Albany lies at the head of the Hudson River, 143 miles (230 km) north of New York City. It is the capital of New York State and serves as a gateway to resort areas in the nearby Catskill, Adirondack, and Berkshire mountains. Among Albany's points of interest are the Schuyler Mansion (1762), Historic Cherry Hill (the 1787 Georgian-style Cherry Hill Mansion where five generations of the Van Rensselaer-Rankin family lived), the State Bank of Albany (1803), the Old Dutch Church (1799), City Hall (1883), the state capitol (1899) in "French Chateau" style and the Joseph Henry Memorial (1817). Visit St. Peter's Church, established in 1715 by Queen Anne of England, viewing its beautiful Queen Anne silver collection and marveling at the magnificent Tiffany Rose Window and mosaic Pavement of the Nave. The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza (completed 1978), includes government, cultural, and convention facilities including the New York State Museum.
Nearby you can explore historic Saratoga Springs, renowned for the beauty of its natural setting, the reputed health-enhancing properties of its waters, and the gaiety of its summer life. Visit the lavish Canfield Casino, which today houses the Museum of the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs, and the Saratoga Race Course, built in 1864 and one of the oldest and prettiest racetracks in the country.
Albany was visited in 1609 by the English navigator Henry Hudson while exploring the river that was later named after him. The city was settled by Europeans in 1614 with the establishment of Fort Nassau, a Dutch trading post and in 1624 Fort Orange was built subsequently becoming the settlement of Beverwyck. Following the surrender of Fort Orange to the British in 1664, the city's name was changed to honour the Duke of York and Albany (later James II).
Albany's reputation as the Cradle of the Union resulted from the meeting here in 1754 of the Albany Congress, which adopted Benjamin Franklin's Plan of Union, a forerunner of the Constitution of the United States. In 1797 the city became the permanent state capital and commercial prosperity followed with the completion of the Champlain and Erie canals and the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, the first steam railway in the United States.
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