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Utica, New York
Stanley facade.jpg Utica 97 002.jpg
Liberty Bell, Utica, NY.jpg Utica Harbor Lock Overlook.jpg
Utica Memorial Auditorium Interior- December 15, 2013.jpg Union Station Utica new.jpg
Clockwise from top: Panorama of downtown from I-790, Looking south on Utica's Genesee Street, Utica Tower and harbor lock, Union Station, Utica Memorial Auditorium, Liberty Bell Corner, Stanley Theater
Flag of Utica, New York
Official seal of Utica, New York
Official logo of Utica, New York
City logo
Nickname(s): The Handshake City, Sin City, The City that God Forgot, Elm Tree City
Location in Oneida County and New York
Location in Oneida County and New York
Country  United States

 New York

Metro Utica–Rome
County Oneida
Land grant (village) January 2, 1734
Incorporated (village) April 3, 1798
Incorporated (city) February 13, 1832
 • City 17.02 sq mi (44.1 km2)
 • Land 16.76 sq mi (43.4 km2)
 • Water 0.26 sq mi (0.7 km2)
Elevation 456 ft (139 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 62,235
 • Estimate (2014) 61,332
 • Density 3,818.1/sq mi (1,471.3/km2)
 • Urban 117,328 (U.S.: 268th)
 • Metro 296,615 (U.S.: 163rd)
Demonym(s) Utican
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 13501-13505, 13599
Area code(s) 315
FIPS code 36-76540
GNIS feature ID 0968324

Utica (pronounced Listeni/ˈjuːtkə/) is a city in the Mohawk Valley and the seat of Oneida County, New York, United States. The tenth-most-populous city in New York, its population was 62,235 in the 2010 U.S. census. Located on the Mohawk River at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, Utica is approximately 90 miles (145 km) northwest of Albany and 45 miles (72 km) east of Syracuse. Although Utica and the neighboring city of Rome have their own metropolitan area, both cities are also represented and influenced by the commercial, educational and cultural characteristics of the Capital District and Syracuse metropolitan areas.

Formerly a river settlement inhabited by the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy, Utica attracted European-American settlers from New England during and after the American Revolution. In the 19th century, immigrants strengthened its position as a layover city between Albany and Syracuse on the Erie and Chenango Canals and the New York Central Railroad. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the city's infrastructure contributed to its success as a manufacturing center and defined its role as a worldwide hub for the textile industry. Utica's 20th-century political corruption and organized crime gave it the nicknames "Sin City", and later, "the city that God forgot".

Like other Rust Belt cities, Utica had an economic downturn beginning in the mid-20th century. The downturn consisted of industrial decline due to globalization and the closure of textile mills, population loss caused by the relocation of jobs and businesses to suburbs and to Syracuse, and poverty associated with socioeconomic stress and a decreased tax base. With its low cost of living, the city has become a melting pot for refugees from war-torn countries around the world, encouraging growth for its colleges and universities, cultural institutions and economy.


Several theories exist about the history of the name "Utica". Although surveyor Robert Harpur stated that he named the village, the most accepted theory involves a 1798 meeting at Bagg's Tavern (a resting place for travelers passing through the village) where the name was picked from a hat holding 13 suggestions, Utica being included because it is the name of a city of antiquity (several other upstate New York cities had adopted classical Mediterranean city names earlier, such as Troy, New York (1789) and Rome, New York (1796), or were to later, as with Syracuse, New York (1847)).


Iroquois natives and European settlement

An 1802 engraved map of Utica. The Mohawk River is at the top, and Bagg's Tavern is at the center right.
Utica index map
This 1883 index map shows the development around Utica and Bagg's Square, with the Erie Canal (now Oriskany Street) and Chenango Canal towards the upper-right.

Utica was established on the site of Old Fort Schuyler, built by English colonists for defense in 1758 during the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War against France. Prior to construction of the fort, the Mohawk, Onondaga and Oneida tribes had occupied this area south of the Great Lakes region as early as 4000 BC. The Mohawk were the largest and most powerful tribe in the eastern part of the Mohawk Valley. Colonists had a longstanding fur trade with them, in exchange for firearms and rum. The tribe's dominating presence in the region prevented the Province of New York from expanding past the middle of the Mohawk Valley until after the American Revolutionary War, when the Iroquois were forced to cede their lands as allies of the defeated British.

The land housing Old Fort Schuyler was part of a 20,000-acre (80.94 km²) portion of marshland granted by King George II to New York governor William Cosby on January 2, 1734. Since the fort was located near several trails (including the Great Indian Warpath), its position—on a bend at a shallow portion of the Mohawk River—made it an important fording point. The Mohawk called the bend Unundadages ("around the hill"), and the Mohawk word appears on the city's seal.

During the American Revolution, border raids from British-allied Iroquois tribes harried the settlers on the frontier. George Washington ordered Sullivan's Expedition, Rangers, to enter Central New York and suppress the Iroquois threat. More than 40 Iroquois villages were destroyed and their winter stores, causing starvation. In the aftermath of the war, numerous European-American settlers migrated into the state and this western region from New England, especially Connecticut.

In 1794 a state road, Genesee Road, was built from Utica west to the Genesee River. That year a contract was awarded to the Mohawk Turnpike and Bridge Company to extend the road northeast to Albany, and in 1798 it was extended. The Seneca Turnpike was key to Utica's development, replacing a worn footpath with a paved road. The village became a rest and supply area along the Mohawk River for goods and the many people moving through Western New York to and from the Great Lakes.

The boundaries of the village of Utica were defined in an act passed by the New York State Legislature on April 3, 1798. Utica expanded its borders in subsequent 1805 and 1817 charters. On April 5, 1805, the village's eastern and western boundaries were expanded, and on April 7, 1817, Utica separated from Whitestown on its west. After completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the city's growth was stimulated again.

The municipal charter was passed by the state legislature on February 13, 1832. The city's growth during the 19th century is indicated by the increase in its population; in 1845 the United States Census ranked Utica as the 29th-largest in the country (with 20,000 residents), more than the populations of Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, respectively. In the latter part of the century, Chicago became a boomtown based on resource extraction and processing from the Midwest, and as a railroad center.

Industry, trade, and slavery

Utica 1850s
Bird's-eye view of Utica over Bagg's Square in the 1850s, showing the smoke from numerous factory chimneys

Utica's location on the Erie and Chenango canals encouraged industrial development, allowing the transport of anthracite from northeastern Pennsylvania for local manufacturing and distribution. Utica's economy centered around the manufacture of furniture, heavy machinery, textiles and lumber. The combined effects of the Embargo Act of 1807 and local investment enabled further expansion of the textile industry. Like other upstate New York cities, mills in Utica processed cotton from the Deep South, a slave society. Much of the New York economy was closely involved with slavery; in the antebellum period, half of New York's exports were related to cotton.

In addition to the canals, transport in Utica was bolstered by railroads running through the city. The first was the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road, which became the Utica and Schenectady Railroad in 1833. Its 78-mile (126 km) connection between Schenectady and Utica was developed in 1836 from the right-of-way previously used by the Mohawk and Hudson River railway. Later lines, such as the Syracuse and Utica Railroad, merged with the Utica and Schenectady to form the New York Central Railroad, which originated as a 20th-century forest railway in the Adirondacks.

During the 1850s, Utica was known to aid more than 650 fugitive slaves; it played a major role as a station in the Underground Railroad. The city was on a slave escape route from the Southern Tier to Canada by way of Albany, Syracuse and Rochester. The route, used by Harriet Tubman to travel to Buffalo, guided slaves to pass through Utica on the New York Central Railroad right-of-way en route to Canada. Utica was the locus for Methodist preacher Orange Scott's antislavery sermons during the 1830s and 1840s, and Scott formed an abolitionist group there in 1843. Despite efforts by local abolitionists, pro-slavery riots and mobs, who wanted to protect the cotton mills, forced many abolitionist meetings to other cities.

20th century to present

Newsboys for the Utica Saturday Globe, 1910

The early 20th century brought rail advances to Utica, with the New York Central electrifying 49 miles (79 km) of track from the city to Syracuse in 1907 for its West Shore interurban line. In 1902, the Utica and Mohawk Valley Railway connected Rome to Little Falls with a 37.5-mile (60.4 km) electrified line through Utica.

The Busy Corner
Looking north towards the corner of Genesee and Bleecker streets, c. 1900–1915. Streetcars can be seen crossing a bridge over the Erie Canal.

By the 1950s, Utica was known as "Sin City" because of the extent of its corruption at the hands of the Democratic Party political machine. During the late 1920s, trucker Rufus Elefante rose to power although he never ran for office. Originally a Republican, Elefante's power was enhanced by support from New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Waves of Italian, Irish, Polish and Lebanese Maronite immigrants worked in the city's industries in the early part of the 20th century. Until the 1980s, organized crime had a strong role in the city.

Strongly affected by the deindustrialization that took place in other Rust Belt cities, Utica suffered a major reduction in manufacturing activity during the second half of the 20th century. The 1954 opening of the New York State Thruway (which bypassed the city) and declines in activity on the Erie Canal and railroads throughout the United States also contributed to a poor local economy. During the 1980s and 1990s, major employers such as General Electric and Lockheed Martin began to close plants in Utica and Syracuse.

With city jobs moved to the towns and villages around Utica during the suburbanization of the postwar period. This led to the expansion of the nearby Town of New Hartford and the village of Whitesboro. Utica's lack of quality academic and educational choices, when compared to Syracuse under an hour away, contributed to its decline in local businesses and jobs as some economic activity moved to Syracuse during the 1990s. Utica's population fell while population in the county increased, reflecting a statewide trend of decreasing urban populations outside New York City. Residents who remain in the city struggle to handle poverty issues stemming from social and economic conditions caused partially by a smaller tax base; this adversely affects schools and public services.

Despite the city's economic decline, it has benefited from a low cost of living, attracting immigrants and refugees from around the world. Among the new waves of immigrants are Muslim Bosnians and Buddhist Vietnamese. Further bolstering the city are its commercial, educational and cultural ties to the Capital District and Syracuse metropolitan areas.

In 2010, Utica, the focus of local, regional and statewide economic-revitalization efforts, developed its first comprehensive master plan in more than a half-century.


Utica NY View From Mountain
Utica as viewed from the northern hills of the city
Mohawk Hudson Valley from space
November 1985 photo of the Mohawk Valley from Space Shuttle Challenger, with Utica center-left and Albany center-right

According to the United States Census Bureau, Utica has a total area of 17.02 square miles (44.1 km2)—16.76 square miles (43.4 km2) of land and 0.26 square miles (0.67 km2) (1.52 percent) of water. The city is located at New York's geographic center, adjacent to the western border of Herkimer County, New York, and at the southwestern base of the Adirondack Mountains. Utica and its suburbs are bound by the Allegheny Plateau in the south and the Adirondack Mountains in the north, and the city is 456 feet (139 m) above sea level. The city is 90 miles (145 km) northwest of Albany and 45 miles (72 km) east of Syracuse.


The city's Mohawk name, Unundadages ("around the hill") refers to a bend in the Mohawk River that flows around the city's elevated position as seen from the Deerfield Hills in the north. The Erie Canal and Mohawk River pass through northern Utica; northwest of downtown is the Utica Marsh, a group of cattail wetlands between the Erie Canal and Mohawk River (partially in the town of Marcy) with a variety of animals, plants and birds. During the 1850s, plank roads were built through the marshland surrounding the city. Utica's suburbs have more hills and cliffs than the city. Located where the Mohawk Valley forms a wide floodplain, the city has a generally sloping, flat topography.

Utica street signs
Eighteenth- and 19th-century families, individuals and landowners are evoked by many Utica street names.


Utica Marsh at Sunset
The Utica Marsh is a series of wetlands north of the city.

Utica's architecture features many styles that are also visible in comparable areas of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, including Greek Revival, Italianate, French Renaissance, Gothic Revival and Neoclassical. The modernist 1972 Utica State Office Building, at 17 floors and 227 feet (69 m), is the city's tallest.

Early settlers and property owners contributed to the development of the city, and many families and individuals are remembered in street names. Streets laid out when Utica was a village had more irregularities than those built later in the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result of the city's location (adjacent to the Mohawk River), many streets parallel the river, so they do not run strictly east-west or north–south. Remnants of Utica's early electric-rail systems can be seen in the West and South neighborhoods, where the rails were set into the streets.


Street Running, Schuyler Street Utica New York
A CSX train sharing Schuyler Street in West Utica

Utica's neighborhoods have historically been defined by their residents, allowing them to develop their own individuality. Racial and ethnic groups, social and economic separation and the development of infrastructure and new means of transportation have shaped neighborhoods, with groups shifting between them as a result.

West Utica (or the West Side) was historically home to German, Irish and Polish immigrants. The Corn Hill neighborhood in the city center had a significant Jewish population. East Utica (or the East Side) is a cultural and political center dominated by Italian immigrants. North of downtown is the Triangle neighborhood, home to the city's African American and Jewish populations. Neighborhoods formerly dominated by one or more groups saw other groups arrive, such as Bosnians and Latin Americans in former Italian neighborhoods and the Welsh in Corn Hill. Bagg Commemorative Park and Bagg's Square West (Utica's historic centers) are in the northeastern portion of downtown, with Genesee Street on the west and Oriskany Street on the south.

Historic Places

The following are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • Byington Mill (Frisbie & Stansfield Knitting Company)
  • Calvary Episcopal Church
  • Roscoe Conkling House
  • Doyle Hardware Building
  • First Baptist Church of Deerfield
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Fort Schuyler Club Building
  • Globe Woolen Company Mills
  • Grace Church
  • John C. Hieber Building
  • Hurd & Fitzgerald Building
  • Lower Genesee Street Historic District
  • Memorial Church of the Holy Cross
  • Millar-Wheeler House
  • Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute
  • New Century Club
  • Rutger-Steuben Park Historic District
  • St. Joseph's Church
  • Stanley Theater
  • Tabernacle Baptist Church
  • Union Station
  • U.S. Post Office, Court House and Custom House
  • Utica Armory, Utica Daily Press Building
  • Utica Parks and Parkway Historic District
  • Utica Public Library
  • Utica State Hospital
  • Gen. John G. Weaver House


Utica has a continental climate with four distinct seasons and is in the humid continental climate (or warm-summer climate: Köppen Dfb) zone, characterized by cold winters and temperate summers. Summer daytime temperatures range from 70–82 °F (21-28 °C), with an average winter daytime temperature below -3 °C (27 °F). The city is in USDA plant hardiness zone 5a, and native vegetation can tolerate temperatures from -10 °F to -20 °F (-28.9 °C to -26.1 °C).

Winters are cold and snowy; Utica receives lake-effect snow from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Utica is colder on average than other Great Lakes cities because of its location in a valley and susceptibility to north winds; temperatures in the single digits or below zero Fahrenheit are not uncommon on winter nights. Annual precipitation (based on a 30-year average from 1981–2010) is 42.1 inches (107 cm), falling on an average of 171 days.


Utica population history 2010
Utica's population halted a forty-year decline in 2010, influenced by an influx of refugees and immigrants.
Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 2,972
1830 8,323 180.0%
1840 12,782 53.6%
1850 17,565 37.4%
1860 22,529 28.3%
1870 28,804 27.9%
1880 33,914 17.7%
1890 44,007 29.8%
1900 56,383 28.1%
1910 74,419 32.0%
1920 94,156 26.5%
1930 101,740 8.1%
1940 100,518 −1.2%
1950 100,489 0.0%
1960 100,410 −0.1%
1970 91,611 −8.8%
1980 75,632 −17.4%
1990 68,637 −9.2%
2000 60,523 −11.8%
2010 62,235 2.8%
Est. 2015 61,100 −1.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

Although Utica's population is predominantly European American, it has diversified since the 1990s. New immigrants and refugees have included Bosnians (displaced by the Bosnian War), Russians, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Latinos. More than 15 languages are spoken in the city. Utica has a low cost of living but its industrial and economic decline have posed difficulties for people trying to make a new start.

The city is the tenth most populous in New York, the seat of Oneida County, and (with Schenectady) a focal point of the six-county Mohawk Valley region. According to a U.S. Census estimate, the Utica–Rome Metropolitan Statistical Area decreased in population from 299,397 in 2010 to 296,615 on July 1, 2014 and its population density was about 3,818 people per square mile (1,474/km²). Counties in the Mohawk Valley have a combined population of 622,133.

In the 2010 United States Census, Utica's population was 62,235. Sixty-nine percent of the population was European American (of which 64.5 percent was non-Hispanic white), 15.3 percent was African American, and 0.3 percent was American Indian or Alaska Native. Asians were 7.2 percent of the city's population (3.5 percent Burmese, 1.5 percent Vietnamese, 0.7 percent Cambodian, 0.4 percent Indian, 0.2 percent Chinese, and 0.7 percent other Asian; numbers do not add up to 7.2 percent due to rounding), Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were 0.1 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 10.5 percent (6.8 percent Puerto Rican, 1.5 percent Dominican, 0.4 percent Mexican, 0.3 percent Salvadoran, 0.2 percent Ecuadoran, 0.1 percent Cuban and 1.2 percent other Hispanic or Latino). Other races were 3.9 percent, and multiracial individuals made up four percent of the population.

Median income for a Utica household was $30,818. Per capita income was $17,653, and 29.6 percent of the population were below the poverty threshold.

Racial composition 2010 1990 1970 1950
White 69.0% 86.7% 94.1% 98.4%
 —Non-Hispanic 64.5% 84.8% 91.2% n/a
African American 15.3% 10.5% 5.6% 1.6%
American Indians and Alaska Natives 0.3% 0.3% 0.2% n/a
Asian 7.2% 1.1% 0.1% n/a
Other race 3.9% 1.5% 0.1% n/a
Two or more races 4.0% n/a n/a n/a
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 10.5% 3.4% 0.9% n/a


Boilermaker race
Participants in Utica's annual Boilermaker Road Race

Utica's position in the northeastern United States has allowed the blending of cultures and traditions. The city shares characteristics with other cities in Central New York, including its dialect (Inland Northern American English, also present in other Rust Belt cities such as Buffalo, Elmira and Erie, Pennsylvania).

Utica shares a cuisine with the mid-Atlantic states, with local and regional influences. The city's melting pot of immigrant and refugee cuisines, including Dutch, Italian, German, Irish and Bosnian, has introduced dishes such as ćevapi and pasticciotti to the community. Utica staple foods include chicken riggies, Utica greens, half-moons, mushroom stew, and tomato pie. Other popular dishes are pierogi, penne alla vodka, and sausage and peppers. Utica has long had ties to the brewing industry. The family-owned Matt Brewing Company resisted the bankruptcies and plant closings that came with the industry consolidation under a few national brands. As of 2012, it was ranked the 15th-largest brewery by sales in the United States.

Utica greens in skillet
A skillet of Utica greens

The annual 15-kilometre (9.3 mi) Boilermaker Road Race, organized by the city in conjunction with the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, attracts runners from the region and around the world, including Kenya and Romania. The Children's Museum of Natural History, Science and Technology, next to Union Station, opened in 1963. In 2002 the museum partnered with NASA, featuring exhibits and events from the agency. The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, founded in 1919, features a PrattMWP program in cooperation with the Pratt Institute, and permanent collections and rotating exhibits.

The Utica Psychiatric Center is housed in a Greek Revival structure that was an insane asylum, and the birthplace of the Utica crib—a restraining device frequently used at the asylum from the mid-19th century to 1887. The Stanley Center for the Arts, a mid-sized concert and performance venue, was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in 1928 and today features theatrical and musical performances by local and touring groups. The Hotel Utica, designed by Esenwein & Johnson in 1912, became a nursing and residential-care facility during the 1970s. Notable guests had included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Judy Garland and Bobby Darin. It was restored as a hotel in 2001.

Parks and recreation

Utica's parks system consists of 677 acres (274 ha) of parks and recreation centers; most of the city's parks have community centers and swimming pools. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who designed New York City's Central Park and Delaware Park in Buffalo, designed the Utica Parks and Parkway Historic District. Olmsted also designed Memorial Parkway, a 4-mile (6.4 km) tree-lined boulevard connecting the district's parks and encircling the city's southern neighborhoods. The district includes Roscoe Conkling Park, the 62-acre F.T. Proctor Park, the Parkway, and T.R. Proctor Park.

The city's municipal golf course, Valley View (designed by golf-course architect Robert Trent Jones), is in the southern part of the city near the town of New Hartford. The Utica Zoo and the Val Bialas Ski Chalet, an urban ski slope featuring skiing, snowboarding, outdoor skating, and tubing, are also in south Utica in Roscoe Conkling Park. Smaller neighborhood parks in the district include Addison Miller Park, Chancellor Park, Seymour Park, and Wankel Park.

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