An Overview of Utica's History & Architecture

The following is from Design Guidelines, City Of Utica, Scenic & Historic Preservation Commision (PDF 31.7MB).

The geographical area currently covered by Utica’s historic preservation ordinance consists of much of the traditional central business district of the City, adjacent residential areas, portions of Herkimer Road north of the downtown, and the brewery district in West Utica.

The following abbreviated historical and architectural overview of Utica is not intended to be exhaustive; rather, it takes a broad-brush approach to the history of the city and the architectural heritage which makes it so special. A much fuller architectural history of the City is contained in Frank E. Przybycien’s Utica: A City Worth Saving.

The first permanent non-indigenous settlers arrived at the site of present-day Utica in the 1780s. Most of these hearty pioneers came westward from New England seeking a plentiful supply of land, water, trees and fertile soil. Many of these first settlers had been introduced to the Upper Mohawk Valley during service with the Continental Army during the American Revolution when they traversed the region, passing Fort Schuyler–on the site of Utica–en route to Fort Stanwix–now Rome.

Both of these British outposts had been built during the 1750s in the wake of the French and Indian War. Fort Stanwix bore the name of its builder, Brigadier General John Stanwix and Fort Schuyler was named for Colonel Peter Schuyler, a decorated British officer.

In 1734, Governor William Cosby had been granted 22,000 acres in the Upper Mohawk region by King George II but following his death his estate was in arrears for back taxes. In 1772, four investors acquired the Cosby acreage surrounding Fort Schuyler. General Philip Schuyler and General John Bradstreet joined with John Morin Scott, a New York City lawyer, and Rutger Bleeker, a prosperous Albany businessman, and acquiredCosby’s tract for about 15 cents an acre.

At the conclusion of the Revolution in 1783, a settlement developed around Fort Schuyler although much of the nearby land was so swampy that many chose areas such as New Hartford, Whitestown and Clinton to settle. However, Fort Schuyler’s location at the only shallow spot in the Mohawk River for miles around encouraged settlement by westbound pioneers traveling on the river as far as the fort. Some stayed, while others forded the river at the fort and continued northward to the Adirondacks or southward toward unsettled territory to the west.

To accommodate the travelers, entrepreneurial pioneers of Fort Schuyler erected and operated hotels, inns, taverns, blacksmith shops, and wagon repair shops. Herkimer Road in the Scenic and Historic Preservation District bears his name. Retail establishments developed as well, catering to the visitors who needed to secure provisions before continuing on.

Among the earliest of those pioneers was Major John Bellinger, who had fought beside General Nicholas Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6,1777. He arrived in Fort Schuyler in March 1788 in four feet of snow and built a home at what later would become the corner of Whitesboro and Washington Streets. Initially a farmer, Bellinger eventually erected the settlement’s first hotel which became known as the New England House.

Among those who came the following year was Peter Smith, who established a general store at the present-day site of Bagg’s Square and became the settlement’s first merchant. Smith built a large house on Broad Street, just east of Mohawk Street; his son, Gerritt, was born here and grew to become a nationally-known abolitionist in the years before the Civil War. Peter Smith became an ambitious and successful fur trader, interacting regularly with the Native Americans in the region. He later became a partner with John Jacob Astor, founder of the Astor fortune and one-time owner of much of the land that is now New York City.

In the spring of 1790, John Post departed Schenectady on the Mohawk River with his wife and three children, and eight days later arrived at Fort Schuyler. Post, a veteran of the Revolution, had been present in 1777 when British General John Burgoyne surrendered his army to the Americans at Saratoga.

In 1781 he was at Yorktown when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. George Washington, ending the conflict. Post built a house on the west side of Genesee Street near Whitesboro Street and from that house marketed to Native Americans and to settlers alike tobacco, blankets, ammunition, and whiskey. In 1791, Post built a store just north of his house and soon became a prosperous merchant. The ensuing years saw new families settle the area, including merchant/banker James Kip, blacksmith Moses Bagg, James Parker First, who operated a stagecoach line, and carpenter Apollos Cooper, who built the first bridge across the Mohawk River.

Early industrial growth was born here late in the eighteenth century, spurred on by ambitious settlers including Nathan Williams, who became the village president, later served as Oneida County district attorney and as a member of Congress. Benjamin Walker, an aide to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, built a magnificent mansion on Broad Street, east of Mohawk Street, and later also represented the area in Congress.

To provide a new identity for the growing settlement, it was decided that a name change was in order. After spirited debate at a village meeting at Bagg’s Tavern in early 1798, a drawing was held to choose a name. Among the thirteen in attendance was attorney Erastus Clark, a Lebanon, Connecticut native and an alumnus of Dartmouth College. Clark’s suggested name reflected his classical education, offering a name reminiscent of the Phoenician city which was located near Carthage and had rivaled Carthage as an economic center in the ancient world. The name change was approved by the State Legislature on April 3, 1798, and Fort Schuyler was incorporated as a village known henceforth as Utica.

By 1800, the Inland Lock Navigation Company had built several locks on the Mohawk, enabling the waterway to serve larger boats than before and opening Fort Schuyler to additional commerce. At the same time, roads were being built throughout the area including the Seneca Turnpike which started at Bagg’s Square in Utica and led southward to New Hartford, Kirkland, Vernon and Oneida Castle. Taking advantage of the hew roads, Jason Parker’s stage lines were making Fort Schuyler one of the state’s busiest transportation centers.

About two hundred people occupied about fifty houses in Utica at the time, and between 1810 and 1815 the village’s population increased to nearly 2,000. The new village boasted a fire department, banks, and a newspaper, but lacked large manufacturing plants since in those days such operations required water power to turn their machinery and the flow of the Mohawk River was too slow to generate the necessary hydraulic power. Instead, Utica’s early industry depended on the craftsmanship of the settlers and included wagons, furniture, and wagon wheels.

As the community became more settled, institutions were established to signal the maturing of the frontier. On March 28, 1814, the Utica Academy was incorporated by the Regents of the University of the State of New York and eventually Uticans erected a building on Bleecker Street, between Academy and John Streets to double as a school and county courthouse. By 1827 Utica’s young boys had several schools to attend including a high school that opened that year. It was joined a decade later by the Utica Female Academy which occupied rooms in the United States Hotel at Genesee and Pearl Street until 1839, when the young women moved into a new building on Washington Street at Genesse.

Photo caption:The Federal-style Gen. John G. Weaver House, 711 Herkimer Road, includes six-over-six windows and an ornamented entrance centered on the facade with sidelights and a fanlight.

In 1817, Utica received a third charter from the state Legislature extending the boundaries of the incorporated village and removing the village from the town of Whitestown and creating a town of Utica. That same year, construction began on the Erie Canal which would become an economically vital waterway and alter the face of the village of Utica forever. The first and middle section of the canal, spanning the area between Utica and Rome was completed in the fall of 1819 and on October 23 the first boat to ply the canal departed Rome bound for Utica. The 363-mile canal linking the Hudson River with Lake Erie opened in October, 1825.

Traffic on the canal both benefited and harmed the village economy. Canal traffic lured customers away from many businesses along the Seneca Turnpike, while businesses immediately adjacent to the canal prospered. Pro or con, the impact of the canal was immediate and significant. Before, the central and busiest section of the village was the Bagg’s Square area. After the canal was completed, much activity moved southward near the route of today’s East-West Arterial or Oriskany Street. Businesses relocated to be close to canal traffic and soon stores, taverns, hotels and warehouses dotted the area. And, of course, like other canal communities, Utica’s population flourished, growing from 5,041 in 1825 to 8,330 in 1830 and 10,183 in 1835. Flush with prosperity and growth, Uticans petitioned the state Legislature for a city charter which was approved by an act of incorporation on February 3, 1832. Dr. T. Wood Clarke’s 1952 history, “Utica for a Century and a Half,” reported that at the time of incorporation, the new city claimed forty-four dry goods stores, sixty-three groceries, ten hardware stores, six jewelry stores, five bookstores, twenty blacksmith shops. and seventy-nine cabinetmakers. The earliest homes of the non-native settlers in the Utica area were likely of rudimentary log construction. The first formally-derived architectural style to appear in Utica was the Federal style, the first national style to emerge in America after the Revolution. This design mode became popular in the 1780s and in some areas endured until the years preceding the Civil War. Federal-style architecture typically incorporated a smooth facade without protruding ornamentation and low-pitched gabled or hipped roofs. Windows were generally flat-topped, and often had exterior shutters and multi-light sash, since large expanses of glass could not be produced at that time. Principal entrances were often adorned with decorative fanlights above the door and sidelights on either side.

The next decades witnessed the birth of new industrial ventures including the Munson and Hart Company, which crafted millstones. Alfred Munson, the founder of the fortune that became the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, and his partner Martin Hart were two of the city’s most prominent citizens. Other industrialists began to manufacture commodities such as oil cloth, cigars and other tobacco products, railcar wheels, and steam engines. Industrial expansion was joined by other commercial growth including the 1839 founding by John and Nicholas Devereux, longtime Utica merchants, of a bank that continues as the Savings Bank of Utica.

In 1836, the Chenango Canal was completed, connecting the Erie Canal at Utica to Binghamton and the anthracite coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania. During the next decade coal would play an important role in rescuing the city from serious decline. In 1837, the Utica & Schenectady Railroad was completed with its 72-mile line as the longest in the world. The advent of the railroad marked a decline in the fortunes of some Utican entrepreneurs, since, while freight and passengers could be moved more quickly than on the canal, rail passengers were less likely to spend as much time in town as would those traveling by stage coach or on the canal. Hoteliers, tavern- and innkeepers, blacksmiths and wagon-makers, along with the proprietors of myriad shops that sold a variety of goods, began to suffer.

The community’s antiquated textile industry was suffering as well, due to competition from New England manufacturers whose mills were steam powered. Faced with a declining economy, Spencer Kellogg, Andrew S. Pond and Edmund A. Graham traveled to New England to investigate the feasibility of using steam power in Utica’s textile mills and other plants. Returning home, they published a booklet entitled, “The Relative Difference of the Cost of the Motive Power of Water and Steam as Applicable to Manufacturing.” Developing an efficient water-powered mill system was not practical, but with the Chenango Canal, Utica was linked to the abundant northeastern Pennsylvania coal fields.

Within two years, the Utica Steam Cotton Mills, the Utica Steam Woolen Mills, the Globe Woolen Mills, and dozens of other industries were using coal-fired steam to run their machinery. Utica’s “Textile Era” was born and would be the city’s major industry for the next century, employing thousands of men and women and establishing Utica as “the knit goods capital of the world.”

Photo caption: This Herkimer Road Greek Revival-style “upright-and-wing” cottage incorporates a main section with a gable-end oriented facade and a wing set back from the main building and ornamented with an open porch.

In 1845 John Butterfield, Hiram Greeman and Theodore Faxton convinced a group of area investors to finance inventor Samuel F. B. Morse’s new electric telegraph. The company strung lines from New York City to Buffalo, through Oneida County, and soon owned most of the telegraph lines in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and westward to the Mississippi River.

The architectural style which became popular in Utica–and across New York State–in the second quarter of the nineteenth century was the Greek Revival, which gained popularity as Americans supported Greece in its own struggle for independence.

Greek Revival-style buildings are typically rectangular in form and often have a gable-end-oriented facade reminiscent of the temples of ancient Greece. Large and small Greek Revival-style buildings were built in Utica, using a variety of building materials.

With the maturity of the new city came the growth of social and religious institutions including a hospital and a series of churches. Presbyterians had attended services in the area as early as 1793 in Whitestown and in 1807 a Presbyterian congregation erected a church at Washington and Liberty Streets. An Episcopal society, the forerunner of Trinity church, was organized in 1798 and services were held in the homes of parishioners.

In 1803, a parish was formed and a church was erected on the corner of First and Broad Streets on land donated by John R. Bleecker. In 1838, Grace Episcopal Church was organized to accommodate the many Uticans who were moving from the village’s first business and residential district in the area near Bagg’s Square and relocating southward to the area of Genesee, Bleecker, Elizabeth, Rutger, Columbia, and Blandina Streets.

Photo caption: About 1840, Trinity Episcopal Church was built in the Gothic Revival style on Broad Street. The building was demolished in 1922 as industrial development overtook the neighborhood. (Photo: Oneida County Historical Society)

The Grace parishioners eventually erected a substantial church home on the southeast corner of Genesee and Elizabeth Streets. The building was designed by Richard Upjohn, the leading church architect in the United States at the time. To the Utican Baptists goes the honor of having built the first church in the village, the Welsh Baptist Church built in 1806 on Hotel Street.

These first congregations were soon joined by Congregationalists, Methodists and members of the Dutch Reformed Church. The few Roman Catholics in Utica had no church home and instead were associated with St. Mary’s Parish in far-away Albany.

By 1817, Irish Catholics in increasing numbers were building the Erie Canal and settling in Utica. In 1819 John Devereux, a prominent Utica businessman, and a member of the St. Mary’s board of trustees, along with the Rev. Michael O’Gorman, rector of St. Mary’s, convinced the diocese in Albany to build a church in Utica to serve all Catholics in the wilds of central and western New York.

In 1821 the first St. John’s Church was completed at the northwest corner of John and Bleecker Streets; it was replaced in 1869 by the present St. John’s church on the opposite corner. Many of these early church buildings were built in the Gothic Revival style, which borrowed design elements from Medieval Europe,particularly the lancet-arched window. Some Gothic Revival-style buildings, including homes, were finished with board-and-batten siding which adds to the overall verticality of the style. The Gothic Revival style flourished in Utica from the 1830s until the era of the Civil War.

Public services matured along with social and religious institutional growth. The Utica Waterworks began piping water from Starch Factory Creek to a reservoir from which the water was sent to all sections of the city and to fifty fire hydrants.

The Utica Gas Company was established with a large storage house just below the intersection of Whitesboro and Washington Streets. Uticans were at first wary of gas lights and preferred what they thought were the safer candles and oil lamps, but eventually the switch was made to illuminating gas for homes and businesses.

Photo caption: Genesee Street is lined with Italianate commercial buildings, with elongated door and window proportions, storefronts at street level and facades capped with overhanging cornices.

Photo caption: St. John’s Church incorporates many of the elements of the Romanesque Revival style, including the use of round-arched windows, doors, and decorative features. The spires were added to the 1869 building in the 1890s.

Photo caption:The Romanesque Revival style Utica City Hall stood at the corner of Genesee and Pearl Street. It fell in the 1960s in the wake of Urban Renewal. (Photo: Oneida County Historical Society)

Another Medieval-based style which was popular in Utica was the Romanesque Revival, which used round-arched openings instead of the pointed-arched doors and windows favored by Gothic Revival designers and builders. Among the City’s prominent Romanesque Revival-style were the City Hall of 1860 and St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, which dates from 1869.

By the middle years of the nineteenth century, the Italianate style had become popular in Utica both for residential and commercial design. This style borrows elements from the rural architecture of northern Italy and often is arranged with vertically-oriented proportions, tall and narrow windows, and cornices of brick, metal, or wood extending along the roofline. The cornices of Italianate-style buildings are often decorated with paneled friezes, dentil bands, and brackets of varying size and complexity. In some cases, windows are highly ornamented with decorative window heads.

At this time a variety of local, regional, and national political leaders called Utica home. Horatio Seymour, who lived on Whitesboro Street, was elected Governor of New York in 1852 and became one of the area’s most influential Democrats. He was his party's candidate for President of the United States in 1868 and was narrowly defeated by Civil War hero, Republican U. S. Grant. Seymour’s brother-in-law, Roscoe Conkling, became one of the leading trial lawyers in the Northeast, was the acknowledged boss of the New York State Republican Party, and served both in Congress and in the U.S. Senate.

The Civil War found Uticans strong in their support of President Abraham Lincoln. Two days after the outbreak of hostilities, the Utica Citizens Corps--founded in 1837 as a quasi-military company to participate in parades and social and civic events--answered Lincoln’s call for troops. Serving in the 14th Regiment, New York Volunteers (the “First Oneida”), members of the Corps fought with distinction at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Photo caption:These Italianate-style homes represent the presence of repetitive house types in Utica, perhaps built as an investment by a mid-nineteenth-century land speculator.

Photo caption:Political giant Roscoe Conkling’s home at 3 Rutger Park dates from 1830, when it was built by Judge Morris Miller. Appearing above in a historic postcard view, it was Conkling’s home after 1867 and played host to luminaries including U. S. Grant and William T. Sherman. (Photo: Oneida County Historical Society)

Photo caption:This French Second Empire-style building at 296 Genesee Street incorporated the Mansard roof with dormers which is the principal characteristic of the style.

Photo caption:The work of preeminent nineteenth-century architect A. J. Davis is seen in this Italianate-style villa at 1 Rutger Park.

By the war’s end, Utica had provided the Union Army with hundreds of soldiers and sixty-one officers, including fourteen generals. On the home front, the Overland Mail Company, founded in the 1850s by Utica’s John Butterfield, was the first to deliver mail and passengers from the Mississippi River to California in fewer than twenty-five days. Butterfield returned to Utica and in 1862 headed a horse-drawn trolley company that installed tracks from Utica’s Bagg’s Square to New Hartford and then on to Clinton. When the trolley service began in 1863, Utica was only the fifth city in the country to have a regularly scheduled street-car line, joining New York, Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

The design mode known as French Second Empire style emerged in America in the mid-1850s and gained popularity in the years immediately following the Civil War. Named for the imperial French era during which it developed, French Second Empire-style buildings are always roofed with the distinctive Mansard roof, which generally includes dormers around its sides. Most French Second Empire-style architecture also employs Italianate-style trim, massing, window patterns, etc.

As the city approached the twentieth century, dozens of trains passed through Utica each day with freight, leisure and business travelers, and immigrant men and women who worked in its mills and factories.

Stick Style architecture is highly decorative and incorporates vertical, horizontal, and diagonal boards placed over siding, suggesting the interior framing of the house.

Photo Caption:Eastlake-style design was named for English interior designer Charles Locke Eastlake. It refers to wood turned on a lathe to produce robust and fanciful ornamentation such as seen above on a two-story porch.

Utica was served by the New York Central as well as the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the New York, Ontario` & Western, the Utica, Clinton & Binghamton, the Chenango & Susquehanna Valley, and the West Shore railroads.

The 1870s and 1880s in Utica witnessed the popularity of a style of design known as the “Stick” style, so named because it incorporates exterior ornamentation suggesting the structural framing of the house. The overall exterior finish of Stick Style architecture is usually horizontal siding, interrupted by vertical and diagonal - “framing” hinting at the Interior supports.

At about the same time the Stick Style was popular in Utica, the use of the lathe was being perfected and builders and designers began to produce properties with highly-ornamented turned detail. This trim typically appeared on porches and as decoration under eaves. Like the furniture in vogue at the same time, this architectural mode eventually bore the name of noted interior designer Charles Locke Eastlake. It appears throughout Utica in elaborate porch railings and posts and in gable ends.

Photo caption: The exterior surface finishes of wood shingles typifies the Shingle Style, seen here in a house at 1001 Miller Street.

Photo caption: Richardsonian Romanesque design includes the use of masonry–here both brick and stone–as well as the round-arched motif, seen in the archway which dominates much of the facade of this Genesee Street property.

The Shingle Style also evolved for the design of homes built of wood. This style is typified by the cladding of portions of exterior surfaces in wood shingles, which may cover the entire building or only the upper stories. Utica’s Shingle Style homes are large in scale and often irregular in form.

Among the most popular design modes in the late nineteenth century was the Queen Anne style, which first appeared in England and was brought to America in the 1870s. Queen Anne-style design typically involves substantial buildings, which are often finished in a variety of surface treatments (wood, stone, brick, terra cotta, etc.) and incorporate towers and turrets, and an irregular floor plan.

Photo caption: The style known as Queen Anne employs a variety of surface finishes (such as brick, stone, and terra cotta) as well as an overall irregularity of form and a profile enlivened by towers, turrets, dormers and gables.

Between the 1880 and the turn of the twentieth century, a “modern” style of design was popularized by East Coast architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who in 1878 was commissioned to complete the State Capital at Albany. Richardson and his devotees applied the round arched Romanesque door and window patterns to institutional and domestic architecture, ranging from the massive to smaller-scaled, but always executed in stone or brick and generally incorporating one or more dominating round arched openings.

Photo caption: This 1920s Colonial Revival-style residence suggests the Georgian style from pre Revolutionary America.

Photo caption: Some properties represent various styles rather than one single design preference. Properties such as this are referred to as “eclectic,” indicating a joining of details from diverse styles.

In 1876 America celebrated its centenary and a renewed interest in the pre-Revolutionary period brought about the Colonial Revival style of architecture. Designers and builders borrowed liberally from Colonial buildings and in some cases designed faithful replicas of eighteenth-century properties. In other instances, architectural details were applied to buildings which were otherwise without any particular antecedent. Details which appeared on buildings during this period include Palladian windows, garland-andswag ornament, gambrel roof forms, etc. Colonial Revival-style buildings continued to be erected in Utica into the mid-1950s.

In the late decades of the century, the textile industry continued to grow and expand. In 1890, Quentin McAdam led a group who founded the Utica Knitting Company and soon employed thousands of employees and operated more than a dozen mills in the vicinity. The Oneida Knitting Mills was established on Broad Street at the foot of Kossuth Avenue and soon became nearly as busy as Utica Knitting. Utica’s Andrew Frey, a superintendent at the Oneida mill, revolutionized the underwearindustry when he sewed a top shirt to bottom drawers and gave the world its first union suit.

By the dawn of the twentieth century, Utica had become the knit goods capital of the world. Utica’s population increased steadily through the nineteenth century, from 17,556 in 1850 to 32,496 in 1875, 44,007 in 1890 and 56,383 in 1900. The city’s prosperity kept pace into the last decade of the old century. Trolleys were converted from horsepower to electric power, more city streets were paved, the Masonic Home was built, the knitting mills continued to expand, and a Chamber of Commerce was organized. When International Heater opened its offices and factory at Park Avenue and Broad Street in 1899, it was the result of the consolidation of five of the largest furnace manufacturing companies in the Northeast and some began to call Utica the furnace and heater capital of the world.

Photo caption: The Bungalow became one of the most popular styles of design in early-twentieth-century Utica. Typically 1½ stories in height, Bungalows often incorporate a recessed front porch and dormers to allow light into an otherwise dark upper story. This distinctive Herkimer Road Bungalow is tile-roofed.

Photo caption: European revival styles, such as the Tudor Revival depicted above, harkened back to a period in the distant past. Houses of this particular style employed a half-timbered finish suggestive of sixteenth-century English design.

The new century brought continued good fortune to the city. In early 1900, the Savings Bank of Utica moved into a stunning new facility on Genesse Street, complete with a “gold dome.” By 1902, nineteen substantial knitting mills lay within the city limits and provided work for more than 20,000 men and women. In 1908, Maria and Thomas Proctor, the city’s leading benefactors, presented the city with the hundreds of acres of park land they had acquired over the years.

The New York Central continued to expand in the city and in 1914 the magnificent million-dollar Union Station was completed. One of Utica’s proudest days occurred on June 19, 1908 when the Republican National Convention nominated Utican James Schoolcraft Sherman to run for the office of Vice President, with Ohio’s William Howard Taft heading the ticket. World War I fueled Utica’s prosperity as local industries produced goods for the war effort, including much of the underwear worn by U.S. soldiers. Savage Arms produced thousands of Lewis machine guns and plants such as Bossert’s were making war products by the thousands.

The members of the Oneida County Home Defense Committee planned food gardens, worked on farms, raised funds for the Red Cross, made surgical dressings and sold and promoted the purchase of Liberty Bonds.

The end of the war in 1918 resulted in the military canceling most of its orders with the Utica mills and by 1922, the number of local knitting mills in Utica fell from nineteen to six. Despite the failure of many of the mills, other commercial ventures continued to prosper until the onset of the Depression. Utica fared much the same as did other cities, with a nearly instant cessation in construction, drastically reduced factory production, and massive unemployment. In fact, unemployment was serious enough that when Maria Proctor decided to raze the deteriorated Bagg’s Hotel, she insisted that the building be demolished by hand to provide employment to more laborers.

Photo caption: Utica’s 1927 Baroque Revival-style Stanley Theater was built at a time when the moving picture industry had become firmly entrenched on the American scene.

Photo caption: Among the great successes of historic preservation in Utica was the saving of the 1912 Hotel Utica. The landmark hotel has been converted for senior citizen housing. (Photo: Oneida County Historical Society)

With World War II, Utica’s knitting mills again received orders from the military for underwear and other knit goods. Savage Arms hired hundreds to fulfill contracts with both the American and British military for Thompson submachine guns and Browning automatic rifles. The Bossert Company produced cartridge cases by the millions and Divine Brothers turned out fuses for artillery shells and bomb loading devices, Utica Cutlery made bayonets, and Brunner Manufacturing made pumps and freezing units for the military. Thousands were in the military and civilians of all ages bought millions of dollars of war bonds, volunteered for the Red Cross, collected scrap paper and iron, and worked at Rhoads General Hospital, the Army’s convalescent and rehabilitation hospital on Burrstone Road, which by 1946 had cared for more than 25,000 military patients.

When Utica’s veterans returned from war, the G.I. Bill enabled them to seek an education and since Utica was one of the few northeastern cities without a college, community leaders worked with officials from Syracuse University to establish an institute of higher education college in Utica. In the fall of 1946, Utica College was born in classrooms in the Plymouth Church facilities at Oneida Square. It remained at the Oneida Square site until 1962 when it moved to a new campus on Burrstone Road.

The city’s sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1948 amidst considerable fanfare, including a gala “Pageant of Progress.” With the late 1940s and early 1950s, however, the city’s mainstay–the textile industry–began to feel the effect of antiquated facilities and escalating labor costs. Industry leaders began to look south in search of less expensive labor and proximity to the cotton fields which provided their raw materials.

Photo caption: Anchoring a major block of Genesee Street in the Scenic and Historic Preservation District in the 1914 First Church of Christ Scientist. The building has been adaptively re-used as the Oneida County Historical Society’s local and regional history museum. (Photo: Oneida County Historical Society)

Uticans, however, rose to the challenge and assisted with the creation of new industrial and commercial ventures and the expansion of existing operations. In 1960, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute’s art museum opened in a new building designed by internationally-renowned architect Philip Johnson. The central business district suffered much as did other older downtowns, although some substantial rehabilitation projects restored landmark properties along Genesee Street.

A new state office building was built along Genesee Street and now dominates the skyline of downtown Utica. In 1994, in order to protect the city’s remaining historic architecture, the Common Council passed Ordinance 313 and created Utica’s Scenic and Historic Preservation District along Genesee Street, portions of the neighborhood southeast of Genesee Street, a section of Memorial Parkway, the brewery district west of the downtown, and portions of Herkimer Road north of the downtown.

History from Donald F. White, ed. and comp. "Exploring 200 years of Oneida County History" (Utica: Oneida County Historical Society, 1998).


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