kids encyclopedia robot

Oswego, New York facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
City of Oswego
Market House, Oswego, NY
Market House, Oswego, NY
The Port City
"Where the Water Never Ends"
"Cool by Nature"
Location in Oswego County and the state of New York.
Location in Oswego County and the state of New York.
Country United States
State New York
County Oswego
As a Fort 1796; 228 years ago (1796)
Incorporated (village) 1828; 196 years ago (1828)
Incorporated (city) 1848; 176 years ago (1848)
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • City 11.23 sq mi (29.08 km2)
 • Land 7.61 sq mi (19.72 km2)
 • Water 3.61 sq mi (9.36 km2)  31%
285 ft (87 m)
 • City 18,142
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,263.72/sq mi (874.03/km2)
 • Urban
18,096 (2,000 census)
Demonym(s) Oswegonian
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 315
FIPS code 36-55574
GNIS feature ID 0959525

Oswego is a city in Oswego County, New York, United States. The population was 18,142 at the 2010 census. Oswego is located on Lake Ontario in north-central New York and promotes itself as "The Port City of Central New York." It is the county seat of Oswego County.

The city of Oswego is bordered by the towns of Oswego, Minetto, and Scriba to the west, south, and east, respectively, and by Lake Ontario to the north. Oswego Speedway is a nationally known automobile racing facility. The State University of New York at Oswego is located just outside the city on Lake Ontario.


Early history

The British established a trading post in the area in 1722 and fortified it with a log palisade later called Fort Oswego. The first fortification on the site of the current Fort Ontario was built by the British in 1755 and called the "Fort of the Six Nations."

Military base

Fort Ontario was destroyed by the French upon capturing it in the Battle of Fort Oswego, during the French and Indian War. Construction of a second British fort began on the same site in 1759, but Fort Oswego was only used as a cannon emplacement. During the American Revolution, the British abandoned the Fort, and in 1778, American troops destroyed it. In 1782, the British reoccupied Fort Ontario, and didn't forfeit it to the U.S. until 1796, thirteen years after the cessation of hostilities in the Revolution. During the War of 1812, a weaker American garrison at Fort Oswego was overwhelmed by superior British forces, in order to stem the flow of supplies from the interior of New York state. Throughout the 19th Century, the U.S. military maintained a presence at Fort Ontario.

During WWII the Fort was used to house "interned" mainly Jewish Refugees. (See the next section "Safe Haven.")

In 1946, the Fort was transferred to the state of New York. At that time, it was used to house veterans and their families during the post-war period.

Development of the fort as a historic site began in 1949, which included the "Safe Haven Museum" (see above). The current fort was built between 1839 and 1844. Major masonry improvements to the forts outer wall were undertaken, but left incomplete when in 1872, congress cancelled its funding. By 1901, the old fort was abandoned.

Today, Fort Ontario is being restored to its 1867-1872 appearance. Costumed interpreters recreate the lives of the officers, men, and civilians who garrisoned the fort in 1868-1869.

Safe Haven

During the Second World War, the new fort was used as a "Safe Haven", (most importantly see Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter: and also Safe Haven Museum). This was an emergency refugee center for victims of the Nazi Holocaust, the only one of its kind in the U.S.

This was the only attempt by the United States Government to shelter Jewish refugees during the war.

Approximately 1,000 War refugee families were brought here from Italy, but deliberately only from other parts of Europe. They were all fleeing from the Nazis. They were deliberately chosen so that some were non-Jewish to allay anti-semitic fears.

They were placed in Fort Oswego, behind barbed wire, and given no official status, and were told they would be returned to their homelands after the war, and would have no rights as regards entering the United States. (In fact, due to political pressure, at the war's end they were allowed to stay in the U.S.A.)


Oswego was incorporated as a village on March 14, 1828, and the Oswego Canal, a branch of the Erie Canal, reached the area in 1829. The city was incorporated in 1848. When the city incorporated, its area and population were removed from the figures reported for the towns. In the 1850s, at the height of a popular water-cure movement occurring in the U.S.A., in turn stimulating growth, Oswego was the home of the Oswego Water Cure establishment, which Stonewall Jackson reportedly visited in August 1850.

Oswego is home to the Port of Oswego and once was a major railroad hub for several major railroads: the New York Central Railroad (NYC), the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W), and the New York, Ontario and Western Railway (O&W) railways. Both railways operated a coal trestle for fueling steamships at the Port of Oswego. Former NYC and DL&W passenger stations remain, as does a NYC freight station. Nothing remains of the O&W, which was abandoned in its entirety in 1957. The tunnel from the former O&W is used as a rail trail.

1909 panorama


Oswego near harbour 05.07.2012 13-33-48
Oswego River flowing into Lake Ontario

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.2 square miles (29.1 km2), of which, 7.7 square miles (19.8 km2) of it is land and 3.6 square miles (9.2 km2) of it (31.76%) is water.

Oswego is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River, about 35 miles north of Syracuse, New York and 69 miles east of Rochester, New York. The elevation is 298 feet above sea level.

New York State Route 481 (from Interstate 81) runs north/south to Oswego from Syracuse and Fulton. New York State Route 104 runs east/west from Rochester to Oswego. The nearest city is Fulton, located south of Oswego and north of Syracuse.

As Oswego is located on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, in the center of the Snowbelt, the region often sees prodigious lake effect snow accumulations. Oswego is one of the snowiest towns in America, with some winters totaling over 300 inches. In 2007, Oswego gained national attention when approximately 130" (slightly less than 11 feet) of snow fell in a two-week timespan. This broke the record of the Blizzard of 1966, which blanketed the city with 102" of snow. As a result of this storm, the school district closed all facilities for a week, effectively shifting the planned winter holiday.

Locations and communities near Oswego

  • Oswego - the town of Oswego
  • Minetto - the town of Minetto south of the city
  • Scriba - the town of Scriba east of the city
  • Southwest Oswego - a hamlet located west of the city
  • Fruit Valley - a hamlet located west of the city


Climate data for Oswego, New York
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 69
Average high °F (°C) 30.0
Average low °F (°C) 18.1
Record low °F (°C) −21
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.68
Average snowfall inches (cm) 45.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 20.4 16.3 15.4 14.1 12.6 11.8 10.6 11.0 12.3 14.8 16.8 19.0 175.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 19.4 14.4 9.3 2.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 5.3 14.8 66.2
Source 1: NOAA (normals, 1981–2010)
Source 2: Western Regional Climate Center (extremes 1926–present)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 12,205
1860 16,816 37.8%
1870 20,910 24.3%
1880 21,116 1.0%
1890 21,842 3.4%
1900 22,199 1.6%
1910 23,368 5.3%
1920 23,626 1.1%
1930 22,652 −4.1%
1940 22,062 −2.6%
1950 22,647 2.7%
1960 22,155 −2.2%
1970 20,913 −5.6%
1980 19,793 −5.4%
1990 19,195 −3.0%
2000 17,954 −6.5%
2010 18,142 1.0%
2019 (est.) 17,236 −5.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 18,142 people, 7,486 households, and 3,896 families residing in the 8,258 housing units in the city. The population density was 2,343.4 people per square mile (905.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.1% White, 2.3% African American, 0.1% Native American, 1.5% Asian, .6% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.1% of the population.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,867, and the median income for a family was $57,324. Males employed full-time, year-round, had a median income of $50,074 versus $33,211 for similarly situated females. The per capita income for the city was $21,139. 24.2% of the population and 14.4% of families were below the poverty line.

Culture and recreation

Lighthouse in Oswego2
Recreational fishing at Oswego, c. 1900.

Oswego has a long history stretching back to the 15th century. Visitors can learn about the city's history by visiting museums such as the H. Lee White Marine Museum, The Richardson-Bates House, and Fort Ontario. Throughout the city and public parks, many historical monuments can be found honoring historical figures, and other forts that stood in what is now the historical district. The city includes a number of sites on the National Register of Historic Places including the Derrick Boat No. 8, Kingsford Historic District, Market House, Oswego Armory, Oswego City Hall, Oswego City Library, Oswego County Courthouse, Oswego Yacht Club, Tanner Block, and U.S. Customhouse.

The most notable historian was Rosemary Nesbitt, who is immortalized by a monument in the city's signature public park, Breitbeck Park. Every Halloween, she would traditionally let down her long silver hair, dress in a ghostly gown, and tell ghostly haunted tales spanning across the entire history of the city. Nesbitt, who also founded the Marine Museum and wrote various books about the city's history, died on August 2, 2009 at the age of 84.

Ludwig Bemelmans, the writer best known for his popular 'Madeline' stories, was stationed at Fort Ontario, Oswego, N.Y. from 1917. From this experience he wrote the book "My war with the United States" published in 1937.

Boating, fishing, and hiking are also activities that are enjoyed by residents and visitors. Oswego also has three ice-skating rinks, a large public pool located on the Fort Ontario grounds, bowling, and the historic Oswego Theater.

Every year the city hosts the Oswego Harborfest, a four-day festival of music, culture and food, centered around the Oswego Harbor, culminating in a fireworks display on the Saturday evening of the festival. The event is sponsored by local businesses, and the entertainment is admission-free. The festival continues to draw approximately 150,000 to 300,000 attendees every year.

In 2007, SUNY Oswego Lakers men's hockey team won the NCAA Division III Ice Hockey Championship. Garren Reisweber's goal 12:55 into overtime gave Oswego State a 4-3 win over Middlebury on March 18, 2007. The Lakers captured the school's first ever national championship in a team sport. The 2006-07 season marked the first season Oswego played in the newly built, state-of-the-art Campus Center, located on Lake Ontario. The Campus Center replaced Romney Field House which opened in 1964, and is believed to be the first ice rink built within the State University of New York system.


The city is part of the Oswego City School District. The Oswego City School district has one high school (grades 9–12), one middle school (grades 7 and 8) and five elementary schools (grades K–6). The State University of New York at Oswego (SUNY Oswego) is located just west of the city in the town of Oswego. Trinity Catholic School (formerly St. Paul's Academy) provides classes for PreK–6. Oswego Community Christian School provides classes for PreK–8.


New York State Route 481 (from Interstate 81) runs north/south to Oswego from Syracuse and Fulton. New York State Route 104 runs east/west from Rochester to Oswego.

Central New York Regional Transportation Authority provides service within Oswego and connections to Fulton and Syracuse. Oswego County Public Transit provides service between Oswego and smaller communities in Oswego County.

Notable people

  • Neil Bancroft, U.S. Army soldier in the Black Hills War
  • George Barnard, Civil War photographer and portrait photography pioneer
  • Joey Belladonna, singer of heavy metal band Anthrax
  • Owen Benjamin, formerly Smith, actor and comedian
  • David Branshaw, PGA Tour golfer
  • Latham A. Burrows, former New York State Senator
  • Fenimore Chatterton, sixth Governor of Wyoming
  • Erik Cole, NHL hockey player, Olympian
  • Francis D. Culkin, former US Congressman
  • Noel Francisco, former Solicitor General of the United States
  • Robert H. Gittins, former US Congressman
  • George Grant, doctor and inventor
  • John Porter Hatch, Union army general
  • Robert M. Hensel, disability advocate, poet and world record holder
  • Willard A. Kitts, Vice admiral, USN and Navy Cross recipient
  • Greg LaRocca, former professional baseball player
  • Doug Lea, a computer scientist at SUNY Oswego, specialist of concurrent programming and concurrent data structures who made significant contributions to Java
  • David H. McConnell, founder of California Perfume Company which became Avon Cosmetics
  • Edward Nathaniel McDonald, businessman
  • Nettie Leila Michel (1863—?), business woman, author, magazine editor
  • Luther W. Mott, former US Congressman
  • Robert Natoli, strongman
  • D. W. Reeves (1838–1900), composer and bandleader, called “the father of band music in America”
  • Dan Reynolds, Nationally published cartoonist, author, and greeting card artist with American Greetings born and raised in Oswego, NY.
  • Curtis F. Shoup, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Newcomb Spoor, Wisconsin State Assemblyman
  • Bob Steinburg, member North Carolina House of Representatives, 2013 to present
  • Peter Stickles, actor
  • Willard Dickerman Straight, banker, diplomat, co-founder of The New Republic magazine
  • Charles A. Talcott, former US Congressman
  • Mary E. Walker, only female Civil War doctor, and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor
  • Leigh Allison Wilson, author
  • Julia McNair Wright (1840–1903), writer

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Oswego (Nueva York) para niños

Black History Month on Kiddle
African-American Artists you should know:
John T. Biggers
Thomas Blackshear
Mark Bradford
Beverly Buchanan
kids search engine
Oswego, New York Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.