During the 1650s, French explorers were the first Europeans to visit the mouth of a river, now called Oswego, pouring into a great lake, now called Ontario. About a century and a half later, only a few years after the American Revolutionary War, Oswego was designated by a young American Congress, during the presidency of John Adams, to be the first port of entry into the United States (1799).
For most of the 17th and 18th centuries (1610 - 1796), Oswego was an important fur-trading site for the French, with trading values approaching as much as $100,000 per year for furs sold in Europe.
The next great export commodity (1796 - 1873) for Oswego was salt from Syracuse. 300,000 bushels were exported in 1830. That grew to 5,000,000 bushels exported in 1858. Ship-building also became important in Oswego. The first was built in 1804, and 23 were built between 1807 and 1817, including at least three used during the War of 1812. The Oswego Canal connected Oswego to the new Barge Canal in 1828, creating the most direct route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.
From 1840 to 1928, Oswego witnessed tremendous growth in lumber shipments, from 19.6 million board feet (mbf) in 1840 to 284.54 mbf in 1870. In the 1870s, Oswego was the largest lumber port in the United States.
Grain trade also was born during the nineteenth century. 18.65 million bushels of grain were traded in Oswego during 1856. In 1841, seven flour mills were located on Oswego River banks. By 1870, there were 20 mills, and Oswego competed with Baltimore, Rochester, and St. Louis, making it one of the most important flour-milling centers in the United States.
From late in the 19th century through the middle of the 20th century, coal was a major export from Pennsylvania through Oswego. 54,000 tons of coal were handled during 1870 in Oswego; by 1940, that amount had grown to nearly 1,000,000 tons. Rail lines within the City of Oswego, were abundant.
The first family to locate in Oswego came in 1796. Oswego was incorporated as a village in 1828, and chartered as a city in 1848, only twenty years after the opening of the very important Oswego Canal. From that point forward, for many decades, Oswego operated as a port under the jurisdiction of the City of Oswego. In 1923, the City of Oswego established a Harbor and Dock Commission to oversee port operations within the city limits. In 1955, the Commission was replaced, through New York State (NYS) legislation, with a new Oswego Port Authority. Its five directors were appointed by the mayor of the city. In 1960, a newer Port of Oswego Authority (POA) was created through additional NYS legislation; its nine directors were to be appointed by the governor of the state.
Between 1960 and 1963, with NYS funding, the POA underwent major physical changes, creating the layout that exists today on the east side of the Oswego River. The current general layout and physical organization reopened for port business in 1963.
Additional major physical improvements since 2013 include improved rails, rail access and service, marina improvements, and heavy equipment acquisitions. We are planning energy production and access improvements, and expansion of container facilities into Central New York.
The POA is a modern, multimodal operation that handles, stores and moves commodities by a variety of vessels, trucks, rail and other mechanisms. The POA is open for business 24-7-365. Its staff is superb and experienced. Moreover, the POA is growing annually, handling aluminum, a variety of grains (corn, wheat, soybeans, etc.), salt, fertilizer, petroleum products, cement, nuclear power plant components, windmill parts, and more. The only limitation of the POA is how fast prospective customers can ship their commodities to Oswego. The POA will serve them well. That is our history!
The mission of the Port of Oswego Authority is to serve as an economic catalyst in the Central New York Development Council District Region by providing diversified and efficient transportation services and conducting operations in a manner that promotes regional and international growth and development while being mindful of our responsibility to serve as a steward of the environment.
Adopted - September 28, 2011
Revised - March 8, 2017
Economic Impact of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region - This report is completed every five years, and was funded by the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, American Great Lakes Port Association, and others. The study took over eight months to complete, with over 1,000 data points gathered.View All
Meetings will typically be held the third Monday of each month at 4:30pm in the Port of Oswego Authority Conference Room located at 1 East Second Street, Oswego NY.View All