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Erie Canal: 1910

Erie Canal: 1910

Utica, New York, circa 1910. "Erie Canal at Utica." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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To set the record straight, the street in the background is Genesee Street. The vantage point appears to be from the John St. bridge. The canal is now Oriskany St. By the time this photo was taken, the State had stopped collecting canal tolls, so the building had no use aside from office space. You can see by the broken windows that this building appears to be empty. There were once five of these weighlocks, the only one left is in Syracuse. The State DOT, which had control of the canals up to the 1990's used the Syracuse building as office space until the late 1950's or early 1960's. It was then purchased by the city of Syracuse and turned into a museum.

Singing "Erie Canal"

I was in the 4th grade in 1950 in Cincinnati and our music teacher always had us sing "Erie Canal". I still know the words as that song always stuck with me:

I got a mule her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal,
She's a good old worker and a good old pal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.

We've hauled some barges in our day,
full of lumber, coal and hay,
and we know every inch of the way,
15 miles on the Erie Canal.....

Low bridge, everybody down;
Low bridge 'cause we're comin' to a town.
And you'll always know your neighbor,
You'll always know your pal; if you ever navigated on the Erie Canal.



The trolley is crossing the John St. bridge, so the spire is Grace Episcopal a bit south of the canal. St. John's, which has twin spires, would be out of the photo at left, since, it too is on John St., south of where it intersects with Broad. The route of the old Erie through Utica was filled in and is now Oriskany St.

Possible location..

The George W.Head Flour, Grain, Feed (on the right in the photo) is listed on a 1906 billhead as being at the corner of Broad and John streets. I can't seem to find any buildings today that appear in the photo minus the possible spire of the St. Johns Catholic church which sits 2 to the 3 blocks south on John st.

Great photo.

Mr. Rogers Was Here

Looks like an open-sided trolley or street car is on the cusp of crossing the bridge from left to right (gauging by the angle of the trolley pole), while a couple of men-folk are crossing on the bridge's pedestrian walkway. A bucolic urban scene for yesteryear. Lovely shot. Thanks for posting it.

Oriskany Street

About the time this photo was taken the New York State Barge Canal was being built to handle larger barges. In some places the Erie Canal was simply widened, but in cities like Utica, Syracuse and Rochester a new canal was built. In Utica, the new canal was about a half-mile north of the Erie Canal.

This map shows the Weigh Lock. It is where Oriskany St. turns into the East-West Arterial Highway at the intersection of Broad St. None of the buildings in the photo are still there.

What about now?

I would love for some Utica NY Shorpy expert to figure out what this shot looks like now,if it even exists. The Erie canal was the most financially successful canal venture ever built in this country. First proposed over 100 years before it actually opened, and taking nearly 20 years to build at a staggering cost both financially and politically for those that opposed and supported it.
The Erie canal forever changed the makeup of this nation in terms of east to west migration and allowed the "middle" to reach the east coast and ultimately Europe with both agricultural and manufactured goods and also allowed the vast manufacturing of the East to move West, cheaply. Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and many other states went from wilderness frontiers to viable economies because of this canal.
The Railroads rendered almost every canal in the nation useless overnight. The Erie, while greatly diminished in tonnage after 1850 remained very important to New York, and the Eastern Great Lakes Region almost into the 20th century.


The building on the left is a weighlock. I don't think it still exists in Utica (or at least I didn't see it the last time I was there). But the one in Syracuse is still standing, and has been turned into the Erie Canal Museum. Picture from the museum's website below.

George M. Cohans The Honeymooners.

It was a 1907 Play so the sign is a few years old.

Starring George, Jerry and Nellie Cohan, it ran for 72 Performances.


Could that be...

the remains of the Squire Whipple designed Utica weigh lock on the left, which hadn't been used since tolls were abolished on the canal in 1882, after the construction bonds/loans had been paid off? Those were the days!

That's pretty cool

Does any of that survive? Did the canal go through the heart of Utica? I live outside Boston and you can still see the remnants of the old Middlesex Canal. Sad though, as the suburbs fill up more and more of it has been lost to history.

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