You say “New York” to someone and the first thing they think of is Manhattan. Not even the rest of the city, where most of the population works, studies, and sleeps. Or Long Island, as an extension of The City.
Easily overlooked is the sprawling region of Upstate New York, with a population of more than six million people and the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and more. A population that would make the region itself the 18th largest state in the U.S.A., if it were independent. Larger than Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, or a host more.
Besides, it’s a lot like the place where Kenzie alights in my novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.
Here are ten more facts to consider.
- Upstate starts right outside New York City, at the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, where you can still see the towers of Manhattan when the pollution-induced haze abates. OK, the boundary is debated, let’s not argue. Maybe it’s just upriver at the Bear Mountain Bridge.
- The region has two major mountain ranges, the Catskills and more impressive Adirondacks, plus a lot of Appalachian foothills. It is largely rugged terrain.
- It was largely uninhabited by whites until after the Revolutionary War, when the Iroquois natives were pushed out. What it means is that the bulk of the region was then settled about the same time as much of the Midwest.
- The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 turned the region into a hotbed of manufacturing along its route, as well as religious upheaval, leading it to be called “the burned-over district” because of its zealous waves of missionary activity.
- Many of those companies led to giants including General Electric, IBM, Kodak, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb, Carrier air conditioning, Endicott Johnson shoes, Gannett newspapers – manufacturing enterprises heavily hit by Rust Belt devastation in the past five decades. The region is still hard-pressed to recover economically.
- It gets a lot of snow. Nobody accepts the crown of the snowfall capital, which seems to shift each year.
- The Mormon movement took off when Joseph Smith reported having visions while living in the Palmyra area in the 1820s and ’30s.
- The Shakers first settled at Watervliet, near Albany, in 1776.
- The Catskills supply New York City’s water via an elaborate pipeline system.
- Welch’s makes a lot of grape juice in Chautauqua County, while the Finger Lakes Region is noted for wine making, including Manischewitz sweet kosher wine in Canandaigua.