You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 4, 2020.

Many activities across the state are being cancelled, but our virtual tour boat has been authorized by the USCG and the United Federation of Planets to carry an infinite number of passengers, so long as we have an infinite number of virtual PFDs and our transporter room has virtual  certification.  And your captains . . . well, they have both real and virtual licenses. So, again,  welcome aboard.

Today we head east from Spencerport, a growing suburb of Rochester.  From the waterway, you can see life in suburbs, quite different than a couple dozen miles back where you looked at agriculture. At its peak in the pre-Barge Canal era, 1000 people lived here; now well into the automobile era, the population has climbed to about 3600.  For more images of the Spencerport lift bridge, click here.  And by the way, don’t speed from one lift bridge to another, because sometimes one bridge operator serves more than one bridge, and takes a bicycle on the “tow path” between them.

About four miles to the east, it’s Henpeck Park, one of many places along the canal where murals commemorate the history of the waterway.

Around the bend from Henpeck, signs and gates point to the old Erie Canal bed, which went right into the heart of what grew into Rochester.

This is what you see of Rochester as you head from Greece and toward the west today.  As happened in places like Schenectady, Utica, and Syracuse, the Barge Canal path avoided the old city centers, and sections of Clinton’s Ditch and the Enlarged Canal were filled in.   I’ve posted this glossary before, but in case you are confused, you should check it.

Some refer to this as the Barge Canal’s Culebra Cut, then and

now, or at least in fall.

You see nothing of the city, except the “unintended” side of a very few structures like that white one at the top of the photo.  Given the trail down to the water, I wonder what transpires there, in the hidden world of Rochester: fishing, indulging, what else.  Someone standing or driving on the other side of the building would have no idea a major waterway can be found behind the buildings.

Vestiges like these remind of a time when essential materials arrived here by water.   In fact, google-map-check the route the canal follows through the west side of the city;  it’s tank farm after tank farm, dating to this means of supply.  Rochester’s 1950 population exceeded 330k; today it’s shrunk to around 200k.

The airport lies just south of the Canal near here.

I’ve not been north of the canal on the Genesee, but in a few miles you’d get to Corn Hill and then High Falls, the water power that put the location on the road to a boom.  There’s so much more to write about Rochester and the Canal.  A brilliant story of reinvention involving use, disuse, and the obsolescence driving repurposing is that of the Rochester subway, previously the 19th century canal aqueduct.   Rochester also was home to Dolomite Shipyard, where ocean-going vessels were built, vessels that once launched, made their way to salt water via the Canal.  More on the Odenbachs, the family that owned the shipyard, here.

Genesee Crossing, where the canal and the Genesee River intersect, is a place where a flowing river dumps silt into the canal, a place where dredging is always necessary.  Fifty miles south of here is Letchworth State Park, sometimes called “Grand Canyon of the East,” where the Genesee tumbles over a series of falls in a deep gorge.   As the Mohawks played a role in the eastern part of this guide, the Senecas did here;  the Mohawks were the “keepers of the eastern door” of the Haudenosaunee, and the Senecas were the “keepers of the western door.”  Their traditional range was once between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake, reaffirmed by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua here.   Cornplanter and Handsome Lake, two signatories of that treaty, have histories that are worth a read.  As happened elsewhere, though, treaties were signed, borders were encroached upon, conflict arose, new treaties were signed; and the whole cycle repeated.

Mary Jemison, built in 1931 and a former Chesapeake Bay “buy boat,” is a retired (and for sale) Genesee River excursion boat .  She’s also interesting because of her namesake.  Mary Jemison was a Scots-Irish child born on an immigrant ship in the Atlantic Ocean.  After landing in Philadelphia, her family moved into western Pennsylvania, disputed territory at the outbreak of the (last) French and Indian War.  In 1755, when she was 12, she was kidnapped and most of her family killed in a raid;  as was Haudenosaunee custom, she was adopted and lived the rest of her life as Dehgewänis, a native woman, for much of the time along the Genesee River.  More of her story, including her connection to Letchworth, can be read here.  The name Jemison is still used by members of the Seneca nation.

These three pedestrian bridges, connecting parts of Genesee Valley Park, were built over a century ago, and

are among my favorite sights along the canal.  Erie Canal Adventures, formerly Mid-Lakes Navigation,  operates these rental houseboats.

Here’s another view of Genesee Crossing, as seen from the dredgers dock.

Beyond these guard gates, we’re in the SE suburbs of Rochester.  We’ll stop here for the night.  Meanwhile, Rochester is associated with George Eastman, Henry Lomb, Hiram Sibley, Frederick Douglas, Mitch Miller, Susan B. Anthony, Steven Sasson, Chuck Mangione, and anyone can list folks I’ve left out.  It’s also the home  of Genesee Brewing, which will come up later.

Right here we’re  halfway between Erie Basin Buffalo and Inner Harbor Syracuse, about 90 miles in each direction.

Let’s end on a vintage photo said to be in the Rochester area in the 1920s.  Anyone know more?

And, here’s a post I did on tugster five years ago showing the variety of traffic on the Erie Canal in the Rochester area  100 years ago.

 

 

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