Watertown (city), New York

This article is about the city. For the adjacent town, see Watertown (town), New York.

Watertown public square

Nickname(s): The Garland City

Location in the state of New York

Coordinates: 43°58′32″N 75°54′23″W / 43.97556°N 75.90639°W / 43.97556; -75.90639Coordinates: 43°58′32″N 75°54′23″W / 43.97556°N 75.90639°W / 43.97556; -75.90639
Country United States
State New York
County Jefferson
Settled 1800
  Type Council-Manager
  Mayor Joseph M. Butler, Jr.
  City Manager Sharon Addison
  City Council
  Total 9.3 sq mi (24.0 km2)
  Land 9 sq mi (23.2 km2)
  Water 0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
Elevation 466 ft (142 m)
Population (2010)
  Total 27,023
  Density 2,996/sq mi (1,157/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Zip Code 13601, 13602
Area code(s) 315
FIPS code 36-78608[1]
GNIS feature ID 0968914[2]
Website www.citywatertown.org

Watertown is a city in the state of New York and the county seat of Jefferson County. It is situated approximately 20 miles (35 km) south of the Thousand Islands, and 70 miles north of Syracuse, NY. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 27,023, an increase of 1.2% since 2000. The U.S. Army post Fort Drum is near the city.

Named after the many falls located on the Black River, the city developed early in the 19th century as a manufacturing center. From years of generating industrial wealth, in 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 72 miles (116 km) northeast of Syracuse, New York and 31 miles (50 km) south of the Ontario border. The city is served by Watertown International Airport.

The city claims to be the birthplace of the five and dime store and the safety pin, and 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 and holds the Red and Black football franchise, the oldest surviving semi-professional team in the United States.


The Black River

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 American Revolutionary War. These pioneers chose the area due to the Black River. The pioneers' vision was for an industrial center that would draw power from the Black River. All the land was rough and unclear. 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, the center of town was cleared for the ambitious Public Square.[3] Together with the 19th century structures that created a streetscape around it, this has been designated a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As industry and businesses flourished, residents built substantial retail buildings, churches and private residences. 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 listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as are several significant churches and private mansions.

The drop in the Black River at Watertown's location provided abundant water power for early industry. By the mid-19th century, entrepreneurs had built paper mills and major industries, including the first portable steam engine in 1847. In 1851, the city was joined to the state by the railroad. Other mills rapidly joined the business base and generated revenue to support early public works projects like 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 mercantile chain while working there in 1878. Woolworth, 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 Utica, New York in 1879.

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.

In 1805 Watertown became the county seat of Jefferson County, New York, and it was made an incorporated village in 1816. 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, and Chicago drew off many of its younger people for business and professional opportunities. Industrial technology shifted and jobs changed. In the deindustrialization of the mid-20th century, Watertown suffered economic and population declines.

The city has been working in recent decades to redevelop its downtown and revive the heart of the city. It is capitalizing on its rich architectural heritage, compact and walkable retail center, and well-designed residential areas.

Today the city serves as the commercial and financial center for a large rural area. It is the major community closest to Fort Drum and the post's large population. Since the city is located just 25 miles (40 km) from the international boundary via the Thousand Islands Bridge, shopping by Canadian visitors is an important part of the local economy.

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

In addition to the Paddock Arcade and Public Square, Emerson Place, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Jefferson County Courthouse Complex, Paddock Mansion, Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, Emma Flower Taylor Mansion, Thomas Memorial AME Zion Church, Trinity Episcopal Church and Parish House, and Watertown Masonic Temple are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

Downtown Watertown


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.3 square miles (24 km2). 9.0 square miles (23 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it (3.45%) is 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. Paper mills were historically a major industry for the city and contributed to its 19th-century wealth.

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


Watertown has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), with cold, snowy winters and warm, wet summers.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[6] 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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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) 17.2 13.8 12.6 12.2 13.2 12.5 10.5 10.9 12.2 14.2 15.3 17.2 161.8
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 11.9 9.8 6.1 1.6 0 0 0 0 0 0.2 3.3 10.5 43.4
Source: NOAA[6][8]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201526,780[10]−0.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]

As of the census[1] 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.

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.[21] 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 three 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 (channel 28). Watertown is also served by PBS station WPBS-TV (channel 16), NBC affiliate WVNC-LD (channel 45)[22] and ABC affiliate WWTI-TV (channel 50), which also operates the area's CW affiliate through The CW Plus.

MyNetwork TV affiliate WNYS-TV (channel 43) in Syracuse is technically the default MyNetworkTV affiliate for the area; however the northern fringe of its signal ends just south of the city proper; nor is WNYS-TV carried on local cable systems.

Infrastructure and transportation


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.

U.S. Route 11 runs from eastern New Orleans, Louisiana, to its northern terminus at the Canada–US border in Rouses Point, New York. US 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 NY 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.

Notable people


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