Looking Backward: 'Barge Into Baldwinsville'

Although the Erie Canal was enlarged twice during its lifetime, it was still too shallow and narrow to accommodate the larger tugs and barges of the industrial age. And by the end of the 19th century, the speed and efficiency of the railroads surpassed it. The Erie Canal was all but obsolete by 1903, when the voters of New York State approved a new canal at a cost of over $100 million. The new canal would follow the course of natural lakes and rivers, like the Oswego, Oneida, Mohawk and Seneca, the latter right through the south side of Baldwinsville.

While the economic benefits to Baldwinsville were considerable, there were also costs. Again according to Christopher, "When work on the Barge Canal was started through Baldwinsville in the summer of 1908, the construction put this part of the village in an uproar. Buildings had to be moved, excavations dug, and a bridge and locks built There is little doubt, but that the region was well torn up .They say there was more destruction, construction, and confusion in the village during the canal building days than at any other time .Half of Water Street and one side of Marble Alley became a canal channel. All the buildings in this area were taken out. Most of them moved to nearby locations and are in use today."

One building that wasn't so lucky was the Quinlan Hotel, also known as the Van Buren. It sat east of Syracuse Street where the bridge spans the canal today, between Water Street by Canal Walk Caf (c) on the south and Marble Street near Lake Effect on the north. There were many hotels in town, including the Seneca and the American, but the Quinlan was quite a sight.

Back then, Baldwinsville had two sets of "Four Corners." The "North Side Corners" was the intersection that we call the "Four Corners" today. And the intersection of Syracuse and Water streets was known as the "South Side Corners." Once perfectly level, Syracuse Street was elevated on this spot to bridge the canal.

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