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Houseboat Catherine now calls Camillus Erie Canal Park home

It began life as a houseboat, spent few landlocked decades as a house, then several more as simply a boat.

Now, the recently renamed Houseboat Catherine is permanently stationed beside the canal it was constructed to maneuver at the end of the 19th century, where it offers visitors to the Erie Canal Park in Camillus a glimpse into canal life in 1890, when the boat was built.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered at the park Saturday, July 26 for the official unveiling of Catherine, including many volunteers, family members of the previous owners and Senator John A. DeFrancisco.

Lester Fish, of Marietta, remembered fishing off the boat and dipping his feet into the water as a child when it belonged to his uncle, Don Fish.

The elder Fish and his wife Theresa donated the boat to the former Weighlock Museum in Dewitt, in the hopes that the deteriorating craft would be restored.

"If we didn't do something with it, it would have deteriorated terribly," said Theresa.

When the Dewitt museum closed down in 2007, curator Andrew Kitzmann knew just who to call about the houseboat.

And so Catherine arrived in Camillus, under the care of David and Liz Beebe and many volunteers, in August 2007. In less than a year, the boat was completely restored and now stands along the recreation trail of the park.

The renovations were made possible in part through a Community Arts Council heritage grant.

Mark Wright of the council addressed the crowd Saturday to explain why this project was ideal for the heritage grant, which are aimed toward smaller historical societies that tell the story of the areas they serve.

"This is adding a piece of history to the park that you can look at and see," said Wright.

Houseboat Catherine was not the only piece of history added to the park last weekend. A 19th century manual stump puller, standing about 15 feet tall, was also dedicated Saturday. A demonstration of the stump puller was conducted by park volunteer Fred Cossick, of Camillus, who helped restore the piece, and Sen. DeFrancisco.

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