Before New York was a state, it was one of the 13 original colonies. Founded by the Dutch in 1628, when it was called "New Netherland," the colony of New York eventually came under British rule. During this time, towns developed into thriving cities. Then, as now, New York City was the largest city in colonial New York, but others were important, too.
New York City
Colonial New York City, much like today, was a busy, thriving commercial center. It was more ethnically and linguistically diverse than most other cities in the colonies. Because of its port and geographic proximity to Philadelphia and Boston, New York City was a major trading center. Originally, New York City was confined to the island of Manhattan; the other boroughs that make up present-day New York City were incorporated later.
Albany was the second-most important city in the colony of New York. It, too, was originally owned by the Dutch, who called it "New Orange." The British took over and renamed it after the Lord of Albany. Its location on the Hudson River helped Albany to prominence as a trading center and a point of access to the resource-rich territories farther north. It was a politically important city even before being named the state capital. Albany was also a militarily strategic place during the Revolutionary War.
Brooklyn remained an independent city until well after America gained independence. Its colonial name comes from the Dutch for "broken land." Slaves comprised one-third of the population at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. While not as commercially busy as Manhattan, Brooklyn nevertheless was the site of a key battle during the war for independence.
Rochester was an important town that bordered the frontier lands of New York state. Parcels of land doled out to early settlers grew into a thriving settlement. Colonial Rochester was more agricultural than some other colonial New York cities, but its early growth hinted at the much greater expansion that was to come in the next century.