15 Miles on the Erie Canal: Chittenango, NY

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The area from Canastota to Chittenango has several little canal-based businesses and museums. Since we'd enjoyed our visit to the Canal Town Museum in Canastota, we wanted to see more. We took a very quick trip out to Chittenango, NY, to pay a visit to the Erie Canal Boat Museum and to see the canal.

Erie Canal Park Sign

The Erie Canal of New York State, has been lauded for decades as the nation's "first major transportation system" and the "engineering marvel of the 19th century," and the unauspicious title "Eighth Wonder of the World." Indeed, the Erie Canal put Upstate New York on the map. It was a major route for the transport of people and goods from the Atlantic Ocean (up the Hudson, across the central part of New York State) to the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley.

New York schools have lauded (and still do) the concept and construction of the Erie Canal for generations. It was certainly an engineering marvel. However, I'm rethinking all those glorious schoolgirl lessons of the grandeur and economic gain from the canal. You see, I am one of those excess weeds of Upstate property owners, who must acquiesce to Big Business, that they may confiscate my land for the "greater good." I'm talking about NYRI, that huge power line company that wants to take over a large swath of Upstate land for electrical energy transmission.

Isn't it similar to the Erie Canal? After all, who owned the land that the state took for the canal? Wasn't it private property owners? And the tragic thing about the Erie Canal is that it was replaced by the steamboat and the railroad in a few short years! Today, only bare remnants of the Erie Canal remain, as well as it's exaggerated benefit to New York State.

But it makes good history lessons.

Today, much of what is left of the canal is state parks and trails. Central New York has many museums dedicated to the Erie Canal. There's the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, the Canal Town Museum in Canastota, the Erie Canal Village in Rome, and various little museums, trails, and visitors centers along the locks. We stopped to see the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum.

Most tourist places in Upstate New York close for the winter. The Boat Museum was no exception. But we got to wander around the grounds (covered in places with almost 2 feet of snow! we are dedicated travelers) and snap photos and wonder about the way of life back then.

Chittenango Canal Boat Museum

Here's a photo of the icy trail of water. Doesn't it just make you shiver to look at it?

Canal Trail

Actually, it wasn't too cold outside when I snapped the photo-- it was almost 25 degrees! Balmy!

Here's another photo of a small creek that flows in or out of the canal (the water did not move, so I couldn't determine its position).

Skating Paradise

The old Erie Canal always froze over in the winter. It became a popular area for the locals to intermingle and ice skate. The original canal was built to a depth of 4 feet-- perfect for skating because the water froze solid, and if a skater did happen to fall in, the water was not very deep. Later, the canal was dredged to hold 7 feet of water.

Here's an arresting picture of the canals' dry locks. You can learn more about it here at this site, and also some good pictures here. On that site are photos of the canal in the spring, depicting all the lushness of summer in New York. I noticed that some of my shots are similar to those on the site. Check them out for a good comparison between the seasons.

Locks of Snow

Canal Stone Walls

The Chittenango Museum looked much larger than what I had imagined. I admit it, I imagined a hoky little worn-down shack with a few implements and lots of pamphlets. But this site has several out-buildings and a full-sized display of a packet boat. Come spring, I think we'll return!

5 remarks
threecollie said...

I like your comparison of the canal's passage to NYRI. It went right through in front of the farm here. I will have to see if there is any mention of property transferral in the deeds.

4:33 PM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

Isn't it amazing how propaganda works? For almost two centuries, schools have breathlessly praised the Erie Canal! But who stopped to question the Big Money's bully techniques over the "little guy" property owner? And who has stopped to consider how all this effort disappeared when the railroad came through?

It's worth checking out.

4:49 PM  
Mrs. W said...

Interesting viewpoint--I had not considered the original landowners before the Erie Canal was constructed. Now it's just a nasty snake-filled stream in most parts.

When I was a teenager I worked at Rome's Erie Canal Village. Back then I felt it was a useful tourist attraction (and was city-owned, thus had a generous budget). Now it's privately owned. I visited last year and it's sad. Oh, so sad.

9:11 AM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

New York State had better wise up and help and promote the tourism industry. It's the only thing we have left here, since all the manufacturing jobs have gone, and most of the military bases have closed. All we have is WalMart and public schools. Scary.

I'm very sorry to hear about the Erie Canal Village. About the time you were writing your comment, I was upstairs, planning on going in the spring. Admission is very expensive, but hopefully this blog will generate enough funds to pay the way. I am saddened to hear that it is not doing well.

9:19 AM  
Mrs Mecomber said...

By the way, Mrs. W-- I thik we are around the same age. I visited Erie Canal Village when I was 14.... we probably bumped into each other back then?!

9:24 AM  

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