European Capitals of New York

On October 30, 2011 · 5 Comments

New York is certainly an international locale, a player on the world stage attracting people from every corner of the world. It has been that way for a long time, a point of debarkation for more than two centuries. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised to see the names of so many European capitals diffused within the state.

View European Capitals in New York in a larger map

I counted fifteen European capital cities within the state of New York. I started with a complete list of forty-six capital cities. I threw each name into Google Maps with a ", NY" suffix to find the easy strikes. Next, I ran the names of those that failed to produce a positive hit through US Board on Geographic Names database to find smaller locations that don’t appear on Google. Rome is the largest with nearly 50,000 residents. Most of the others were considerably smaller although I was surprised that most of them registered populations of at least the single-digit thousands.

I didn’t have much luck with some of the more obscure capitals — Baku, Ljubljana, Podgorica, Vaduz, or Yerevan for instance — so maybe we should give that another hundred years and check again.

This started out as a much larger search, incidentally. I focused on New York after noticing that the state appeared on the list time-after-time. A combined Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont gave it an honest run for the money. Even so, New York came out way ahead.

Most of the derivations were as one would expect. People of a certain cultural or national heritage moved to an area and named a town after their homeland. That wasn’t always the case. Here are some of the more interesting stories.

View European Capitals in New York in a larger map

I examined Amsterdam and was heartened to see flowing rivers, including one that ran directly through town. This must have inspired its early Dutch settlers. It’s a scenic place although the image I found doesn’t look exactly like one would expect of a canal in the better-known Amsterdam. Nonetheless, I’ll give them points for trying.

The waters turned on Amsterdam in August 2011 when Hurricane Irene pounded the Mohawk Valley. Unfortunately, this Amsterdam is prone to flooding like the other one.

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Berne holds a place in history as well, although much earlier. It was the sight of the 1781 Dietz Massacre. Those familiar with U.S. history will recognize 1781 as a date falling during a period of warfare that led to American independence, and indeed that is the case in Berne. Here, Iroquois Indians commanded by Loyalists butchered the family of militia Capt. William Deitz in a particularly atrocious manner. Native Americans took the majority of the blame even though it was people of European descent directing the action.

View Larger Map

One might be inclined to believe that a Portuguese community sprang-up improbably along the Canadian border, based upon the existence of Lisbon, NY. It may be a bit more complicated. The town was called Lisburn in some earlier records, which happens to share a name with a town in Northern Ireland. Coincidence? I’m inclined to believe that this one developed organically.

Some other places of interest:

  • Stockholm: Apparently it’s a simple as Swedish surveyors filling voids in the map that decided to name a place after their homeland.
  • Paris: This has more to do with an early settler, Colonel Isaac Paris, than any direct connection to France.
  • Riga: As much as I’d like this Riga to be named after the capital of Latvia, the fact that it’s pronounced RYE-ga rather than REE-ga diminishes the possibility.

Totally Unrelated

Virginia Snow in October

Snow in Virginia in October? Really? October is supposed to be the perfect weather month, the month we wait for all the rest of the year. It’s not supposed to be cold enough for snow. Look! — the grass is still green; the leaves are still on the trees and have barely changed colors. Go away! This is crazy.


On October 30, 2011 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “European Capitals of New York”

  1. Peter says:

    Neighboring Connecticut’s largest European-capital community, the Hartford suburb of Berlin, underwent an unusual sort of name changing when the outbreak of World War I made residents uncomfortable with living in a town named after the enemy’s capital city. Changing a fairly large town’s name to something completely different would have been too costly and complicated. Town officials instead decreed that the pronunciation would change, and henceforth would be BUR-lin. More than 90 years later it’s still pronounced that way.

  2. wangi says:

    Add in the capitals of the UK constituent countries and you’ve got Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburg(h) too.

  3. Joe says:

    Hey buddy! This is a great research you worked with. I’m pretty much surprised European capitals diffused within the state. It’s tremendous news and I’m glad you did it successfully. Cheers 🙂

  4. Dave Love says:

    There’s also a New Berlin, pronounced BER’-lin as Peter says above, in NY State SE of Syracuse where NY-8 crosses NY-80.
    Love your web-site.
    cheers, Dave

  5. art says:

    The name of Lisbon did not develop organically. When the area was cut up into towns in the 1780’s, they were given names of other world cities. There’s also Stockholm, Potsdam, Canton, Hague (now Morristown), and Madrid.

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