Tag Archives: Erie Canal

Irish American Museum Presents Erie Canal Exhibit


By on

1 Comment

The Irish American Heritage Museum presents its newest exhibit “The Irish and the Erie Canal” at its new galleries at 370 Broadway in Albany. The new exhibit, wholly developed by its staff and volunteers, is open to the public from Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

“In keeping with our mission of education, ‘The Irish and the Erie Canal’ reveals the historical contributions of the Irish to the planning, designing, engineering, funding and construction of the famed achievement that transformed early America, and in particular New York City, into a world economic power, linking the Great Lakes and the interior of the young nation to the Atlantic Ocean,” stated Ed Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board Of Trustees.

“Our exhibit expands the common perception that the Irish were limited to only the actual construction of the canal,” Mr. Collins further stated. “The Irish were involved from start to finish, from originally proposing the concept a hundred years before a shovel was even put into the ground, to the routing, to its design, to securing support from elected officials, to the elected officials themselves, to its construction and finally to its navigation and transportation services once it opened.”

“The Irish and the Erie Canal” was researched, written and composed by James Zibro, a Cohoes, NY, resident of Irish descent who is completing his PhD at Catholic University in Washington D.C. after earning Masters degrees in both American History and Irish Studies at the same university and a dual Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree at Union College, Schenectady, NY. Museum Director Krisy O’Connor produced the exhibit and Museum volunteer Adele O’Connell served as the exhibit’s editor.

The suggested donations for admission are: $3 adults, $2 seniors and free for children 14 years of age and younger. Museum Memberships are also available upon entry. Donations and memberships help fund the Museum’s educational programs.

The Museum is unique in the United States, where almost 40 million people claim Irish ancestry. The Museum is committed to the tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans.

The Irish American Heritage Museum was created by New York State Legislation in 1986 and permanently chartered by the New York State Education Department in 1992 as a 501c3 non-profit educational institution. The Museum’s mission is to preserve and tell the story of the contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, inspiring individuals to examine the importance of their own heritage as part of the American cultural mosaic.

Canal Life: Near Tragedy on the George W. Lee


By on

0 Comments

In November 1886, Captain John Frawley of the canal boat George W. Lee reached the eastern terminus of the Mohawk River at Cohoes. Before him was the Hudson River intersection: south led to Albany and New York City, and north was the path of the Champlain Canal, which ran from Waterford to Whitehall, at Lake Champlain’s southern tip. Access to the Champlain Canal was on the north bank at the Mohawk’s mouth, opposite Peeble’s Island.

At the mouth of the river was a dam, maintaining calm water so the boats could cross the river, and about 500 feet upstream from the dam was a bridge. Canal boats were pulled by tow ropes linked to teams of mules or horses. To cross from the south bank of the Mohawk to the north, towing teams used the bridge, which is what Frawley did.

Sounds simple, and usually, it was. But the Mohawk was badly swollen from several days of rain. Traveling at night, Frawley was perhaps unaware that the normally strong current had intensified. Water was fairly leaping over the nine-foot-high dam.

Accompanying the captain were his mother, around 60 years old; his ten-year-old son; and the boat’s steersman, Dennis Clancy. To help ensure that things went okay, Frawley left the boat to assist the team driver during the crossing of the 700-foot-long bridge. They moved slowly—the rope extended sideways from the bridge downstream towards the boat, an angle much more difficult than pulling a load forward along the canal.

Below them, the George W. Lee lay heavy in the current, straining against the rope. All went well until the bridge’s midpoint was reached, when, with a sound like a gunshot, the rope snapped. Horrified, they watched as the boat swung around, slammed sideways into the dam, and plunged over the edge. Nothing was left but darkness.

Shock and grief enveloped them at such a sudden, terrible loss. Within minutes, though, a light appeared on the boat’s deck. It had held together! At least one person had survived, but no one knew how many, or if any were injured. The roar of the river drowned out any attempt at yelling back and forth. With the boat aground, there was nothing to do but sit and wait until morning.

With daylight came great news. All were okay! But, as had happened the previous evening, great elation was followed by great uncertainty. How could they be saved? The river remained high and dangerous. The boat, resting on the rocks below the dam, could not be reached. And the November chill, heightened by cold water pouring over the dam all around them, threatened the stranded passengers with hypothermia.

A rescue plan was devised, and by late afternoon, the effort began. The state scow (a large, flat-bottomed boat), manned by a volunteer crew of seven brave men, set out on a dangerous mission. Connected to the bridge by a winch system using two ropes, the scow was slowly guided to the dam, just above the stranded boat.

The men began talking with the passengers to discuss their evacuation. Then, without warning, disaster struck. Something within the winch mechanism failed, and again, with a loud cracking sound, the rope snapped. Over the dam went the scow, fortunately missing the canal boat. Had they hit, the results would have been catastrophic.

Briefly submerged, the scow burst to the surface. A safe passage lay ahead, but the drifting scow was instead driven towards nearby Buttermilk Falls by the swift current. Two men leaped overboard and swam for shore in the icy water. The rest decided to ride it out.

In one reporter’s words, “The scow sped like an arrow toward Buttermilk Falls. It seemed to hang an instant at the brink, and then shot over the falls. It landed right side up and soon drifted ashore.” Incredibly, everyone survived intact. Chilled, wet, and shaken, but intact.

Meanwhile, still stuck at the base of the dam was a canal boat with cold, hungry, and frightened passengers. A new plan was needed, but darkness was descending. The stranded victims would have to spend another night on the rocks.

On the following day, Plan B was tried. According to reports, “A stout rope was stretched from the Waterford bridge, over the dam, to a small row boat at Peeble’s Island [a distance of about 1800 feet.] Two men stood on the bridge and pulled the skiff upstream until it came alongside the canal boat Lee. The party embarked and the boat was allowed to drift back to the island.”

What an amazing, fortuitous outcome. Two boats (one at night) over a dam; three people trapped for more than 36 hours in a raging river; two men swimming for their lives in icy water; and five men and a boat over a waterfall. All that potential for tragedy, and yet all survived unscathed.

Photos: The dam at Cohoes, looking west from Peeble’s Island; A canal boat scene at Cohoes.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Recent Publications: Bottoming Out (Fall 2011)


By on

0 Comments

Bottoming Out is the journal of the Canal Society of New York State. It is published and sent to members of the Society twice a year. It features articles on the history of canals, trip previews and reviews, events calendar, and other “Useful and Interesting Notes”. See the Canal Society web page at www.newyorkcanals.org for more information. The Summer / Fall 2011 issue of Bottoming Out featured articles on: Continue reading

Canal Society of New York’s Winter Symposium


By on

0 Comments

The Canal Society of New York State has announced it’s Winter Symposium will be held Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the Warshof Conference Center at Monroe Community College’s Brighton Campus, 1000 East Henrietta Road in Rochester (Monroe Room A & B; Park in Lot M, Center Road; enter through lobby at northeast corner of Building 3).

The Symposium includes papers on topics that are directly or indirectly related to historic or operating New York State Canals, canals and inland waterways worldwide, and the communities through which they run.

Further information, a including a summary of the agenda and pre-registration procedures may be found at the Society’s webpage; pre-registration forms are due by February 22nd.

Canal Society is an organization of canal enthusiasts who study New York canal history, including its effect on the life and economy of the State; exchange information; promote interest in the canals in the United States and abroad; educate the public and encourage preservation of canal records, relics, structures and sites; and help restore abandoned canals and historic vessels, including replicating their structures.

Founded in Buffalo on October13, 1956, the Canal Society is a not-for-profit educational organization that enables people to visit canal sites in New York State and beyond through regular, organized field trips, to share information and ideas about preserving canal history and traditions, and to advocate for canal renewal and development.

Illustration: The first issue of the Canal Society of New York State’s journal Bottoming Out.

National Park Service Recruiting Amtrak Guides


By on

1 Comment

The National Park Service will hold a volunteer recruiting session on Saturday February 4 at 1pm in the Erie Canalway/Peebles Island Visitor Center at 1 Delaware, Avenue, Cohoes or on Sunday February 26 at 1pm at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park.

Volunteers are provided uniforms and training on the history of the area, then are scheduled aboard the Adirondack or Maple Leaf trains to present various educational programs about the significant examples of the natural, cultural, and historical resources of each route.

Three national parks represented along the train routes are Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, Saratoga National Historical Park (the Battlefield) and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Email or call Volunteer Manager, Joe LaLumia at nytrailsandrails@gmail.com (518) 573-8628 to reserve your seat and learn more about this exciting volunteer opportunity. Visit the National Park Service Trails and Rails website.

Schoharie Crossing to Host Flooding Discussion


By on

0 Comments

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site will host a lecture on “Fort Hunter Flooding Through the Ages: An Eyewitness Look” on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm at the Fort Hunter Library, 167 Fort Hunter Road, Town of Florida. The lecture is sponsored by the Friends of Schoharie Crossing and presented by education coordinator Tricia Shaw. The lecture will be followed by refreshments and the September meeting of the Friends of Schoharie Crossing. All are welcome to attend; the meeting and lecture are both open to the public. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Irene and New York State History


By on

2 Comments

This past July, a group of educators toured the historic Mohawk Valley. The group consisted of teachers from the region, particularly the Utica school district, people from historical societies, and cultural heritage tourists. The program was described as an “immersion experience”into the history of the Mohawk Valley. Little did we know that the metaphorical image soon would become a literal one. Continue reading

Waterford Tug Boat Round-Up Cancelled


By on

0 Comments

The annual Waterford Tugboat Roundup scheduled for Sept. 9-11, 2011, at the Waterford Harbor on the Erie Canal has been canceled because of the impacts from Tropical Storm Irene.

High waters and flood damage have hampered navigation along the New York State Canal system. The Hudson River also has high waters.



The Erie Canal remains closed to navigation between Lock 2 in Waterford, Saratoga County, and Lock 19 in Frankfort, Montgomery County. The Champlain Canal remains closed for its entire length. No date has been established on when these canal sections might re-open.

For updates and information monitor 1-800-4CANAL4 and www.canals.ny.gov.

Teacher Open House at Schoharie Crossing


By on

0 Comments

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site will host an open house for teachers and parents who home school on Saturday, September 10, 2011 from 9 am to noon at the Visitor Center.

There will be lots of handouts available for use in the classroom, a free raffle for all who attend, and free continental breakfast. Participants will receive 20% off discount in the gift shop on books and historical toys. There will be a guided walking tour of the East Guard Lock, the Original Crossing and the Schoharie Aqueduct at 10 am. Have all your canal questions answered by the Canalgirl. The new and improved 4th grade scavenger hunt will be featured so complete it for yourself. Continue reading

A Black River Canal Musical Mystery


By on

0 Comments

Dave Ruch, a researcher of traditional and historical songs of New York who also teaches and performs that music, recently offered the lyrics to a canal song he believes may refer to the Black River Canal. The song was related by Des Powell (who was living in Arizona at the time) to folklorist Sam Eskin in 1946. According to Ruch at the bottom of Eskin’s notes he scribbled “Black River Canal”.

O! it’s nine miles to my darlin’, nine miles to go,
Nine miles on the old Rome haul
Gee this boat is slow
O! if ever I get back to my darlin
I ain’t gonna leave her no more
Gonna Settle down in old Rome town and open up a country story

First you pass a foundry and then you pass a mill
Then you pass Walt Waterbery’s place the other side of the hill
Then you pass a graveyard and then a bridge that’s low
Then it’s 9 more miles to my darling

O when last I saw my darlin, she was standin in the toll-house door
The tears run down her pretty little cheeks and they fell with a splash on the floor
O, if ever I get back to my darlin I ain’t gonna leave her no more
gonna settle down in old Rome town and open up a country store
By God and open up a country store.

If that second verse rings a bell, contact Dave Ruch at dave@daveruch.com.

Erie Canal Celebrates 200 Years of History


By on

0 Comments

April 2011 marked the 200th anniversary of the key decisions for the construction of the Erie Canal, a monumental public works project that transformed the economy of New York State.

Two centuries ago, on April 8, 1811, the state Legislature approved a measure that set into motion the construction of the Erie Canal. This followed the delivery of a report on March 2, 2011 of a report by the original Commission.

The 363-mile-long Erie Canal corridor offers numerous opportunities for shippers, boaters, bicyclists and walkers. The canal-side venues are the scenes of dozens of festivals, fairs and community events throughout the year.

In addition to its traditional role as a transportation corridor, the Canal system serves critical Upstate needs for hydropower, drinking water, irrigation and flood control.

The inter-agency Mohawk-Erie Corridor Study is examining how sustainable transportation assets can promote economic growth in Upstate New York.

The original Canal Commission was comprised of some of the most distinguished citizens of New York: Stephen Van Rensselaer, Gouverneur Morris, DeWitt Clinton, Simeon DeWitt, William North, Thomas Eddy and Peter R. Porter.

It had been directed by the Legislature in 1810 to conduct a survey across New York to examine possible routes for the canal. The Canal Commission suggested that such a canal not only could, but should, be built by New Yorkers to link the Great Lakes with the Atlantic seaboard.

The suggestion that a canal be constructed “350 miles through the wilderness” of upstate New York had been described by President Thomas Jefferson as “a little short of madness.” Still, the Canal Commissioners had concluded that it was not only possible, but that the benefits to New York, and the nation, would be enormous.

However audacious the plan, the Commissioners’ report accurately predicted that the benefits would far outweigh the costs, whatever the price: “Thus, were it (by giving a loose to fancy) extended to fifty millions of dollars, even that enormous sum does not exceed half the value of what, in all human probability, and at no distant period, will annually be carried along the Canal.”

When the Legislature adopted the Commission report, it appropriated $15,000 for the Commission to continue its work and added two more distinguished members Robert L. Livingston and Robert Fulton.

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture. For more information regarding events, recreational and vacation opportunities along the Canal System, please visit www.canals.ny.gov or call 1-800-4CANAL4.

The New York State Canal Corporation is a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority. State legislation in 1992 transferred the Canal System from the New York State Department of Transportation to the Thruway Authority. Canal operating and maintenance activities are supported by Thruway toll revenues.

The New York State Thruway Authority/Canal Corporation offers a free email service called TRANSalert to its customers via email or text messaging to inform them of major incidents and emergencies that may affect travel on the Thruway or navigation on the Canal System. To sign up for the Canal TRANSalert service, visit the website.

Schoharie: ‘Canals during the Civil War’ Exhibit


By on

0 Comments

The Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center is presenting a temporary exhibit entitled “Canals during the Civil War” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This small exhibit opens May 4th and runs through October 29. The exhibit includes photos and maps of the Erie Canal, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Grant’s Canal near Vicksburg. The exhibit can be viewed during regular Visitor Center hours. Continue reading

Sixth Annual Canal Clean Sweep, April 15-17


By on

0 Comments

In recognition of Earth Day 2011 and in preparation for the upcoming 187th consecutive navigation season on the New York State Canal System, the New York State Canal Corporation is partnering with Parks & Trails New York, and the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to sponsor the Sixth Annual Canal Clean Sweep during the weekend of April 15th-17th, 2011.

The Canal Clean Sweep highlights the growing significance of the Canal System and the Canalway Trail System as a recreational and tourism destination across the state by encouraging communities, not-for-profit organizations and volunteers to engage in cleanup and beautification activities along the Canal System and the Canalway Trail.

More than 90 communities, service groups, and businesses across the New York State Canal System are participating in the Canal Clean Sweep by hosting local clean up activities in Canal parks, along public promenades and on Canalway Trail segments in their region.

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture.

For more information on the Sixth Annual Canal Clean Sweep or to help coordinate an event in your community, please visit www.ptny.org or contact Wally Elton with Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or welton@ptny.org.

Schoharie: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Roots


By on

0 Comments

Schoharie Crossing Visitor Center at 129 Schoharie Street, Fort Hunter, five miles west of Amsterdam will be hosting a lecture entitled “Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Roots” to celebrate Women’s History Month, on Wednesday, March 16, at 7:00 pm.

Noel Levee of the Johnstown Historical Society will explores Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s early years in Johnstown and how her thoughts were shaped by the people around her. The route of the Erie Canal was a hot bed for social and political change throughout the 19th century which included the Women’s Rights Movement getting started in Seneca Falls, only a stone throw away from the Erie Canal. Continue reading

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site Seeks Volunteers


By on

0 Comments

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is seeking volunteers, interns and members of their Friends group to help on a regular or semi regular basis around the historic site doing a variety of different jobs. Schoharie Crossing is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Erie Canal as one of the 19th century’s greatest commercial and engineering projects. The Visitor Center exhibit traces the history of the Erie Canal and its impact on the growth of New York State and the nation. Continue reading

Canal Society Symposium Announced


By on

0 Comments

The Canal Society of New York State’s (CSNY) daylong 2011 Winter Symposium, will be held March 5th, 2011 at the Monroe Community College campus in Rochester, New York. The Symposium covers topics that are directly or indirectly related to historic or operating New York State Canals, canals and inland waterways worldwide, and the communities through which they run.

This year’s symposium will include a presentation, “Clinton’s Ditch and Enlarged Erie Aqueduct Survey” by Capt. Rob Mangold, Vice President, CSNY; “An Exploration of the Burlington and Desjardins Canals by Robert W. Sears, of the Canadian Canal Society; “Managing NYS Canal Infrastructure in Difficult Economic Times” by Carmella R. Mantello, Director of the NYS Canal Corporation; “Geographic Resources for the Erie Canal”; “Three Generations on the Erie Barge Canal: A Photographic Chronicle” by “High Canals and Deep Rivers—Southern Germany Waterways Tour” and more.

CSNYS membership is not a requirement to attend. Pre-registration cost prior to February 23rd is $40 per person.

Contact:

David L. Kipp
61 Thistledown Drive
Rochester, NY 14617

The $40 per person cost covers a continental breakfast, coffee break, lunch, parking and speaker fees. Provide Davd Kipp with the names of the attendees and a telephone number. A check for $40 should be made payable to: Canal Society of New York State

Registration can be made on the day of the seminar at $50 per person.

A downloadable program can be found at the society’s website.

Historic Canal Tug Urger Concludes 2010 Season


By on

0 Comments

More than 5,000 schoolchildren visited the historic tugboat Urger during the recently concluded 19th season as an educational resource for the New York State Canal System.

During the summer months, the Urger hosts thousands of visitors at numerous Canal festivals and events throughout the Canal Corridor. The Urger also provided one of the many highlights at the 2010 World Canals Conference held in Rochester in September.

Canal Corporation Director Carmella R. Mantello said, “The tug Urger educational program has once again been a great success. Thousands of schoolchildren from across New York State participate every year in hands on activities to learn about the significant and unparalleled role New York’s Canals have played in shaping our state and nation. The Canal Corporation is pleased to partner with communities and schools throughout the Canal corridor to allow the public to learn firsthand about this historic vessel and to learn about the past, present and future of the New York State Canal System.”

The tug Urger logged more than 3,000 miles traveling across the Canal System during 2010. During the spring and fall educational programs, the Urger visited more than 30 communities. Students in fourth-grade classes at local schools take field trips to the tug and participate in shoreside, “hands-on” educational sessions. There they learn about the history of the Canals and the role construction of the Erie Canal played in making New York the “Empire State.”

Throughout the summer months, the Urger represented the Canal Corporation at many Canal-related events and festivals throughout the system, as well as being a featured vessel at this year’s World Canals Conference.

During the winter months, the Urger is in dry dock in Lyons, New York, where canal staff will be preparing it for the 2011 navigation season.

Celebrating more than 100 years of service, the tug Urger is the Canal Corporation’s flagship vessel. It was christened the Henry J. Dornbos in Michigan on June 13, 1901, and saw service as a fishing boat in the Great Lakes for two decades.

In the early 1920s, the tug was sold, renamed the Urger, and entered the New York State Canal fleet. Stationed in Waterford, the Urger served more than 60 years hauling machinery, dredges, and scows on the Erie and Champlain Canals until she was retired from service in the late 1980s.

In 1991 Capt. Schuyler M. Meyer, Jr., founder for the private non-profit State Council on Waterways, was given a permit to operate the tug as a floating classroom along the canal system, teaching elementary school students about the original Erie Canal and today’s expanded, modern-day inland waterway. Upon Capt. Meyer’s passing in the mid 1990s, the Canal Corporation continued the program and used the Urger as the official ambassador for the New York State Canal System, serving as the focal point of its educational program since 1994.

The Urger has been on the State and National Registers of Historic Places since September, 2001.

The Tug Urger Educational Program is available to all New York State schools at no cost. Class size and presentations are limited and are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For more information on how to take advantage of this educational program or to schedule a visit to your community, call 518-471-5349 or visit the Canal Corporation’s Website and click on “Tugboat Urger.”

The New York State Canal System is comprised of four historic waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Spanning 524 miles across New York State, the waterway links the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and the Niagara River with communities rich in history and culture.

Photo: State canals Director Carmella R. Mantello is shown speaking with local school children who are touring the 109 year-old Tug Urger in Waterford Harbor. The historic state vessel cruises the 524-mile state canal system each season teaching young students about the early canal era and today’s modern-day inland waterway.

Lyons Erie Canal Improvements Opened


By on

0 Comments

The New York State Canal Corporation and the Village of Lyons, Wayne County, have officially opened the Lyons waterfront improvements along the Erie Canal at North Side Canal Park. The opening event also welcomed the 2010 World Canals Conference International Flotilla which was en route to Rochester.

The project, partially funded through an Erie Canal Greenway Grant, provided new docks on both sides of the Erie Canal and additional improvements to the boating area and park.

The flotilla was bound for Rochester as part of the 2010 World Canals Conference September 20-24. Included in the flotilla were boats from the Canal Corporation’s historic and working fleet, historic tugboats, and a variety of recreational pleasure craft. From the junction of the Erie Canal and Genesee River the fleet traveled north along the Genesee River, in a grand parade to Corn Hill Landing in Rochester.

Directions to the North Side Canal Park in Lyons: Take NYS Thruway (I-90) to Interchange 42 (Geneva, Lyons, Route 14) toward Sodus Point. Turn left to Route 14 North. Turn left onto Water Street. Municipal parking is available adjacent to the Firehouse.

Boating Museum Donates Important Canal Marker


By on

4 Comments

The Finger Lakes Boating Museum commemorated the important role of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal in the development of Geneva by donating an historical marker for the city’s waterfront. City and boating museum officials dedicated the marker in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday on the lakefront near the Geneva Area Chamber of Commerce building. Bill Oben, President of the Boating Museum, made the presentation to Mayor Stu Einstein.

The dedication ceremony coincided with the stopover in Geneva of the Lois McClure, an 88-foot canal schooner moored for three days on the lakefront just west of the Chamber. The McClure is a full-scale working replica of an 1862 canal schooner, a unique example of working vessels that carried goods throughout Northeastern waterways during the 19th century.

“The scheduled arrival of the schooner Lois McClure in Geneva harbor this week is a wonderful reminder of the significant role the Cayuga-Seneca Canal played in the development of Geneva and the region beyond throughout the 19th century,” said Oben. “The last vestiges of the canal along the Geneva waterfront disappeared long ago as the old waterway was filled in to make way for the arterial highway. As we plan the future home of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum on the site of the original entrance to this historic canal, it’s appropriate to recognize this with placement of an enduring marker identifying the former location of this important transportation artery.”

Oben said the historical marker at the original canal entrance will be similar to others already along the waterfront that note significant people and places in Geneva’s history. Geneva Granite donated the granite base for the plaque.

The plaque on the marker will read as follows: “At this point in 1828, water from Seneca Lake was first released into the newly constructed Cayuga-Seneca Canal, forming a navigable link to the Erie Canal. This waterway enabled commerce to flow between Seneca and the Hudson River and soon became an economic engine that brought wealth and prosperity to the City of Geneva and other municipalities along its path. Eventually supplanted by rail and truck transportation, this channel was abandoned in the 1920s and ultimately filled in.”

The boating museum reached agreement with the City of Geneva last fall to establish a permanent home on the Geneva waterfront in association with the Visitor Center. The facility, which will be located on the current Chamber site, is being enabled by a $3.5 million grant provided to the city by State Sen. Michael Nozzolio.

The boating museum has assembled a collection of 100 wooden boats built in the Finger Lakes over the past 100 years, as well as numerous related artifacts and extensive reference material. The collection is being moved to a storage facility in the Geneva Enterprise Development Center on North Genesee Street arranged by the Geneva Industrial Development Authority.

Portions of the collection will be displayed on a rotating basis within the new facility. Also planned are interactive workshops and displays to engage visitors in the design, construction and use of the boats and an active on-water program including sailing and small boat handling.

The boating museum is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation and was chartered by the New York State Department of Education in 1997 to “research, document, preserve and share the boating history of the Finger Lakes region.”

Additional information about the boating museum may be found on its website.

The canal schooner Lois McClure, whose homeport is Lake Champlain, is making a 1,000-mile journey across New York’s canals as it stops in 20 ports of call. The tour will culminate in September with a trip to the World Canals Conference in Rochester. The schooner also stopped in Geneva in 2007 on a similar tour.

The expedition is made possible by a partnership between the New York State Canal Corporation, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. This voyage is an opportunity for the public to learn more about the region’s interconnected waterways and the many activities found along the New York State Canal System and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, highlighting the Canal System’s roles in transportation, recreation and tourism. Tours of the boat with interpretive presentations, wayside exhibits and educational materials will be provided free of charge to the public at each stop.

The schooner is a full-scale replica of an 1862 sailing canal boat. Constructed in Burlington, Vt., and launched in 2004, the Lois McClure is an exact replica of canal schooners found shipwrecked in the waters of Lake Champlain. The unique sailing-canal boats were the tractor-trailers of the 19th century, designed to sail from lake cities to canal ports using wind power. Upon reaching a canal, the masts were lowered and centerboards raised, transforming the vessel into a typical canal boat.

The schooner is named for Lois McClure, who was born in 1926 and grew up in Burlington, Vt. In 1954, McClure married James Warren McClure, an owner and publisher of the Burlington Free Press, and later a major stockholder and Vice President of the Gannett Company, Inc. In 1971, the McClures left Burlington for Rochester, where Lois McClure continued her education. In 1978, after J. Warren McClure retired, they moved to Key Largo, Fla., spending summers in Charlotte, until they returned to Vermont in 2002.

In the 1970s, the McClures began to make significant financial contributions to organizations in the Burlington area and elsewhere. After her husband became ill in the 1990s, Lois McClure took on the leadership role in their philanthropy, a role she has continued since her husband’s death in 2004. The schooner was named in McClure’s honor for her major contribution to the schooner construction and support of many other community projects.

Photo: Bill Oben (left), president of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum, presents Geneva Mayor Stu Einstein with a copy of the historical marker that the boating museum donated to the city to mark the entrance to the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. In the background is the Lois McClure, a replica of a canal boat that stopped in Geneva on a tour of New York State canal waterways.

Utica Harbor Lock Reopens, Dredged Soon


By on

0 Comments

The New York State Canal Corporation has announced the start of dredging of the City of Utica Harbor and the re-opening of the refurbished Utica Harbor Lock. The recently completed rehabilitation of the lock by the Canal Corporation will allow dredging to occur for the first time in 30 years. The dredging will allow use of the harbor for future recreational, tourism and economic development opportunities.

Utica’s location on the Erie Canal middle section (the first to open in 1820) stimulated its industrial development. The Chenango Canal, connecting Utica and Binghamton, opened in 1836, and provided a further stimulus for economic development by providing water transportation of coal from Northeast Pennsylvania. With the opening of the Canal, Utica’s population increased threefold over a span of ten years. By the late 19th century, Utica had become a transportation hub and a commercial center but was somewhat limited in its industrial capacity due to low water power on the Mohawk River.

The New York State Canal Corporation is a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority. In 1992 State legislation transferred the Canal System from the New York State Department of Transportation to the Thruway Authority. Canal operating and maintenance activities are supported by Thruway toll revenues.

Illustration: Bird’s eye view of the city of Utica, Oneida County, New York 1873. Drawn by H. Brosius.