Classic Tales of Old Dorp: March of time brings new names to streets

Some of Schenectady's street names have remained as they were originally given, such as Jay or Liber

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Schenectady has never been a place where the streets have no names. Today, Hart offers some strange street signs of the past. This column excerpt originally was published Feb. 10, 1981.

People who are relatively new to this area or not yet in the category of “old timer” often ask about a Schenectady street that no longer exists. At least the name doesn’t. Usually, it is in connection with research into a building site or genealogy.

Some of our street names have remained as they were originally given, such as Jay or Liberty streets in about 1800, but not a few have gone through several changes. The earliest examples of name changes have to go back to pre-Revolutionary days, when State Street was known as Lion Street, Washington Avenue was Handelaer’s (or Trader’s) Street, Green Street was Cow Street, College Street was Elbow Street, Union Street was Niskayuna Street.

Time for a change

For some of the more recent changes, let’s go back less than a century. Here were some strange names in 1888.

North Barrett Street, north of Union Street, was Romeyn Street until 1933. McClellan Street was called Clenor Street until about 1890.

Dock Street was a wide dirt road that stretched along the east side of the Erie Canal from State down to what was known then as the “plank road.” Today, it’s part of the sidewalk along the east side of Erie Boulevard, from State to Edison Avenue. Engine Hill was the name given today’s Crane Street, from Broadway to the top of the hill.

Villa Road was that portion of present day Broadway, from Weaver Street to the top of the hill at Bellevue. Fonda Street, today’s North Broadway, was from Union Street to Nott Street, cut off in 1903 when the railroad tracks were raised.

White Street was the name given Clinton Street from State to Liberty streets, back of City Hall. Centre Street (later spelled Center) was the original name for Broadway, lasting until the turn of this century. Ramsay Boulevard (named after Henry Ramsay, the architect and surveyor who lived in that area) later was renamed Germania Avenue.

Water Street, in the vicinity of the community college off lower State Street, ran from 29 State St. down to the river bank. The street was eliminated in the early 1920s, just prior to the widening of Washington Avenue and construction of the Hotel Van Curler (now the community college building).

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