Sunday, January 15, 2006

1/5/2006 - Syracuse, Take 2

36°F in Syracuse as I arrive at one of the largest cities on my path to date. By 2000 there were almost 150,000 folks living here (compared to a mere 100,000 in my own Cambridge or 600,000 in Boston Proper).

In a city of this size and history, the difficulty isn't finding something to blog about, it's deciding from which among many. After a couple of websearches, I was quickly drawn to the Erie Canal Museum.

Having walked so near to the canal for the past month or so, it was inevitable that I would develop a keen interest in that august body of water (far more interesting than, say, route 62). On a personal note, for those of us who have endured the "Big Dig," it's nice to have something for comparison purposes.

The canal was first envisioned from 1699 (Lake Erie to Ontario) to 1724 (Lake Erie to Hudson River). Only 68 years later, the New York legislature passes an act opening up the possibility of construction. The first locks are built in that year (1792). Work seems to really get underway in 1817, with hundreds of miles of canal being opened up in the next 3 years. Work is essentially complete in 1825. I have the University of Rochester to thank for this chronology.

So the work really only took 8 years (about the same as the Big Dig) but probably cost less (~$13.6B). In the Big Dig's defense, the contractors had to navigate around Boston, a skill I still haven't developed, nearly 10 years on.

One of the most interesting exhibits I virtually saw in the museum was a letter from Nathaniel Hawthorne on riding along the canal. Hawthorne characterized the waters as follows:
"Surly [sic], the water of this canal must be the most fertilizing of all fluids, for it causes towns—with their masses of brick and stone, their churches and theatres, their business and hubbub, their luxury and refinement, their gay dames and polished citizens—to spring up, till, in time, the wondrous stream may flow between two continuous lines of buildings, through one thronged street, from Buffalo to Albany"
How could I add to that?

11,000 low bridges steps today. Cheers,

6 Comments:

Anonymous magid said...

Somewhere in my house, I think I've got an illustrated kid book about the making of the canal. If I run across it, I'll bring it over sometime; it's very interesting.

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