Baldwinsville History Mystery: Nov. 7, 2018
Question: The photo shown here has four gentlemen in a commercial setting. They appear to have a variety of roles. Two are dressed in suits; one is wearing a large apron, and the fourth is outfitted in a uniform complete with cap. Do you know what their project might have been?
Last week’s answer: The photo from last week shows one of the steam shovels used during the construction of the Barge Canal (now Erie-Barge Canal). This was necessary when the Erie Canal became too small for the large barges to navigate. Between 1905 and 1918, the Barge Canal was created at a cost of over $100 million. This made a dramatic change in Baldwinsville. The state took over ownership of 65 buildings. Half of Water Street and one side of Marble Alley became the canal channel. All the buildings were taken out. Most of them were moved to nearby locations and are still in use today.
The steam shovel in the photo is removing the dirt on the east side of the current canal bridge. The dirt was moved to the swampy area on the east side of Meadow Street. The land that is there now came from that digging.
The photo was taken on the east side of the bridge facing north across the Seneca River. The building in the background was Penn Spring Works located on Lock Street. In the early days it made leaf springs for carriages and wagons. When the motorcar came into prominence, at least a dozen makers of cars used Penn Spring Works. There was a fire in March 1908 that destroyed the building but it was rebuilt and lasted until around World War I. The building shown is the one rebuilt after the fire.
If you want to know more about the building of the Barge Canal through Baldwinsville, visit the Baldwinsville Public Library and take a look in the map file in the local history room. There are a lot of items (maps and photos) in the drawer labeled Barge Canal. Also visit the PAC-B website and view the historic video recently produced by Joe Loffredo and Bonnie Kisselstein. The title is “Then and Now- Water Street-Lock 24.”
Email us at email@example.com or leave a message at 434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by 5 p.m. Friday (please leave the information in the message; we are not generally able to return calls regarding History Mystery responses). If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo before the deadline, your name and guess will appear in next week’s Messenger, along with another History Mystery feature. History Mystery is a joint project of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse and the Baldwinsville Public Library.