Feb 26, 2008 Willie Kiernan Uncategorized
Canal museum flourishes
Director embraces history and new job, curator to teach at S.U.
By Willie Kiernan
Diana Goodsight was hired as Executive Director of the Erie Canal Museum back in October.
“I saw this job offer in the newspaper,” Goodsight said.
If Goodsight was Cinderella, this would be the slipper that fit.
“I was born to do this job,” she said.
Returning to Cazenovia from Florida, Goodsight scoured the papers looking for something to keep her active while her husband Larry found employment at WCNY. With her experience as Director of the Visitors and Information Center of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce she was a shoo-in for the position of museum director. With her natural enthusiasm, she has embraced the history of the Erie Canal and has given the museum a new vitality.
“We came back because our dearest friends in the world are in Cazenovia,” she said.
After a career at AT&T, Goodsight settled Upstate with her husband and opened up a fine art gallery. The gallery at 5 Lincklean St. in Cazenovia specialized in New York state artists.
“There was such a need and we had so many great artists,” Goodsight said. “I thought, what does this town need? I thought it needed an art gallery.”
After a five-year run, Goodsight sold the gallery and moved to Florida to be closer to family. That art gallery is the Gallery of CNY on Albany Street. After three years in Naples, the Goodsights returned to Central New York.
I am thrilled to be part of the Erie Canal Museum,” Diana Goodsight said. “Of the nation’s nearly16,000 museums, the ECM is proud to be one of the 750 museums accredited by the American Association of Museums; the only accredited history museum in the central New York region.”
The Erie Canal Museum is a private, nonprofit corporation founded in 1962. It is housed in the 1850 Weighlock Building, where canal boats were weighed during the days when they traveled through the center of Syracuse on the Erie Canal. There were seven such toll/weighing stations along the canal. The Syracuse weigh station is the last in existence.
The museum houses many exhibits offering visitors a glimpse of life in the 19th century, including an actual canal lineboat that can be boarded, penny postcards from the era, the weighmaster’s office, the uniquely Syracuse Room, a reproduction of a mid-1800s canalside tavern, a pottery display, a general store, a 19th century theater stage a gift shop and much more.
The museum, located at 318 Erie Boulevard East in downtown Syracuse, is the nation’s premier maritime museum specializing in Erie Canal history. It is the only remaining structure of its kind in America. Admission to the museum is free. Donations are greatly appreciated. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 471-0593 or visit eriecanalmuseum.org.
Museum curator to teach at S.U.
Andrew Kitzmann, assistant director and curator at the Erie Canal Museum, has been asked to teach a course at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts Program in Museum Studies. He has been the curator at the museum for nine years.
“The Erie Canal Museum is a wonderful place that is poised to drastically expand our ability to engage our local community,” Kitzmann said. “As the curator, I’m so happy to be a part of the process of restoring the former Water Street Gym into a state of the art museum experience for Syracusans. I’m looking forward to the expansions and the renewed interests in our cities point of pride, the 1850 Syracuse Weighlock Building from the Erie Canal.”
The course Kitzmann will be teaching is History Museums in North America: Adapting to a Competitive Environment. The course will explore museums in general, and history museums in particular, all of which have been experiencing a variety of changes within the field. The rapid growth of small to mid-sized specialty museums has created a funding and collecting crisis forcing the history field to take a critical look at the resources and requirements to move forward.
“I’m pleased to be able to join the faculty of the Museum Studies program at Syracuse University. The program has a long history of reaching out to the surrounding museum community and both engaging students through internships and taping museum professionals to teach in their program,” Kitzmann said. “This is a philosophy that is critical today as the University and the community continue to form partnerships and seek out new and unique ways to achieve the common purpose of revitalizing our city.”
The areas of historic preservation of buildings, the National Landmark and Historic Register acts, the National Park Service, impacts on funding, and an exploration of the wide range and diversity of history museums will be used to develop a broad brush picture of the many facets that come together to create a successful history museum.
The Erie Canal
The Erie Canal was known as Clinton’s Big Ditch, Clinton’s Folly, the Mother of cities and in Syracuse, the Ditch that Salt Built. Famous in song and story, the canal was completed in 1825. The waterway allowed for swift and affordable travel from Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east creating cities, towns and villages along the way.
In order to open the country west of the Appalachian Mountains to settlers and to offer a cheap and safe way to carry produce to a market, the idea of a canal was proposed as early as 1768. But actual construction did not begin until July 4, 1817, when Governor Dewitt Clinton convinced the state legislature to authorize $7 million for the building of the 363-mile canal. An engineering marvel when it was built, some called it the Eighth Wonder of the World. At the time, Syracuse was not a city, but a salt-producing swamp.
The Erie Canal proved to be the key that unlocked an enormous series of social and economic changes in young America. In 1788, salt produced in Syracuse cost $6 a barrel to ship to New York City. After the canal was built, the same trip cost 60 cents a barrel and was quicker. Salt at that time was invaluable not as a spice but as a preservative for meat before refrigeration.
“The city will, in the course of time, become the granary of the world, the emporium of commerce, the seat of manufactures, the focus of great moneyed operations,” Clinton said. “And before the revolution of a century, the whole island of Manhattan, covered with inhabitants and replenished with a dense population, will constitute one vast city.”
Within 15 years of the canal’s opening, New York was the busiest port in America, moving more freight than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined. The impact on the rest of the State, with the exception of Binghamton and Elmira, can be seen on a map showing every major city falling along the trade route established by the Erie Canal, from New York City to Albany, through Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse, to Rochester and Buffalo, in all, 80 percent of the Upstate population within 25 miles of the canal corridor.
Syracuse, situated midway between Albany and Buffalo, also had a shorter canal system that went north to Lake Ontario. The triangular meeting of the two canals created Clinton square, the heart of the city. Syracuse became a common port and the controlled the canal’s funds. The great architecture of the time can be seen in the three great bank buildings downtown still standing today.
Canal boats were pulled by horses or mules; the horses were stylish but the mules were less skittish when getting on and off the boats. A line boat, which carried passengers, went about two miles per hour. The packet boats would travel at the speed limit, which was four miles per hour.
Every boat was weighed for a toll payment. In the beginning the weight was measured by the amount of displaced water. Later, actual scales were built on the floor of the lock, draining the water to allow the boat to lay on it, then filling the lock back up to allow the boat to go on it’s way. The process took about 15 minutes. Some of the enterprising freighters learned that they could load up after passing a weigh station while unloading before reaching the next. With the advent and competition of the railroad, tolls were abolished in 1883.
The Cazenovia connection
The township of Cazenovia was established in 1793 by John Lincklaen, a Dutch Naval Officer on leave, employed by Theophilus de Cazenove, a Swiss agent for a group of bankers in the Netherlands speculating in American investments. Cazenove had purchased 55,000 acres in the area and sent young Lincklaen to explore. Lincklaen was authorized to purchase another 65,000 acres and the 120,000 acres combined became the “Cazenovia Establishment” in honor of the man who wrangled the deal but never visited.
Lincklaen was eventually appointed the local agent and was given some land of his own. He began selling lots at $1.50 an acre and envisioned a great city. Planning every step along the way, he started his village inside the natural cradle formed by the lake and Chittenango Creek.
It wasn’t until 10 years later that Lincklaen had built his mansion, calling it Lorenzo. In 1810, Cazenovia was the first incorporated village in Madison County. By 1812, with the war on, the village was booming with mills, stores, churches, schools and the price of an acre grew to $12. There were other hubs in Central New York, such as Manlius, Skaneateles and Pompey, but they didn’t have the valuable upland soil and beauty and they didn’t have Lincklaen, who was determined to build the next great city of the west.
Cazenovia was going to be Syracuse.
Lincklaen’s vision was never to occur because the Erie Canal changed the course of history. Settlers came in droves and settled close to the canal’s waters. Cazenovia’s growth became stunted and Lincklaen died in his fifties, a broken man. Later, a certain limestone was found near Cazenovia and was used for hydraulic cement, allowing for repairs without draining the canal.
Though the Erie Canal was tagged the Mother of Cities, it affected Cazenovia differently. In a subtle way, it preserved the upland village and directed traffic elsewhere. Today Cazenovians cherish that simple twist of fate.
“Caz is wonderful and we love it,” Goodsight said. “We’ve always loved it.”
Erie Canal Song
Low Bridge, Everybody Down
(Written by: Thomas Allen in 1905)
I’ve got a mule, and her name is Sal, Fif-teen miles on the Er-ie canal,
She’s a good ol’ worker and a good ol’ pal, Fifteen miles on the Er-ie can-al,
We’ve hauled some barges in our day, Filled with lum-ber coal and hay,
And ev’ry inch of the way we know From Al-ba-ny to Buff-a-lo OH
Low bridge ev’-ry bod-y down,Low bridge for we’re com-in to a town,
And you al-ways know your neighbor, You’ll always know your pal,
If you’ve ev-er navigated on the Er-ie can-al