The British built a stockade on the site of present-day Geneva circa 1755. Several Seneca nation villages thrived there prior to and concurrently with the British presence, until the Sullivan expedition drove the Iroquois out in 1779. Between the end of the Revolution and Geneva’s incorporation in 1806, the area developed rapidly, with the establishment of the Post Office, the building of the Geneva Hotel, the publication of the Ontario Gazette – the first newspaper in the region, and the introduction of a public water system. By the time the village incorporated, Geneva was home to more than 300 people.
With the opening of the Erie Canal and, later, the railroad, Geneva became an important center of agriculture, trade, industry and education. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor, graduated from Geneva College (later renamed Hobart) in 1849, and in 1880, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station was established. Affiliated with Cornell University since the 1920s, the Experiment Station has been instrumental in developing new varieties of grapes particularly well suited to the Finger Lakes Region.
In response to World War II, the Seneca Army Depot and Sampson Naval Base sprang up south of Geneva in Seneca County. Geneva’s economy flourished due to the numerous servicemen and their families who flocked to city businesses for goods, services and entertainment. In fact, between 1939 and 1943, the number of marriages in Geneva more than doubled. With the decline in the numbers of servicemen after the Korean War and the construction of the NYS Thruway that bypassed the city, however, its economy shrank.
Geneva, known as “The Lake Trout Capital of the World,” has recently benefited from revitalization efforts that have led to economic, architectural and cultural improvements. This city of about 14,000 residents at the north end of Seneca Lake boasts around 200 unique businesses specializing in apparel and accessories, gifts, real estate, health and wellness, massage, jewelry, flowers, furniture, auto supplies, hardware, books, music, art, antiques, barber shops and salons, theaters, restaurants and bars, as well as a wealth of world-class entertainment, historic attractions and outdoor recreation venues.