Climb Aboard at the Erie Canal Museum

January 30, 2014 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

SyracuseErieCanalThe Erie Canal put the Finger Lakes region on the map at the beginning of the 19th century, and for 100 years it was the easiest way to travel west, prior to the arrival of the railroad.

The canal was dug from Albany to Buffalo, 4′ deep and 40′ wide. New York City became the primary point of entry (over Boston and New Orleans) to the US for many immigrants.

Syracuse has the sole remaining Canal weighlock building still in existence in the United States. Although the Canal no longer runs through the downtown area, the building remains and is now home to the Erie Canal Museum.

The Erie Canal Museum is rich with 200 years of history.

The Erie Canal Museum is rich with 200 years of history.

It took 50 years of collecting tolls to pay off the cost of building the 363 mile canal.

The weigh stations were what determined the amount of the toll collected from barges as they passed through the city. By the late 1800s there was also a railroad to compete with and the tolls were discontinued.

ErieCanalThe Erie Canal climbs 570 feet in elevation from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. To navigate the changes in elevation, waterfalls and rapids, canals were built with locks and levels. Locks are elevators for lifting and lowering boats,and levels are long stretches of flat water between the locks. The original canal had 83 locks. Today, there are 35 numbered locks.

ErieCanalMuseum_freightThe museum houses a life-size barge and once aboard you quickly realize that travelers were packed in tight, and by the way, where is the bathroom? The beds were TINY little hammocks and travelers shared the boat with dry goods, animals of every kind and anything else that was needed upstate.

What was it like traveling across the state by a mule-drawn barge? I think my kids would last about 15 minutes before they were bored to death today, but in the 1800s a boat ride was preferable to slogging through the forested wilderness of upstate New York.

“If you were traveling through Central New York two centuries ago, unless you had a death wish, there is little likelihood you would have spent much time in the dismal, fetid swamp that occupied what is now downtown Syracuse.”

Upstairs you can visit a saloon and a general store.

Upstairs you can visit a saloon and a general store.

Erie Canal Museum
318 Erie Boulevard East
Syracuse, NY 13202

315.471.0593

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Skiing at Highland Forest Armory Square, Syracuse

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