The City of Plattsburgh is located at the mouth of the Saranac River on the western shore of Lake Champlain. It is situated 150 miles north of Albany, New York, 63 miles south of Montreal, Canada and 17 miles northwest of Burlington, Vermont. Plattsburgh is rich in history owing to its strategic location on Lake Champlain. Besides the lake's significant recreational opportunities including boating and fishing, Plattsburgh is an eastern gateway to the enormous Adirondack Park with its hiking, camping, skiing and myriad of wilderness activities.
In 1766 a grant of some 30,000 acres near the mouth of the Saranac River to Count Charles de Fredenburgh brought the first settlement to the area. The American Revolution forced de Fredenburgh to flee to Canada. Lake Champlain's strategic location as a gateway from Canada to the middle of the colonies put it at the center of several conflicts including the seizure of Fort Ticonderoga, the Battle of Lake Champlain at Valcour Island and General John Burgoyne's encampment on Cumberland Head as he moved south down the lakes to Crown Point, Ticonderoga and ultimate defeat at Saratoga.
Settlement of the region became rapid and permanent following the American Revolution . The rights to the old Fredenburgh grant were purchased in 1784 by Zepheniah Platt and others. Plattsburgh was founded in 1785, and by 1810 the population had increased to 3,112 individuals.
At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Lake Champlain's importance again came to the fore as an invasion route from Canada to strike into the heart of the U.S. and split the country in two. On September 11, 1814. Plattsburgh Bay was the site of a battle that changed the course of the war when a fleet under the command of Commodore Thomas Macdonough defeated the larger and better armed British fleet under the command of Captain G. Downey. With the loss of the British fleet, the invasion force of at least 11,000 well-appointed British troops commanded by the Governor-general of Lower Canada, Sir George Prevost, withdrew back to Canada.
Plattsburgh continued to grow throughout the 19th century, becoming a transportation and manufacturing center for the region. Following the Battle of Plattsburgh, the Plattsburgh Barracks army base was established and operated continuously until the late 1990s when Plattsburgh Air Force Base was closed by the government.
In 1889, the New York Legislature authorized establishment of Plattsburgh Normal School as a training school for teachers and nurses. In 1948 it was renamed SUNY Plattsburgh when it joined the State University of New York system. Plattsburgh State University remains an integral part of the Plattsburgh community to this day with an undergraduate enrollment of 5,400. The Plattsburgh area is also home to Clinton Community College offering two-year degrees and certificates in a variety of programs.
A major effort is currently underway to establish the Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute, offering a high-quality FAA and NYS Education Department-approved Part 147 Airframe and Powerplant School at the Plattsburgh International Airport opening in September 2007.
The region is now looking to capitalize on the conversion of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base into a large industrial complex centered around the brand new Plattsburgh International Airport, Plattsburgh Aeronautical Institute and Laurentian Aerospace, a North American wide body aircraft maintenance and repair company.
Economic growth in the Plattsburgh area has become more focused on the city's location as one of the prime gateways between the U.S. and Canada and the Quebec-New York Corridor. The region is attracting growing numbers of manufacturers, assembly operations, distribution services and warehouses, particularly with companies looking to bridge the U.S.-Canada connection.