Schenectady is located approximately 24 km (15 miles) northwest of Albany, New York. It is accessed from the NYS Thruway (I-90) at exits 25 and 26 which are the two ends of Schenectady's connector interstate of I-890. It can also be accessed from I-87 via 4 lane surface routes of NY 7 (I-87 exit 6) and NY 5 (I-87 exit 2)
The name "Schenectady" is derived from a Mohawk word, skahnéhtati, meaning "beyond the pines". Schenectady was founded on the south side of the Mohawk River by Dutch colonists in the 17th century, many from the Albany area. They were prohibited from the fur trade by the Albany monopoly, which kept its control after the English takeover in 1664. Residents of the new village developed farms on strip plots along the river. Connected to the west via the Mohawk River and Erie Canal, Schenectady developed rapidly in the 19th century as part of the Mohawk Valley trade, manufacturing and transportation corridor. By 1824 more people worked in manufacturing than agriculture or trade, and the city had a cotton mill, processing cotton from the Deep South. Numerous mills in New York had such ties with the South. Through the 19th century, nationally influential companies and industries developed in Schenectady, including General Electric and American Locomotive Company (ALCO), which were powers into the mid-20th century.