After the Revolutionary War, New York  made a rapid recovery. Upstate, settlers poured into the Mohawk River Valley and the Finger Lakes  region. Many of the new settlers were Yankees, tired of eking out marginal livings on rocky New England soils. Attracted to New York’s fertile farmland, they brought with them their strong work ethic, Protestant religion, and austere architectural styles, many examples of which still stand.
Settlers also poured into New York City . Between 1790 and 1830, the city gradually transformed itself from one of many important Colonial centers into the largest and wealthiest metropolis in the new republic.
The factors leading to New York’s ascendancy were many, but probably the most important was the opening of the Erie Canal  in 1825. The hand-dug canal—stretching from the Hudson River to Lake Erie—established a water route to the West, thereby reducing the cost of transporting goods by a whopping 90 percent.
Hundreds of thousands of small boats were soon plying the new route, carrying cargo to New York City for transfer onto oceangoing vessels. By 1834, the canal’s tolls had more than paid for the entire cost of its $7.7 million construction. New York Harbor became one of the world’s busiest ports, with grain elevators and warehouses sprouting up all along the docks.
The Erie Canal was the making of New York. It transformed New York City from one of many important colonial centers into the largest metropolis in the New World, and gave rise to virtually every other major city in the state, including Syracuse , Rochester , and Buffalo .
About the same time, New York established the country’s first regularly scheduled transatlantic shipping service. Previously, ships had sailed only when their holds were full. This innovation gave the metropolis a competitive edge for decades to come.
Manhattan ’s famous grid street system was established in 1811. All of the island that had not yet been settled was scored into 12 major avenues—each 100 feet wide—and 155 consecutively numbered streets. Most of the streets were 60 feet wide, but those that intersected the already established Broadway when it crossed an avenue were 100 feet wide. Later, when the subway system was built, stops were placed along many of the wider streets.
In 1842, New York opened the Croton Aqueduct Water System, then the world’s largest water system. The $12 million project dammed the Croton River, 40 miles upstate, and brought water into the city through a series of reservoirs and aqueducts. New York thus became one of the first cities in the world to supply all its citizens—even the poorest—with clean fresh water. As a result, outbreaks of cholera and other epidemic diseases were drastically reduced. Today, New York still has one of the world’s best water systems.