Capital Region Facts

Since 1797, Albany has been the New York State capital. Albany is the oldest continuing settlement in the country, so there’s a ton of great history from this region. It was easy to access the Capitol from New York City because of its strategic position on the Hudson River. Later, the Erie Canal made it even more accessible to cities westward like Buffalo and Syracuse.

Today, the region has earned the nickname “Tech Valley” because so many technology companies call it home. Tech Valley stretches over 19 counties on the eastern side of New York, but Albany serves as somewhat of a hub for the region. With brands like IBM and higher educational centers like SUNY Polytechnic Institute, this area attracts a ton of talent.

The region directly surrounding the city of Albany celebrates an interesting history. Visitors flock to destinations like the Shaker settlement in Watervliet, and the natural springs of Saratoga. Great acts play all summer long at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and award winning breweries keep popping up all over. Schenectady is home to Union College, which is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the country.

Because there’s no shortage of culture here, there’s plenty to experience. Regardless of your interests, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in the Albany, and the surrounding cities in the Capital Region. Since the area is so rich with history, it’s easy to find interesting facts and trivia to fill this page.

Capital Region Defined

For the purposes of Exploring Upstate, the Capital Region is defined simply by four counties. The facts in this list will all pertain to Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany, and Rennselear counties.

– Saratoga Springs gave us the potato chip on August 24, 1853. It happened when chef George Crum was trying to appease an irate customer who kept sending his fried potatoes back. Crum sliced them super thin, but made them real crisp and dumped a bunch of salt on. Much to Crum’s surprise, the customer ended up loving them. [source]

– Originally built in 1908 on 6 acres of land owned by Shakers, the Albany International Airport is the oldest municipal airport in the entire country.

– It was March 13th, 1852 that ‘Uncle Sam’ first appeared in a cartoon in the NY Lantern Weekly paper. The origins of Uncle Sam are undocumented, but most believe the character was inspired by Sam Wilson of Troy, NY. Wilson was an inspector of U.S. Army supplies and known by the nickname ‘Uncle Sam’.

– Before it was named Albany, the area was known as Beverwyck which translates to ‘beaver district’. That name stuck because the beaver fur trade made so many inhabitants of the region very wealthy. [source]

– The U.S. adoption of the celebration of Santa Claus is believed to have first occurred in the Albany area. A Van Renssalaer bakery receipt from March 1675 is the first document in the United States to make reference to ‘Sinterklaas’. [source]

– Even with its first horse race (August 3, 1863) pre-dating the official grounds, the Saratoga Race Course is considered to be the oldest organized sporting event venue in the entire United States. [source]

– Surpassing the national average of 187,000 square feet, the Wal-mart Super Center in Albany is 260,000 square feet, making it the largest in the country. The two-story store even features an escalator for your shopping cart. [source]

– WRGB in Schenectady claims their birthday as 1928, which is the year they first started with experimental broadcasts. Since they were the first to experiment with broadcasting, that makes WRGB the oldest television station in the entire world. [source]

The General Electric plant in Schenectady is so large it has its own zip code, which happens to be 12345. Each year, the plant receives thousands of letters from children assuming that such an address could only belong to Santa Claus. GE Employees take turns volunteering and respond to each of the letters. [source]

– The New York State Education Department Building in Albany has 36 columns, making it the longest colonnade in the country. [source]

– The City of Albany had one of the first underground water delivery systems in the western hemisphere. As early as the 1700’s, Albany was using wooden pipes to carry municipal water beneath the city. By simply taking a tree trunk and hollowing it out, they created a natural pipeline. [source]

– With a land area of only 0.7 square miles, Green Island (Albany County) is the smallest town in New York State.

– George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. was born in Illinois, but he later attended college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. He graduated in 1881, but soon after he would go on to invent the Ferris Wheel. [source]

– The Corning Tower in Albany is 589 feet tall and is 44 stories in total. At that height, the Corning Tower is the tallest building in New York State outside of New York City.

– Guptill’s roller skating rink in Cohoes is the largest indoor skating rink in the world. [source]