The History of Alexandria Bay, NY

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       Alex Bay



Alexandria Bay, as well as the surrounding area, has always been a location that was noted for its beauty, its vast resources and its spiritual being. Long before Europeans sailed over and settled into North America, the tribes of the Iroquois Indians called this area home. They lived and flourished richly off the treasures found in the waters and on the land. It is estimated that European settlers and missionaries began venturing into Upstate New York in the late 1500’s or early 1600’s and they too fell in love with the paradise.

James LeRay, a landholder in the early 1800s, had this area surveyed. He liked what he found and created a settlement. Alexandria Bay was founded at this time (1817 – 1818) and named for his son Alexander. Because of the location it didn’t take long for the little settlement to become a busy port. During the late 1800’s Alexandria Bay became a bustling community and a major fueling stop for steam ships traveling the St. Lawrence River.

Alexandria Bay continued to grow and at times seem to burst at the seams with affluent visitors from all over the country wanting to soak up the luxury offered at the extravagant hotels or on the opulent boats cruising the river. Prosperity was the norm and this was the composition of Alexandria Bay, until the depression hit. The depression was devastating to this area. The once wealthy visitors no longer had any money so they no longer visited the area. Businesses closed, many people lost jobs and the economy of the area, like the rest of the nation, crashed.

After The Great Depression Alexandria Bay never regained her grandeur again. Some of the grand homes remain today but many of the homes burned during the depression, some of them under suspicious circumstances. The luxury hotels are also gone with only the written accounts of the grand parties and beautiful people remaining.

A large boost to the area economy occurred in the 1950s with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway which linked the Great Lakes region to global markets. Work on the Seaway began in September 1954. This was a mammoth project. New bridges were either modified (without disrupting traffic) or built, new channels were dug and existing ones dredged. Excavators uncovered rock formations so tough that new methods and stronger machinery were needed. The related power development flooded 100 square miles; land was expropriated and entire communities were resettled. Some 6,500 people were moved to new homes and approximately 550 dwellings were moved. Completion of the joint U.S.-Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway navigation project was completed in 4 short years.

Today Alexandria Bay and the 1000 Islands Region is an international destination for a wide variety of tourists. The waters of the St. Lawrence River have a year-round beauty, perfect for the nature lover and the sportsman. On shore you will find quaint shops, restaurants and things to do that will fill a day in a blink of an eye! Whether you are looking for family activities, world-class fishing, romantic evenings, top-notch dive sites or just a little rest or relaxation, then Alexandria Bay is the place to be!


Jeri Winkler
The Secret Assistant

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