome Laboratories (now the Air Force Research Laboratory) continued to utilize buildings within the facility, which has become the Griffiss Business and Technology Park.

The City of Utica had a population of 62,235 in 2010.

We're not opposed to a new hospital, just do not bulldoze Downtown Utica's Historic Columbia-Lafayette Neighborhood... "Build It At St. Luke's!"

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