City Historian

The City of Plattsburgh is a community that is extraordinary in its orientation to Lake Champlain and the Saranac River. Two internationally important events – the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776 and the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay in 1814 – have shaped the city’s history. Residents value and celebrate the significance of their rich heritage. Based largely on Samuel de Champlain’s visit to the area in 1609, the Champlain Valley was French until 1763.

Plattsburgh traces its roots back to the year 1784 when Zephaniah Platt of Poughkeepsie and his associates, including two of his brothers, obtained a state grant of nearly 33,000 acres of land along the Saranac River. In March 1785 Charles Platt and the first group of settlers arrived to build their cabins and mills. In 1788, the state legislature created Clinton County, and in 1815 the legislature made a village at Plattsburgh, geographically and politically separate from the rest of the town. The village became a city in 1902.

Plattsburgh Barracks
The former Plattsburgh Barracks was in active use from 1814 to 1995. Its historic structures and picturesque grounds are now open to the public. In 1915, prior to American involvement in the First World War, the barracks gave rise to the movement for civilian military preparedness that became known as the “Plattsburgh Idea,” the predecessor to today’s ROTC.

Riverside Cemetery
Riverside Cemetery on Steltzer Road contains the graves of British and American officers killed in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Also buried here are many Plattsburgh notables, including Zephaniah and Charles Platt, Peter Sailly, Henry Delord, William Bailey, Benjamin Mooers, Lucretia Davidson, and Smith Weed.

Guide to Lake City
A free Guide to the Lake City is available at City Hall, built in 1917 in the Classical design of John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. Pope selected the same Indiana Limestone for the Thomas Macdonough Monument (1926) across the street.