Watertown (city), New York

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Watertown, New York
Watertown public square
The Garland City
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Coordinates: 43°58′32″N75°54′23″W / 43.97556°N 75.90639°W / 43.97556; -75.90639 Coordinates: 43°58′32″N75°54′23″W / 43.97556°N 75.90639°W / 43.97556; -75.90639
CountryUnited States
State New York
County Jefferson
  Type Council-Manager
   Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr.
   City Council
  Total9.4 sq mi (24.3 km2)
  Land9.0 sq mi (23.4 km2)
  Water0.3 sq mi (0.9 km2)
466 ft (142 m)
(2018) [1]
  Density2,996/sq mi (1,156.8/km2)
Demonym(s) Watertownian
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Zip Codes
13601, 13602
Area code(s) 315
FIPS code 36-78608 [2]
GNIS feature ID0968914 [3]
Website www.citywatertown.org

Watertown is a city in the U.S. state of New York and the county seat of Jefferson County. It is situated approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of the Thousand Islands, and along the Black River about 5 miles (8.0 km) east of its mouth at Lake Ontario. It lies 180 miles (290 km) northwest of Albany, the state capital, and 328 miles (530 km) northwest of New York City. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 27,023, [4] an increase of 1.2% since 2000. The U.S. Army post Fort Drum is near the city.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

New York (state) American state

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from its city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State (NYS).

A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Taiwan and the United States. County towns have a similar function in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and historically in Jamaica.


Named after the many falls on the Black River, the city developed early in the 19th century as an industrial and manufacturing center. From years of generating industrial wealth, by the early 20th century the city was said to have more millionaires per capita than any other city in the nation.

Geographically, Watertown is located in the central part of Jefferson County. It lies 70 miles (110 km) north of Syracuse and 31 miles (50 km) south of the Ontario border. The city is served by Watertown International Airport.

Syracuse, New York City in Central New York

Syracuse is a city in and the county seat of Onondaga County, New York, United States. It is the fifth-most populous city in the state of New York following New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, and Yonkers.

Ontario Province of Canada

Ontario is one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada. Located in Central Canada, it is Canada's most populous province accounting for 38.3 percent of the country's population, and is the second-largest province in total area. Ontario is fourth-largest jurisdiction in total area when the territories of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are included. It is home to the nation's capital city, Ottawa, and the nation's most populous city, Toronto, which is also Ontario's provincial capital.

Watertown International Airport

Watertown International Airport is in Jefferson County, New York, six miles west of Watertown. The airport is used for general aviation, but has scheduled passenger service subsidized by the Essential Air Service program. The airport has no scheduled international passenger flights, but is available as an international port of entry for private aircraft on two hours advance notice from pilots.

The city claims to be the birthplace of the five and dime store and the safety pin, and it is the home of Little Trees air fresheners. It manufactured the first portable steam engine. It has the longest continually operating county fair in the United States.[ citation needed ] It holds the Red and Black football franchise, the oldest surviving semi-professional team in the United States.

Safety pin pointed fastener with a locking mechanism, often used to secure clothing and cloth diapers

The safety pin is a variation of the regular pin which includes a simple spring mechanism and a clasp. The clasp serves two purposes: to form a closed loop thereby properly fastening the pin to whatever it is applied to, and to cover the end of the pin to protect the user from the sharp point.

Little Trees

Little Trees are disposable air fresheners shaped like a stylized evergreen tree, marketed for use in motor vehicles, and most commonly seen hanging from rear-view mirrors. They are made of a specially formulated absorbent material produced in a variety of colors and scents.


The Black River Blackriverwatertownny.JPG
The Black River Prelucrare 3D pentru Watertown (Details) - New York.jpg

This was long part of the territory of the Iroquois Confederacy. In historic times, the Onondaga and the Mohawk had occupied this area. After the American Revolutionary War, they and other Iroquois nations were forced to cede most of their land to the United States under the terms of peace arranged by Great Britain. The US sold the land for development, mostly to migrants from New England.

The Onondagapeople are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy in northeast North America. Their traditional homeland is in and around present-day Onondaga County, New York, south of Lake Ontario. They are known as Gana’dagwëni:io’geh to the other Iroquois tribes. Being centrally located, they are considered the "Keepers of the Fire" in the figurative longhouse that shelters the Five Nations. The Cayuga and Seneca have territory to their west and the Oneida and Mohawk to their east. For this reason, the League of the Iroquois historically met at the Iroquois government's capital at Onondaga, as the traditional chiefs do today.

Mohawk people Indigenous tribe from North America

The Mohawk people are the most easterly tribe of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy. They are an Iroquoian-speaking indigenous people of North America, with communities in northern New York State and southeastern Canada, primarily around Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River. As one of the five original members of the Iroquois League, the Mohawk are known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door – the traditional guardians of the Iroquois Confederation against invasions from the east.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America.

The city of Watertown was settled in 1800 by pioneers from New Hampshire, most notably Hart Massey, Henry Coffeen, and Zachariah Butterfield, part of a large migration into New York from New England after the Revolutionary War. These pioneers chose the area due to the Black River, which flowed west into Lake Ontario about five miles away.

New Hampshire U.S. state in the United States

New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. New Hampshire is the 5th smallest by area and the 10th least populous U.S. state.

New England Region in the northeastern United States

New England is a region composed of six states in the northeastern United States: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It is bordered by the state of New York to the west and by the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick to the northeast and Quebec to the north. The Atlantic Ocean is to the east and southeast, and Long Island Sound is to the southwest. Boston is New England's largest city, as well as the capital of Massachusetts. Greater Boston is the largest metropolitan area, with nearly a third of New England's population; this area includes Worcester, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.

Black River (New York) river in New York state, United States

The Black River is a 125-mile-long (201 km) blackwater river that empties into the eastern end of Lake Ontario on the shore of Jefferson County, New York in the United States. The origin of the name is not clear, but it may stem from the natural tannic acid that darkens the water in places. The river flows in a generally northwest direction, with its valley dividing the Adirondack Mountains on the east from the Tug Hill region to the west.

The pioneers' vision was for an industrial center that would draw power from the river. All the land was rough and forested. Elevation was also a problem. The western end of the town was 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 m) higher than the eastern end, with a large depression in the middle. A small stream also passed through the town.

Within a few years, settlers cleared the center of town to create the ambitious Public Square. [5] During the nineteenth century, several significant buildings were constructed around it. Together these have been designated as a historic district and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Public Square (Watertown, New York) United States historic place

Public Square is an open mall that lies in the center of Watertown, New York. The square is listed as Public Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, encompassing 58 contributing buildings, one contributing site, and three contributing objects.

Historic districts in the United States group of buildings, properties, or sites that have been designated as historically or architecturally significant

Historic districts in the United States are designated historic districts recognizing a group of buildings, properties, or sites by one of several entities on different levels as historically or architecturally significant. Buildings, structures, objects and sites within a historic district are normally divided into two categories, contributing and non-contributing. Districts greatly vary in size: some have hundreds of structures, while others have just a few.

National Register of Historic Places Federal list of historic sites in the United States

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. A property listed in the National Register, or located within a National Register Historic District, may qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred in preserving the property.

In 1805 Watertown was designated by the legislature as the county seat of Jefferson County. It was incorporated as a village in 1816.

As industry and businesses flourished, successful residents built substantial retail buildings, churches, and private residences close to the square. The Paddock Arcade, built in 1850 according to European and US models, is the oldest continuously operating enclosed mall in the United States. It is also listed on the NRHP, as are several significant churches and private mansions.

The drop in the Black River at Watertown's location—40 feet (12 m) in the center of town, and 120 feet (37 m) over 2.5 miles (4.0 km)—provided abundant water power for early industry. By the mid-19th century, entrepreneurs had built paper mills and major industries, including one to manufacture the first portable steam engine in 1847. In 1851, the city was joined to Albany and other major cities of the state by the railroad. Other mills were added to the business base, generating revenue to support the city's early public works projects, such as the water system and illuminating gas works in 1853, and a telephone system in 1879.

Watertown claims that Rodman native Frank W. Woolworth conceived the idea of his eponymous mercantile chain while working here in 1878. Woolworth, then employed as a clerk in Moore's Store, set up a successful clearance display of low-priced items. This led to his idea of a store specializing in fixed-price, cut-rate merchandise. Woolworth left Watertown and opened his first store in 1879 in Utica, New York, located to the west in the state.

Among the many manufacturing businesses was the Davis Sewing Machine Company, which originated in Watertown. It was predecessor to George P. Huffman's Huffy Corporation (NYSE: HUF), now an American maker of bicycles and other sporting goods. Little Trees air fresheners were developed in Watertown in 1951; the Car-Freshner Corporation headquarters and manufacturing plant is located here.

In 1869, Watertown was incorporated as a city. In 1920, the city adopted a city manager-style of government. The Jefferson County Courthouse Complex is an example of the substantial architecture of the city, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An early industrial city that earned great wealth for many of its citizens by the turn of the 20th century, Watertown also developed an educated professional class of doctors and lawyers.

A number of factors affected Watertown's progress. The economic center of the country kept moving west following development of the frontier and a shift of population into the Midwest. As Chicago boomed, it attracted many of the younger people from upstate New York for its business and professional opportunities. In the mid-20th century, industrial technology shifted and jobs changed. In the restructuring of railroads and deindustrialization that took place in the mid and late 20th century, Watertown suffered economic and population declines.

Today the city serves as the commercial and financial center for a large rural area. It is the closest major community to Fort Drum and the post's large population of 13,000. Since the city is located just 30 miles (48 km) from the international boundary with Canada via the Thousand Islands Bridge, shopping by Canadian visitors is an important part of the local economy. It also is part of an area receiving numerous tourists and summer residents annually.

Watertown, South Dakota, was named in the city's honor.

===Properties and sites listed on National Register of Historic Places=== [6]

Downtown Watertown Downtown Watertown.jpg
Downtown Watertown


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.3 square miles (24 km2), of which 9.0 square miles (23 km2) are land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) (3.45%) are water.

The Black River flows westward through the city toward Lake Ontario. The Black River is a world-renowned kayaking destination. Competition-level kayaking events, such as the Blackwater Challenge, have been held on the river.

By tradition, the city's name was derived from the abundant water power available from the river. Businesses harnessed water power to create one of the early industrial centers in New York, beginning with paper mills processing lumber.

Thompson Park, a creation of John Charles Olmsted, is located with entrances off Park Circle, Gotham Street, and Franklin Street. [7] [ circular reference ]

Jefferson Community College (JCC) is located in the western part of the city near the county fairgrounds.


Watertown has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), with cold, snowy winters and warm, wet summers. [8] Unless otherwise noted, all figures cited below are from the GHCN station located closer to downtown.

Winters can be very cold: temperatures remain at or below the freezing mark on an average 54 days annually, and fall to 0 °F (−18 °C) or below on an average 20 nights. [9] Moreover, Watertown is located in plant hardiness zone 4b, which means that one can expect the temperature to drop below −20 °F (−29 °C) at least once per year. [10] Summers are mild to warm, and temperatures of 90 °F (32 °C) or above on average occur on only 3.1 days annually. Record temperatures range from −39 °F (−39 °C) on December 29, 1933, up to 99 °F (37 °C) on July 20 and 27, 1894, although the airport has dropped to as low as −43 °F (−42 °C) on January 16, 1994.

Precipitation averages 43.1 inches (1,090 mm), and is distributed fairly uniformly throughout the year, with slightly more during autumn and slightly less during spring and late winter. [9] Since Watertown is situated near the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, it receives a bountiful amount of lake-effect snow, averaging 112 inches (280 cm) of snowfall per winter.

Climate data for Watertown, New York (GHCN station, 151.5 m (497 ft) AMSL), 19812010 normals, extremes 1893present
Record high °F (°C)66
Average high °F (°C)28.3
Average low °F (°C)9.3
Record low °F (°C)−43
Average precipitation inches (mm)3.21
Average snowfall inches (cm)30.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)17.213.812.612.213.212.510.510.912.214.215.317.2161.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Source: NOAA [9] [11]


Historical population
1870 9,336
1880 10,69714.6%
1890 14,72537.7%
1900 21,69647.3%
1910 26,73023.2%
1920 31,28517.0%
1930 32,2052.9%
1940 33,3853.7%
1950 34,3502.9%
1960 33,306−3.0%
1970 30,787−7.6%
1980 27,861−9.5%
1990 29,4295.6%
2000 26,705−9.3%
2010 27,0231.2%
Est. 201825,290 [1] −6.4%
U.S. Decennial Census [13]

As of the census [2] of 2000, there were 26,705 people, 11,036 households, and 6,500 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,981.3 per square mile (1,150.8/km²). There were 12,450 housing units at an average density of 1,389.9 per square mile (536.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.13% White, 4.95% Black or African American, 0.54% Native American, 1.16% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 1.67% from other races, and 2.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.59% of the population. In 2009, the population was estimated at 27,489.

There were 11,036 households out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.7% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.1% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.9% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,429, and the median income for a family was $36,115. Males had a median income of $31,068 versus $21,294 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,354. About 14.4% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.2% of those under age 18 and 11.8% of those age 65 or over.

As of the 2010 US Census, there were 27,023 people residing in the city. The racial makeup of the village was 86.25% White, 6.04% African American, 0.58% Native American, 1.83% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 1.33% from other races, and 3.79% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.59% of the population.

Arts and culture



Watertown is served by the Watertown City School District. The elementary schools are North, Ohio, Knickerbocker, Sherman and Starbuck. The higher level schools are H.T. Wiley Intermediate School, Case Middle School, Watertown High School, and Immaculate Heart Central Elementary, Intermediate, and Junior and Senior High Schools, the Catholic and secular educational institutions. [16] There is also a Faith Fellowship Christian School. Jefferson Community College is a two-year college located in the city as well.



The local newspaper, the Watertown Daily Times , is published seven days a week and serves Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties. The Fort Drum Mountaineer is a weekly newspaper for Fort Drum soldiers and their dependents.


The Watertown market is served by four commercial television stations. The oldest is Carthage-licensed, CBS-affiliated WCNY-TV (channel 7), put on the air in 1954 by the publishers of the Watertown Daily Times. The station changed its call letters to WWNY-TV in 1965. After an unsuccessful struggle against the Federal Communications Commission and its directive for newspapers to divest themselves of television stations held within the same market, the Daily Times sold WWNY-TV to United Communications Corporation of Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1981.

In 2001, United Communications entered into an agreement with Smith Broadcasting to operate a Fox network affiliate with low-power transmitters in Watertown and Massena. After a year of joint operation, UCC took complete ownership of WNYF-CD/WWNY-CD (channel 28). Both WWNY and WNYF were sold to Atlanta-based Gray Television in 2019.

Watertown is also served by PBS member stations WPBS-DT/WNPI-DT (channels 16/18), NBC affiliate WVNC-LD (channel 45), which also operates the area's MyNetworkTV affiliate on its LD2 subchannel, [17] and ABC affiliate WWTI-TV (channel 50), which also operates the area's CW affiliate through The CW Plus.


Watertown is served by a number of radio stations:

Infrastructure and transportation


Watertown was the nexus of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad, which was later absorbed into the New York Central Railroad (NYC) network. Watertown sat at the junction of five different lines, as trains from Syracuse, Rome, Oswego, and Utica passed through Watertown on their way to points along the St. Lawrence River and Canada. The Watertown passenger station, situated along the Black River behind Public Square at what is now J.B. Wise Place, was described as among the finest in the system. With the decline in travel by rail after World War II, however, the last named passenger train with a sleeper section to the town was the Iroquois in 1961, and passenger service to Watertown finally ended in 1964. [19] [20] [21] The station itself was demolished and replaced with a parking lot. Although the rail network is greatly attenuated compared to its peak in the early 20th century, CSX Transportation still transports freight by rail through Watertown.


Interstate 81 runs through the Watertown area. It is a north-south route that runs from near Dandridge, Tennessee north to Hill Island, Ontario, connecting via the Thousand Islands Bridge and a short connecting road to Highway 401 across the Canada–US border. Interstate 81 passes just to the west of the city of Watertown, near Salmon Run Mall. Access to the highway is from Exits 45 (Route 3), 46 (Route 12F), and 47 (Route 12).

U.S. Route 11 runs from eastern New Orleans, Louisiana, to its northern terminus at the Canada–United States border in Rouses Point, New York. U.S. Route 11 runs north-south through the city of Watertown.

Many state highways converge on the city. New York State Route 3 is an east-west route that begins in Sterling and heads north and east to Watertown. NY 3 interchanges with I-81 at the city line. NY 3 heads east into Watertown, overlapping with both US 11 and NY 12 through downtown prior to leaving the city to the northeast to head through the Adirondacks to Plattsburgh.

New York State Route 12 is a north-south route through the city, extending northward to Clayton then following the St. Lawrence Seaway to Morristown. A spur, NY 12E, takes a slightly-longer path through Cape Vincent before rejoining NY 12.

New York State Route 12F is a spur connecting NY 12 in downtown Watertown to New York State Route 180 near the Watertown International Airport in Dexter.


Adirondack Trailways serves both Syracuse, to the south, and Potsdam, to the east, on its U.S. Route 11 run.


Watertown International Airport is a county-owned, public-use airport located in Hounsfield, 6 miles (10 km) west of Watertown's central business district of Watertown. American Eagle has scheduled flights to and from Philadelphia. [22]

Notable people

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New York State Route 283 (NY 283) is an east–west state highway in Jefferson County, New York, in the United States. It extends for 5.79 miles (9.32 km) as a two-lane road from an intersection with U.S. Route 11 (US 11), NY 3, and NY 12 in downtown Watertown to a junction with NY 342 in the town of Le Ray. The route passes through mostly rural areas, with the exception of a dense commercial district around the highway's west end. NY 283 is one of three routes directly connecting Watertown's Public Square to Fort Drum; the others are US 11 and NY 3, which loosely parallel NY 283 between the two locations.

Pamelia Center, New York Census-designated place in New York, United States

Pamelia Center is a hamlet and census-designated place (CDP) in Jefferson County, New York, United States. Its population was 264 as of the 2010 census. The community is located at the junction of New York State Route 37 and New York State Route 342.


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