D&H Canal Museum (National Historic Site)
Mohonk Road, High Falls, Ulster County, NY
North on Route 209 from the Quickway (Route 17 -- the future US 86); right turn onto Route 213 into High Falls.
The Delaware & Hudson Canal was conceived by Maurice and William Wurts, men of vision, who recognized the need for a cheap and efficient fuel to service the industries of New York City. Until the War of 1812, bituminous, or soft coal was imported from England to New York But with the advent of the war the British cut off the coal supply to America and a crisis arose. The Wurts brothers believed that the anthracite, or hard coal, of northern Pennsylvania was the answer to the problem. Getting it to New York was the challenge.
The Wurts brothers hired Benjamin Wright, chief engineer of the recently completed Erie Canal, to survey and design a one hundred eight mile man-made waterway from what is now Honesdale, Pennsylvania, across the Moosic Mountains to Eddyville, New York, on the bank of the Hudson River.
The original plan called for a canal four feet deep and thirty-two feet wide, containing one hundred eight locks, one hundred thirty seven bridges, and twenty six basins, dams and reservoirs. The estimated cost was $1,208,000 dollars.
On January 7, 1825, the D&H Canal Company was formed, and the stock offered for sale that day was oversubscribed within a few hours. The D&H Canal Company ultimately grew to become the first privately-owned million dollar industry in America.
The D&H Canal went through High Falls. The village was first settled in 1676. With the coming of the canal in 1828 and the discovery of natural cement in the area, the village began to thrive. In 1850 the canal company, which had recently acquired most of the village, formed the village into streets and lots.
In this area Rondout Creek heads northeast to the Hudson River, but takes a turn east for a short span. Here there is an upper of high falls, a dam, a lower falls, and another dam. The towpath of the D&H Canal is south of Rondout Creek, but then heads northeast to join the east curve of Rondout Creek before it heads northeast again. Locks 20 through 15 extend northward. At the confluence of Rondout Creek and the D&H Canal is High Falls Aqueduct. North of this are found the old aqueduct, the old lock house, lock 14 and then lock 13.
The five High Falls locks (20-16) were designated a national historic site in 1969. These locks were part of the widened and deepened Canal of 1847-52, which was necessary to accommodate the larger 40-ton boats. The new location of locks 16 through 20 brought the canal over a hill and into alignment with the newly constructed Roebling Aqueduct in high Falls. It is of particular interest that these locks each lowered the level of the Canal slightly more than 12 feet as it traversed toward the aqueduct, a cumulative drop of more than 70 feet from lock 20 to lock 15. This was a great elevation change from the earlier 1828 canal, but it did eliminate one lock.
The entire loop walk takes between 35 and 45 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Lock 16: Positioned in front of this lock is the keystone from one of the twin stone arches of the now demolished 1826 aqueduct used for the earlier canal, which handled smaller boats. The stones of Lock 16 are precision cut and fitted together with no mortar, a fine example of the stonemason's art. Note that the corner of the Depuy Tavern was beveled to prevent the ropes from cutting when snubbed.
Lock 17: The walls have collapsed due to the erosion of the land and the growth of tree roots. Equalized pressure was necessary to support lock walls, and with no water inside the lock, the walls have caved inwards.
Lock 18: All four snubbing posts remain here. The wall of Lock 18 is the most nearly plumb of any lock walls existing today between locks 16 and 20.
Lock 19: Through the generous funding of the Eva Gebhard-Gourgaud Foundation for the preservation of the locks, the Society has been able to clear trees and ensure ground-water run-off, so that the lock walls are not loosened and eroded. An underground weir is visible from the southern end of the lock, which is made of fine cut stone. Careful examination of the depression and weir tunnel is left to your discretion.
Lock 20. Again four snubbing posts are present in the original positions. With the help of the Ulster County Youth Conservation Corps this lock was cleared and preserved. There are open foundation of buildings on both sides of the lock, the remains of old houses and stores. A white house on the left bank was the home of a lock tender. Beyond the lock is an old bridge abutment indicating the towpath crossover at this point.
1898 -- the canal was supplanted by the Ontario & Western Railroad.
Original locks from the D&H Canal. Open end of May thru Labor Day on Thursdays thru Mondays from 11 to 5, Sundays from 1 to 5. May, September & October open weekends only on Saturdays from 11 to 5 and Sundays from 1 to 5.
This "hands on", pictorial museum captures the colorful, romantic story of life along the canal. Visitors of all ages learn about 19th century technology through working models of a lock and gravity railroad car. Dioramas depict such engineering marvels associated with the canal as John A. Roebling's suspension aqueducts and the D&H Canal Company's brief experiment with the first steam locomotive to run in the country.
Maps, photos and artifacts document the canal related industries that created "boom towns" along its route. Rosendale Natural Cement, with its unusual strength and hydraulic properties, supplied fifty percent of the nation's cement and employed over 4,000 workers in Rosendale alone. - WebPage: http://www.mhrcc.org/kingston/kgndah.html
Depuy Canal House - Route 213 - High Falls, 12440 - Ulster County - (914)687-7700 - Dinner served Thursdays thru Sundays and brunch served on Sundays. Closed during January, reopens Valentines' Day weekend. Full bar. Cabaret downstairs.
The D&H Canal Heritage Corridor (North Section) starts along Legget Road (off Route 209) in High Falls and travels 11 miles to its end in Kingston near the intersection of Washington and Hurley Avenues.