- Grant Recipient
Historic Transportation Canals
- 625 NY-5S, Schenectady, NY 12306, USA
- 42.846087, -74.012164
Town of Rotterdam
Prior to 1817, the main mode of trade and travel in New York State was by land, which proved to be both time consuming and costly. The creation of the Erie Canal changed everything. With construction beginning in 1817, the Erie Canal took nearly a decade to build by its completion in 1825. The new canal spanned over 360 miles and effectively connected the interior of the U.S. around the Great Lakes back to the East Coast. It was an amazing feat of modern engineering for its time, with innovations such as locks and aqueducts which were used traverse the diverse geography of New York.Locks were useful in combating dramatic changes in elevation, whereas aqueducts allowed the canal to pass unimpeded over rivers or bodies of water that were otherwise unnavigable.
Crossing over the Plotterkill Creek, the canal aqueduct in the Town of Rotterdam served such a purpose. The original aqueduct, also known as Van Slyke’s aqueduct, was built in 1825. Following the success and growth of the Erie Canal, the original aqueduct was replaced and enlarged between 1840-1841 to accommodate more boat traffic. The aqueduct continued to be utilized over the years until damaged in a July 1891 storm. a July 23, 1891 newspaper article from the Buffalo Evening Times hints at the damage:
There is a bad break in the Erie canal five miles west of Schenectady City. Van Slick’s aqueduct, 79 feet long, with heavy stone arches, has been carried away, and may take a month to repair the damage.
While the initial reports paint a picture of irreparable damage, a July 28, 1891 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester provides a more optimistic outlook by describing the State Engineer’s inspection:
Mr. Bogart spent Saturday and Sunday at the break at Van Slyke’s aqueduct, west of Schenectady, and says that excellent progress has been made in the repairs going on there. A force of men is employed night and day under Division Superintendent Simmons, and the prospects are that navigation can be resumed in a week or ten days.
Shortly after this report, repairs were completed and the aqueduct reopened. As of 2020, the aqueduct still stands and is part of the Mohawk and Hudson Bikeway.