Canal system designated national historic landmark

Lock 15 at Ft. Plain is shown. The canal system has been named as a national historic landmark. (Photo submitted)

ALBANY — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, other federal officials, and the Erie Canalway on Wednesday announced that the New York State Canal System has been designated a national historic landmark.

An official announcement was made by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Acting Director Michael T. Reynolds.

The designation places New York’s operating canals among the premier historic sites in the United States. The designation includes 450 miles of navigation channels and 552 contributing structures and buildings that operate today largely as they did when the system went into operation in 1918.

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, the waterways link the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes, Niagara River and Lake Erie with communities rich in history and culture. The system is owned and operated by the New York State Canal Corp., a subsidiary of the New York Power Authority.

New York state’s Barge Canal system will celebrate its 192nd year of continuous operation next year. Also, the canal will celebrate its centennial in 2018.

The canal system includes several areas of Montgomery County — between mile markers 38 to 71 — such as: the Route 30 Bridge in Amsterdam, Lock E11 in Amsterdam; Yankee Hill Lock near Queen Anne Street in Fort Hunter, town of Florida; Route 30A Bridge, Fonda; Fonda Terminal and Canal Shops on the north bank of the Mohawk River; Lock E13 Yosts, Canajoharie Terminal, Route 10 Bridge, Canajoharie-Palatine; Lock E14 Canajoharie, Fort Plain-Nelliston Bridge, Lock E-15 Fort Plain; and St. Johnsville Terminal, Bridge and Lock E16.

“It’s absolutely a good thing,” Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said Thursday of the designation. “When these areas are designated as a historic district, it often opens up funding resources.”

Ossenfort said additional designations are often “critical” funding for projects, such as along the canal system.

Also, he said the 200 anniversary of the canal system will be celebrated in 2018, including in Montgomery County.

A news release from Gillibrand’s office indicated that after her year-long push, the U.S. Department of Interior has made the designation.

The state canal system extends through Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

“The New York State Barge Canal has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of not only New York state, but the entire country,” Gillibrand stated in the release. “It facilitated and shaped the course of settlement in the Northeast, Midwest and Great Plains, and established New York City as the nation’s premiere seaport and commercial center.”

The senator added, “I was proud to fight for this designation because the canal is a symbolic reminder of New York’s excellence from the 1800s to this present day, honoring generations of our history and industry. Today, the New York state Barge Canal gets the recognition it truly deserves as it officially becomes a national historic landmark.”

Brian U. Stratton, director of the New York State Canal Corp. said in a release: “As we approach the Barge Canal’s centennial year in 2018, as well as the observance of the Erie Canal’s bicentennial period between 2017 and 2025, national historic landmark designation of the Barge Canal will be a most deserving step in appropriately honoring the prominent role New York’s canals have played – and continue to play – in the development of the nation’s economic and cultural heritage.”

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, in partnership with the New York State Canal Corp., spearheaded the nomination, which received full support from members of Congress whose districts include the canal, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York state agencies, canal communities, and others.

Nearly 200 years after its construction, the Erie Canal remains an iconic symbol of American ingenuity and determination.

An Erie Canalway release states, “The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor preserves our extraordinary canal heritage, promotes the Corridor as a world-class tourism destination, and fosters vibrant communities connected by more than 500 miles of waterway. We achieve our mission in partnership with the National Park Service, New York State agencies, non-profit organizations, local residents, and more than 200 communities across the full expanse of upstate New York.”

An Erie Canalway news release indicated that as New York state prepares to honor the bicentennial of construction of the Erie Canal, there is “new cause for celebration.”

New York state’s Barge Canal system will celebrate its 192nd year of continuous operation next year. Also, the canal will celebrate its centennial in 2018.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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