Erie Canal Museum
May 21, 2013
|Explored Syracuse New York today and it didn't disappoint. My first stop was the Erie Canal Museum which has been operating since 1962 in the only existing original Weighlock Building left.
The Erie Canal was 363 miles long starting at Albany in eastern NY and ending in western NY in Buffalo. The museum has a replica of a boat in the weigh chamber and explains how it would be weighed empty and the weight would be recorded and filed as part of the annual state registration. Thereafter, a toll was assessed only on the difference in weight of a boat loaded with cargo. The weighing process required the boat to enter the chamber, the water would then drain lowering the boat unto a wooden platform where a series of rods and levers distributed the weight of the boat to a single rod attached to a beam scale. The whole process took only 15 minutes!
Buildings on the banks of the canal had two openings - one faced the street, the other the canal. These buildings were called "double enders". The street facades were ornate hoping to attract passersby whereas the canal side pretty much was a place to load or unload cargo. Received goods went upstairs because the ground floor was a retail shop.
The 2nd floor of the museum concentrated on famous people from Syracuse and their accomplishments. Here are a few very interesting ones:
Elizabeth Cotten - famed folk singer who played the guitar upside down and left handed - that style became known as "Cotten picking".
Huntington Crouse and Jesse Hinds - invented the traffic light. First one was installed in 1924 in Syracuse.
Chief John Big Tree - member of Onondaga Territory was the profile for both the US Indian Head nickel and the Pontiac car emblem.
Hiawatha - a real person and member of the Onondaga Territory.
Charles Brannock - invented the Brannock Device that measures your feet in the shoe store.
A.E. Nettleton - designed and introduced the "Loafer" in 1937. They were considered the Rolls Royce of men's shoes and were worn by Teddy Roosevelt, the Wright Bros. and Lucky Lindy.
Gustav Stickley - famous oak furniture maker.
The things you learn at a museum!
As I was exiting the museum, the woman at the desk suggested that I walk 2 blocks to see the statues at Clinton Square ( named after Dewitt Clinton - Governor and champion of building the Erie Canal). It was very hot today. As I arrived at the square I saw two young boys romping in the shallow water of the fountain - boy how I wished I could join them! The monument to the Civil War soldiers is impressive up close. It didn't photograph well. The one of the Jerry Rescue came out better.
The story of the Jerry Rescue - In 1851, William "Jerry" Henry, an escaped slave, was ostensibly arrested for theft. He escaped but was recaptured by federal police. A crowd of 2500 people - abolitionists - surrounded and stormed the jail. This time, after his escape, Jerry was successfully hidden in the city until he fled to freedom in Kingston, Ontario.
I started walking to my car when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a monster FABULOUS building on the next block. What a magnificent example of art deco architecture. I very quickly entered the building to see what the inside looked like and I was promptly ushered out. It seems that security people at power companies do like strangers roaming around their buildings. Too bad. I caught a glimpse of the elevator doors and they were stunning.
By now it was time to meet John and Ace for an early dinner. We ate outside - the very hot day had suddenly become quite pleasant. Fortunately we were able to get our visit in before the rain came.