General History

Land Use Characteristics

Cohoes is located in upstate New York at the mouth of the Mohawk River where it joins the Hudson River in the Capital District. The elevation above mean sea level varies from 10 to 310 feet. The Mohawk River runs across the northern boundary from west to east and drops approximately 170 feet before it empties into the Hudson River runs along its easterly boundary.

The city may be divided into three areas:
  • The Islands (Van Schaick and Simmons)
  • The River Plain
  • The Western Plateau
The Hudson River is on the easterly side of Van Schaick Island, and this area was originally developed as a transportation and industrial corridor.

The original Erie Canal and Champlain Canals were built along the linear river plain as well as the Delaware and Hudson Railroads. In the middle and late nineteenth century, several of the world's largest knitting mills were constructed here, downstream from the Cohoes Falls, to take advantage of water power through a series of canals. Several brick mill houses were built above and below the mills, the central business district developed along Remsen Street.

Cohoes was originally a manufacturing center. The textile mills took advantage of the water power. However, with the advent of cheaper electric power and labor force in the South, this industry has relocated over the decades. The original industrial buildings are not conductive to compete with modern facilities. Still, Cohoes has a decent amount of industrial activity.

Historic Change

The City of Cohoes, located at the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, was developed on land bought from the Indians in 1630 by Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, a director of the Dutch West India Company. Up to the time of the revolution, Cohoes was strictly an agricultural area.

With the availability of abundant water power, manufacturing and commercial operations began locating in Cohoes. The first major manufacturing was the Cohoes Company, which developed cheap water power and offered inducements to industrialists to locate in Cohoes. With the beginning of industrial development, the population rose from 150 in 1840 to 4,229 in 1850. An economic depression from 1840 to 1842 restarted, but did not halt, the expansion in Cohoes.

The Civil War marked the beginning of rapid growth in Cohoes. The population of Cohoes in 1865 was 8,795, by 1870, it was 15,357. The amount of investment in capital facilities by 1870 was more than $20 million, an increase of over $17 million in five years. From 1867 to 1872, employment rose from 2,729 to 7,752.

By 1870, the City of Cohoes was an established manufacturing center, especially of textiles. Among many other industries in Cohoes there were six large cotton mills running 203,000 spindles, eighteen knitting mills, two foundries, and three machine shops. During the rest of the 19th century, the population of Cohoes increased.