A New York State landmark hit an important milestone this Independence Day. July 4th was the Bi-Centennial of the beginning of the construction on the Erie Canal. Erie Canal Museum Executive Director Natalie Stetson is an obvious advocate for educating people on the Canal’s history and significance.
“I think the best thing we can do to celebrate the bicentennial is to bet the best Erie Canal Museum we can be. So getting the word out and encouraging people to think and reflect and wonder and learn about this incredible body of water that changed the world is what we can do most.”
Construction of the original Erie Canal took 8 years, ending in 1825, and has been expanded and altered several times to keep up with technology. While main channels are still used today for recreation and shipping.... Syracuse sealed its channels of the Canal in the 1920’s due to lack of use.
“As you drive down Erie Boulevard, you’ll notice that some roads have different names on either side of the street, because it didn’t have a bridge over the Erie Canal. But bridges are very expensive to maintain and it was the 1920s. Everybody wanted their cares; they were going to dive around in this new kind of freedom.”
Though the Canal no longer operates in Syracuse, its impact on the State of New York is still apparent.
“Recently Genesee Brewery in Rochester shipped some very large fermentation tanks that made their way from New York City. They actually came up the Hudson (river) and across the Erie to Rochester. They did this all utilizing the canal because these things were gargantuan.”
Stetson argues that New York City would not be the metropolis it is and Syracuse itself would not exist without it. The museum hopes to increase appreciation for the Canal’s legacy through community outreach.
“And the next step is to really create a reflections collector, to really reach out into our community, not just in Syracuse, but all around the country and say, ‘do you have an Erie Canal Story? Would you like to share that with us?’”
The Bi-Centennial is only the beginning of 8 years of Canal historical celebrations. Over the next few years, the Canal Museum hopes to open exhibits on Teddy Roosevelt’s expansions, historical photography, and more. In addition to historical displays and photos, a current exhibit has works by contemporary artists depicting life on the canal in its hey-day.