Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Erie Canal Aqueducts of Port Byron

In 2022, the Canal Society of New York State purchased the old St. John's Church from the Catholic Diocese and turned it into the Samuel Center for Canal History. While the side room will become a archives and study place, the sanctuary will be used as a performance space. 


The history of the church dates back to the 1890s, when the small catholic community in the village built the church and it was used up to about 2020. At one time, the Episcopalians had their own church next door, but that was torn down in the late 1940s. 

 The alter of the Catholic Church/Samuel Center sits on the route of the first Erie Canal, aka. "Clinton's Ditch," and it crossed the Owasco Outlet on a four span all stone aqueduct. 

This image of the old aqueduct is from the early 1900s, say around 1907 to 1910 period. You can make out the back part of the church, and you can see that they built a barn on top of the eastern side over the eastern most arch. Here is a colorized version of it.

This aqueduct would have been used as early as 1820, when the canal was put into service between Montezuma and Utica. That 98-mile-long-section had been completed by the fall of 1819, and in the spring of 1820, the state began use to start to make some money to help build the rest of the canal. 

The first route of the canal basically followed Utica St up to Rochester and then it curved toward the west. Here is a map showing the route. 

There is a post somewhere on this site about the 1858 route change in the village. But in short, some people wanted to change to the "northern route," while others wanted to keep the original route, and in the end, the northern route folks won the battle and the canal was moved during the enlargement project. This created a second aqueduct crossing of the Owasco. 

The Enlarged Erie Canal Aqueduct is located about 1000 north of the original crossing. Most of the images taken of it were from the Green Street bridge which afforded a nice look at the structure. 

The dam in the foreground was a low-head dam used to power mills that were on both banks of the Outlet, but in the later years, only the mill on the west bank remained. 

While both structures are mostly gone, there are bits of both left to see. The eastern most arch of the original aqueduct is under the parking lot of the Samuel Center and is accessible. The abutments of the enlarged aqueduct are found by way of the old tennis courts behind the old school. 

No comments:

Post a Comment