Among other things, the Dongan Charter of 1686 defined Albany's municipal borders. Its area - the original "freedom of Albany" or "city limits" extended north-south from a spot where Governor Stuyvesant had driven a stake into the ground in 1652 (a place near the river bank roughly where today's Clinton Avenue would run into the Hudson), and then south, along the river, to the tip of Castle Island (roughly where today's Gansevoort Street-extended would hit the Hudson). Those parallel lines (roughly a mile apart) then extended northwest "into the woods" for sixteen miles to a place called "Sandy Kil" - or almost to Schenectady. By comparison, today's Rensselaer Lake - also known as "Six Mile Waterworks" located west of Fuller Road is roughly six miles from the Hudson River.
The city's original boundaries are shown clearly on the Yates Map of 1770 and on the De Witt maps made during the 1790s. Over the next two hundred years, the city fathers annexed considerable new land - chiefly along the Hudson where Albany annexed part of developing Watervliet. At the same time, Albany ceded much of its western acreage to the Van Rensselaers and then to the towns of Bethlehem, Colonie, and Guilderland.
Today, the Albany "city limits" are defined by natural and cultural features. The city's southern border extends from the lower tip of the Port of Albany West along "the Normanskill" and its feeder stream - "the Krumkill", to the southern boundary of the University at Albany's uptown campus. It then follows Warren Street-extended west to Willow Street in Guilderland. The westernmost boundary of the city today would run northeast along Willow Street to near its virtual intersection with Railroad Avenue-extended. This is a distance of less than a mile west of New Karner Road (Route 155).
Albany's northern border today begins at the northern edge of the Corning Preserve and runs west along Richard J. Connors Boulevard across Broadway to Albany-Shaker Road. It then continues west in a jagged line (shaped by city and Colonie streets) paralleling the railroad tracks and Railroad Avenue in the Patroon Creek basin. It maintains a westerly orientation across Fuller Road, Rapp Road, and New Karner Road until it meets the western border just beyond the Point-of-Woods housing development.
However, most of Albany's 17th and 18th century residents lived within a half mile of the Hudson River and chiefly in the area east of Eagle Street. The area behind the fort was defined by the so-called King's Highway - a rough wagon road that ran west, through the Pine Bush for eighteen miles to the village of Schenectady. Except for a few roadside taverns and some marginal farms, virtually no one lived in the sandy soil of the pine barrens above the core settlement until the end of the Seven Years War.
The evolution of Albany's municipal boundaries have been described succinctly online under the heading of "Annexations 1815-1967. Click here for a graphic modern representation of Albany's municipal boundaries set in a more regional context.
first posted 2000; last revised 10/16/17