Canal Society of New York Spring Symposium

 This in person event will take place on Saturday, March 2nd, 2024 at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. The symposium will include a full program of presentations followed by the annual meeting. Please register by February 23, 2024.

Winter Symposium (

Enterprising Waters

The New York State Museum will open the second and final phase of its exhibition Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal on Saturday, September 22.
The first phase of the exhibition opened in September 2017 and focused on the circumstances leading up to building the canal and the canal’s construction. The second phase of the exhibition focuses on the Erie Canal’s growth, politics, industries and legacy.
On display through October 20, 2019, the exhibition honors the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal’s construction and features artifacts, images, posters and documents from the collections of the State Museum, State Archives, State Library and cultural institutions from across the state.
The second phase of the exhibition explores life on the canal, the growth and legacy of the canal, and the barge canal still in use today. A key artifact on view through November 2018 is the original “Wedding of the Waters” keg, on loan from the New-York Historical Society. The keg was used by Governor DeWitt Clinton to pour the water of Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean on November 4, 1825 as part of the celebratory ceremonies marking the completion of the Erie Canal and commemorating the canal’s connection of New York’s inland waterways to the ports of New York City.
When the canal opened in 1825, it unlocked the Western interior for trade and settlement, and made New York City the nation’s most powerful commercial center. As one of the largest public works projects in American history, the Erie Canal also inspired a nationwide transportation revolution. Thousands of people poured into New York to work on or along the canal, or just to pass through. Though the canal would eventually be superseded by the railroad, a heady mixture of innovation and determination, and the industrious seeking and creation of wealth, was cemented in the American character.
The purpose of the Erie Canal was always commercial, but since the 1980s New York State has focused on the quality of life for canal communities and promoting heritage tourism. Today, recreational boaters from around the world use the New York State Canal System. New visitor centers and bike paths line the canals and invite tourists to learn about the past.
The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.

New York State Canal Conference


One Water, New York Harbor is the theme for the 2018 New York Canal Societies’ Canal Conference to be held on October 14th. – October 16th. at the Hilton Garden Inn, Staten Island NY.
The conference will celebrate the role that New York Harbor has played in the success of the State’s historic inland waterway system. As New York State continues to celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial, New York Harbor is the perfect venue to commemorate the Centennial of The Erie Barge Canal.
Attending this conference will provide an incredible look into the value the Erie Canal played in New York Harbors
The Canal Society of New York State was formed in Buffalo in 1956 at the annual meeting of the New York State Historical Association. In that first year, membership was open to anyone interested in the history, folklore, and engineering of former canals and the present condition of the state’s remaining man-made waterways. This is still he primary focus of Canal Society Members today.
More than 50 years later, the Canal Society of New York State has an active membership and still organizes two field trips per year as well as an annual symposium, regular tours of European Canals as well as other smaller events. The Society has compiled a high-quality collection of canal artifacts, artwork, books and papers. You can learn more about the Canal Society of New York State on their website

10:30 am – 4:30 pm
Boating with the Baymen: Long Island/South Bay Tour
12:00 pm
Registration opens for Community Program only
1:00 pm
Vans depart hotel
2:00 pm
Interactive Staten Island Ferry Cruise to Manhattan (Ferry ride is 1 hour RT)
3:15 pm
Walking Tour of St. George Waterfront/North Shore Promenade with stops and tastings at the Flagship Brewery and Oyster Bar
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Reception at Arts at Urby – will include remarks and exhibits featuring “Heroes of the Harbor”
7:00 pm
Dinner on own (will provide maps and restaurant options within 1 to 2 block away)

6:45 am – 3:00 pm
7:00 am – 8:00 am
Continental Breakfast
8:00 am – 9:40 am
Welcome by Conference Chair, Conference Overview & Sponsor Recognition Welcome by Borough President, North Shore Representative & South Shore Representative
Welcome & Presentation by Host Community (Naomi Sturm & Dan Ward)
Presentation by NYS Canal Corporation & NY Power Authority
Presentation by Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission
9:45 am – 10:15 am
BREAK and Refreshments in Exhibitor Space
10:15 am – 11 am
Revitalizing Staten Island’s Commercial Waterfront
11:00 am – 11:15 am
11:15 am – 1:00 pm
Luncheon & Program – New York’s Empire State Trail (Andy Beers)
1:15 pm – 5:30 pm
Mobile Workshops
(1.) Staten Island Ferry, Lower Manhattan Walking Tour/Canal Slips and South Street Seaport
(2.) Arthur Kill Boat Graveyard, Conference House & “Graves of Arthur Kill” Film Screening
(3.) Sailor’s Snug Harbor & Noble Maritime Collection
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
6:00 pm– 7:00 pm
Reception with exhibitors (cash bar/light hors d’oeuvres)
7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Dinner and Awards Presentations
Special Presentation: Water Way Youth Video
7:30 am – 11:00 am
8:00 am – 9:00 am
Continental breakfast with Exhibitors
9:00 am – 9:45 am
Break-out Sessions 1
(1.) Barge Canal 100th Anniversary
(2.) Billion Oyster Project
(3.) Coastal Storm Risk Management
9:45 am – 10:30 am
Break-out Sessions 2
(1.) Developing the Genesee River Waterfront
(2.) Interpreting Erie Canal History & Heritage
(3.) New York’s Iconic Attractions on the Water
(4.) Reimagine the Canals
10:30 am – 10:45 am
Refreshment break (coffee only)
10:45am – 11:45am
Break-out Sessions 3
(1.) Matton Shipyard: Preservation & Adaptive Reuse Initiative
(2.) One Water/One Brand
(3.) Shape Your Waterfront: How to Promote Access, Resiliency and Ecology at the Water’s Edge
(4.) Waterfront Recreational Opportunities
11:45am – 1:00pm
Boxed Lunch
© 2018 Canal Society of NYS – All Rights Reserved
Canal Society of NYS

Campaign To Save Historic Canal Vessels

The Preservation League of New York State is seeking support for its efforts to protect the historic Tug Urger and other Erie Canal vessels that provide an authentic link to the past. The League recently learned that the New York State Canal Corporation under the New York Power Authority (NYPA) has plans to beach the tugboat Urger, flagship of the Erie Canal and beloved “teaching tug”. This vessel has introduced thousands of school children and members of the public to New York’s navigable waterways, reinforcing the role of the Erie Canal in making New York the Empire State. The Tug Urger used to travel up and down the canal system for school field trips and public events.

The Canal Corporation and NYPA want to pull it from the water and make it a dry-land exhibit at a NYS Visitor Center off the Thruway in Montgomery County. NYPA’s plans would permanently disable the Urger and prevent it from returning to service. The League is launching an advocacy campaign to call attention to the plight of the Urger and call on the Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority to work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the fleet of historic canal vessels, more than a dozen of which are slated to be scuttled off Long Island to create artificial reefs for sport fishing and recreational diving. According to Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League, “The Erie Canal is an engine for recreation and tourism with significant economic benefits for canal communities, businesses and New York State.

The Preservation League has been working for years to help communities in the Erie Canal Corridor address their unique preservation challenges and revitalize Canalside assets. #SaveTheUrger. Through more than $600,000 in grants, technical services, workshops, awards and the Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, the Preservation League has helped individuals, not-for-profits and municipalities throughout the canal corridor. Loans from the Endangered Properties Intervention Program (EPIP) have added more than $300,000 in support. “As we mark the 100th. Anniversary of the Barge Canal, it seems like a remarkably poor time to remove historic resources from the National Historic Landmark NYS Canal System” continued DiLorenzo. “It’s hard to imagine the future of the canal system without the Tug Urger and other significant historic vessels on the water. These vessels convey the sense of the New York State pride, stewardship, and heritage that are integral to a thriving, living waterway,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “The canal tugboat Urger has served the New York State Barge Canal for more than a century and until very recently has been a highly effective traveling educational exhibit” said Mark Peckham, maritime historian and retired director of the NYS Bureau of Historic Sites. “The Urger symbolizes the pride New Yorkers feel about the National Historic Landmark canal system. It is essential that she continues to be maintained and operated with pride” according to Dan Wiles president of the Board of Directors of the Canal Society of New York State, “The 1901 Urger already had a storied career even before plying Barge Canal waters in the 1920’s serving as a fishing boat on Lake Michigan.  As one of the State’s maintenance workhorses, its presence overlaps nearly all the years of the Barge Canal, now celebrating its centennial. It has been appreciated by generations across these many years and across New York State. It is one of the essential links between that past and the future. We all need it to continue this mission on the waterway, being shared by communities throughout the Canal Corridor” In addition to the effort to save the Urger, the League is also calling on the Canal Corporation and the New York Power Authority to work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the remainder of the fleet of historic canal vessels, which currently numbers 57.

More information and a petition is located on the Preservation League’s website  The Preservation League of New York State invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth and the protection of our historic buildings and landscapes. We lead advocacy, economic development and education programs across the state.

Sign The Petition Here


Art Of The Erie Canal

The Art of The Erie Canal
The Erie Canal, the foremost engineering marvel of the 19th century, sparked the imagination of artists in America and abroad. On display through September 23, 2018 This companion exhibition to Enterprising Waters: New York’s Erie Canal looks at the art inspired by the canal and the opportunities it afforded artists both trained and untrained working in a variety of media, such as paintings, photographs, sketches, transfer-printed earthenware and beadwork. A selection of 60 works comes from the collections of the New York State Museum, the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie and other cultural institutions and private lenders from across the state.
These works represent just a small sample of the wealth of Erie Canal art made over the course of its first 150 years.
The New York State Museum gratefully acknowledges the lenders that have contributed to the Art of the Erie Canal exhibition:
Albany Institute of History & Art, Alexandra Anderson. Arkell Museum at Canajoharie, Dolores Elliott, Erie Canal Museum, Fenimore Art Museum, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, New-York Historical Society, Onondaga Historical Association, Private Collection, Rochester Historical Society, and the Union College Permanent Collection

Champlain Canal Centennial Roundtables

Four roundtables celebrating the Champlain Canal Centennial have been scheduled for May. Each will feature a presentation, an informational sharing session, networking opportunities and a discussion period.

The roundtables are designed to bring together museum professionals, historical societies, archivists, local historians and community members to foster collaboration and to create unique thematic experiences for visitors

May 4th. 2018 from noon to 3pm. at the Waterford Harbor Visitor Center located at 1 Tugboat Alley, Brad Utter will present Community Building: The Growth of Canal Communities. Brad Utter is Senior Historian / Curator for Science and Technological History at the New York State Museum. His research focuses on the New York State Canal System and its impact on the community. He was curator for the exhibit marking the 200th. anniversary of the canal, Enterprising Waters New York’s Erie Canal

May 8th, 2018 from noon to 3pm, at the Silos, Maple Street, Hudson Falls, Jeanne Williams and Kim Harvish will present Immigration, Industrialization, and Innovation. Jeanne Williams is Executive Director of the Feeder Canal Alliance and Kim Harvish is educator at the Chapman Historical Museum. Williams focuses on the past, present, and future of the Feeder Canal that was once the economic engine of the area. Harvish uses the resources of the Chapman Historical Museum to integrate local history into programs that incorporate visual literacy components and primary documents

May 17th. 2018 from noon to 3pm. at the Schuyler Room of the Saratoga Town Hall 12 Spring Street Schuylerville. Craig Williams will present Building the Champlain Barge Canal: Treasurers in the NYS Archives. Craig Williams is a retired senior historian at the New York State Museum and a trustee of the Canal Society of New York State. He has spent over 50 years researching and documenting New York’s canal heritage. Using the unique resources of the New York State Archives along with oral histories. Williams will present stories about the engineering achievements and the people involved in the construction of the Champlain Canal.

May 19th. 2018 from 1pm. to 4pm. at the Crandall Public Library, 251 Glen St. Glens Falls. Erica Wolfe Burke will present Researching the People of the Feeder Canal. Erica Wolfe Burke is an archivist and special collections librarian at the Folklife Center at the Crandall Public Library. She assists families and genealogists researching upstate New York ancestry and has offered a series of family history workshops. Her presentation will culminate in a community archiving event with the Folklife Center as the repository for the images shared.

Preregistration is required for all events. $15 includes material and lunch. “Researching the People of the Feeder Canal” is free and does not include lunch.

Preregister by emailing [email protected]. For questions call (518) 597-9660

Barge Canal Centennial Celebrations Planned For Rochester

We currently travel on the third generation of the Erie Canal, commonly referred to as the “Barge Canal” 2018 celebrates the centennial of the opening of this version of the Canal system. The fact that we travel today on infrastructure designed and built 100 years ago is a great testament to the engineers and builders of the Barge Canal and the foresight of NYS to embark of its construction

The Canal Society of New York State in conjunction with the New York State Canal Corp and in partnership with the Centennial Celebration Committee are hosting two events to mark the centennial opening of the Erie Barge Canal in 2018.

When: Saturday May 5th. Canal Conversation & Symposium

Theatre at Stong Museum of Play Rochester

Join the conversation at this daylong public forum in which presenters discuss canal history and its continued value today and for the future. Registration $40, includes breakfast, coffee breaks and lunch.

Thursday May 10th. Centennial Celebration: Watering of the Erie Barge Canal

East Guard Lock just west of Kendrick Rd.

Witness the re-creation of the first inflow of water into the 20th century Erie Canal as “Teddy Roosevelt” sponsors, and other dignitaries greet the public and ceremoniously commemorate the event using the authentic shovel used 100 years ago on May 10th. 1918. Dignitaries will also unveil a bronze plaque to celebrate the designation of the NYS Canal System as a National Historic Landmark. FREE

Canal by Coach Tour: Following the festivities join Canal Society of New York State President Emeritus Tom Grasso and other experts for a guided tour by motor coach of the remarkable canal sites in eastern Monroe County Registration: $60. Includes lunch, bus, printed guide and more.


On the morning of May 10th. 1918 a group of engineers, contractors, workers and a few prominent citizens gathered on the east side of the Genesee River in Genesee Valley Park to inaugurate a monumental, audacious and revolutionary accomplishment in New York State’s long and storied canal history. Water for the first time was let into the newly completed expansion of the Erie Canal or “Teddy Roosevelts Ditch”. Five days later the new Erie-Barge Canal was opened for through traffic from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River. A new era had begun.

Sponsors: New York State Canal Corporation, Canal Society of New York State, Create a Brand, City of Rochester, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Bergman Associates, and John & Eve Graham.

To register for either of the events, click here   

Middleport Preserving Co.

A large four story building that stood on the northwest side of the canal had a rich history and several different names.  It started as a flour mill which was destroyed in 1859 and came back to life in 1883 as the Ontario Preserving Company.

The property was leased to the company by Buel P. Barnes who stipulated that it could only be used as a canning factory.  Mr. Barnes at that time owned the flour mill on the corner of North Hartland and Sherman Road and wanted to make sure he had no new competition. Managed by Mr. Charles Francis with Mr. Jay S. Vary as superintendent, processor and chemist, the plant was known for packing peas which were shelled every morning by local housewives and picked up by horse and wagon before noon so they could be processed by evening.

As the cost of peas made the product no longer profitable for the plant, it switched to pineapples, naval oranges, strawberries, cherries as well as a large variety of other fruits and vegetables.  The plant had the first acetylene gas units to replace the old kerosene lamps as well as a steam engine to provide additional power and  Middleport’s first sprinkler system for fire protection.

The plant was an active employer of around 500 local residents and several additions had to be made to the building to house the new equipment.  In 1891, the Sprague-Warner Company of Chicago,Illinois purchased the plant and the name was changed to the Batavia Preserving Company.  The Middleport plant continued to preserve fruits while another plant in Batavia handled most of the vegetables.  The plant was again sold in 1913 when the Batavia Preserving Company decided to leave Western New York.

After several more owners who ran it as a canning company, the last name on the building was Longview Farms Inc. which was run by Louis Catalano and R.C Walthew.  After a destructive fire in the 1960’s, the building became a safety hazard and was demolished in 1967.

Information for this article came from a 1966 essay written by Elmer Vary, longtime resident of Middleport

Schenectady County Erie Canal History Events Set

New York State is celebrating the bicentennial of the Erie Canal’s creation this year with a campaign to “Reimagine the Canal.”

A series of conversations focused on economic and environmental sustainability of the historical Mohawk river towns will be held in Schenectady County beginning March 8th.

These events will kick-off with a presentation by some of the region’s leading experts on the Erie Canal, followed by dialogue on how re-imagining the canal and river can help community revitalization and sustainability in the region.

Thurs., March 8, 7 pm, The first speaker will be David Brooks, education director at the Schoharie Crossing Visitors Center. Brooks’s talk “Through the Mire” looks at the environmental factors and impact of constructing the canal. Location: ECOS Headquarters, Niskayuna Community Center, 2682 Aqueduct Rd. The ECOS annual all-member meeting will be held at 5:30 pm to discuss 2018-19 priorities and elect new board members (membership required to vote, but all are welcome).

Wed., March 21, 6 pm, there will be a presentation by Brad Utter, the senior historian and curator for science and technology at the New York State Museum in Albany who curated the museum’s current exhibit, “Enterprising Waters:New York’s Erie Canal.” He will talk about the exhibit and how he put it together, as well as his favorite stories about the canal and those who conceived and built it. Location: McChesney Room, Schenectady County Public Library, 99 Clinton St., Schenectady.

Tues., April 24, 7 pm, Jack Kelly of Ulster County, author of the book Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal (St. Martin’s Press) will speak. Kelly is a journalist, novelist and historian whose book, according to a New York Times review, “engagingly juxtaposes the challenges confronting the dreamers who envisioned a link between the Atlantic, the Great Lakes and the apocalyptic cauldron brewing upstate…. [as] Mormons and Freemasons, joined with Welsh and Irish laborers recruited from Manhattan’s Five Points, carved the canal from rock and mud, thrusting them into a volatile existence.” Location: Schenectady Community College, 78 Washington Ave, Schenectady.

RSVP is encouraged, but not required for the March events. Tickets for the April 24 event will be available for sale on ECOS’ website in April.

These events are part of the Discover the Mohawk initiative sponsored by the City of Schenectady, Schenectady County Metroplex Authority, and LandArt Studio, the Environmental Clearinghouse.

This post originated from the NY History Blog