Thursday, March 6, 2014

Milliner's Drydock(s)

This is a reprint of an article I wrote a couple years back concerning the Milliner Drydock(s). There isn't much left of the later dock, although it can be seen on the corner of Conquest Rd (Rt 38) and Dock Street. Basically it was north of where Ed and Jeans Market is today.
The Milliner Drydock’s of Port Byron

If I were to ask you, “What drydock(s) were in Port Byron?” you might answer “Tanners”. Tanner’s large drydock, located across from the Erie House, was the often photographed and written about operation. But Tanner’s operation came about late in the life of the enlarged Erie Canal. It began operation under the King name soon after the canal route was changed in 1858, and was closed by the abandonment of the canal in 1917.

But we need to go back much further in time to get a full answer to the question, for in 1823 David Johnson purchased land from Aholiah Buck and built a drydock along the route of the new canal. It does appear that Buck knew that Johnson wished to construct a drydock, for the deed makes stipulations that only a business was to be built, and no privy or house was to be built. We also learn that Buck had fruit trees planted just north of this lot, as he writes in the condition that the trees would not be harmed in the building of the dry dock. To find this drydock today, we would need to dig in David Nielens yard, or between River and Canal Streets. Standing at the junction of River Street and Moore Place, the old canal ran off to the west toward Ed and Jeans parking lot and to the east on a line toward St. John’s Church. Although Ed and Jean lot is built on many feet of fill, the area just to the east appears to be at historic elevations. In the 1830’s map below, the road just to the right of the word “Byron” is Canal Street. The dry dock can be seen above the canal.

This dry dock was purchased by George Washington Millener, John Davis and Joseph Duram. Millener’s father was Alexander Millener, a drummer for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. (You might recall the Millener family was in the news a few years ago as the Cayuga Museum wanted to sell a painting of Mrs. Millener and child. The painting was done by Sheldon Peck.) Alexander was a visitor to Port Byron as two of his sons, George and James, lived here and another, Joel, married a woman from here. Joel owned a large dry dock business in Rochester. In the 1850’s, Joel and George ran a large, but temporary, boat building business in Syracuse, as they built boats for a coal company in Pennsylvania.

The deed books are peppered with purchases and sales of shares in this business. At any one time, George Millener had at least one partner and often two or three. Either the boat building business was very profitable or, more likely, not so profitable, or extra cash was needed to keep things going. Lorenzo Ames began working at this business in 1834 as a sixteen year old. He would later purchase a dry dock from Millener, but not this one.

When the route of the canal was changed in the late 1850’s, George lost his business. But instead of giving up, he moved the business to the corner of Canal Street and a new road, East Dock Street. Apparently, this dry dock was not legal, as Richard King, the builder of a new dry dock near Lock 52, wrote letters concerning its construction to the Canal Commissioners, but to little satisfaction. So for a time, Port Byron had the King dry dock, the Millener dry dock and a small slide dock run by Ames. In 1861, Lornezo Ames purchased a quarter share of the Millener business, closing down his slide dock. In 1873, Ames and a Chester Cole purchased Millener’s share. This partnership was not to last, as by the end of 1873, Cole sold his share to Ames. In 1879, the paper reported that Millener had to repurchase a half share of the business to save it from foreclosure. In 1880, Ames, once again the sole owner, sold the business to Tanner and Shetler, who closed it down and concentrated on the “famous” Tanner dry dock we all know about.

Parts of the second Millener dry dock can still be seen in the yard of house that sits on the corner of Canal and East Dock. Also the ditch that runs along East Dock was used by the dry dock to drain the dock into the Owasco Outlet. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Enlarged Lock 52

A visit from good friend Andrew Lauren prompted a revisit to Enlarged Lock 52 and the surrounding area. So on a very cold Sunday morning, we headed out to see what could be seen.

Lock 52 is the lock that lies directly alongside the Thruway, and it sits on Thruway property, so it is kind of inaccessible to the public. So I won't say how we got some of the photos we did. Anyhow, don't do as I do; do as I say! So don't say you were not warned. You can be ticketed for trespass!

It helps to start with a map, and we are fortunate to have a good map circa 1896.This map shows the lock, drydock, and other neat things to find.

Parking at the Erie House on Maiden Lane, we head toward the lock. As we approach the lock, we are on the high side. This lock was one of five that stepped down to the west, in this case, the lock is stepping the canal down to the level of the Montezuma (Cayuga) Marsh. From this point, the canal is level through Montezuma, across the marsh and onto Clyde. At Lock 53 in Clyde, the canal steps up until it reaches Lake Erie and Buffalo. The reason we have this step down is that Lock 52 sits at the base of a little high spot in the canal. To the east, the canal rises over a small hump, passing through Lock 51 at Jordan. After passing by Camillus, the canal steps down to Syracuse, and then back up another rise until it reaches the Rome level. After Rome, it is all downhill to Albany. So let's get back to the map and the tour.
This view is basically the same as the color postcard above. Except all the water, gates, buildings and well, everything is gone and what is left is stone. The three holes in the front show that this is the high end. If there was no lockage to use water in the canal, it would overflow through these passages into a tunnel that passes straight through to the far end.

These views look into the lower end of the lock. It is difficult to duplicate the postcard view as one would need to stand in the Thruway to shoot it. You can see here the lengthened end and if you have the opportunity to download my guide to Lock 52, you will know that the towpath is on the side away from the lengthened chamber. The missing stonework was first thought to be from Thruway construction work, and we know that some stone was removed during the construction of the highway. However, this photo shows that stonework was already missing in the 1930's.
  The road this photo was taken from was in existence on the south side of the canal when the canal was in operation. It can be seen on the map except that it appears that the road was pushed across the canal after it was abandoned to allow access to the old towpath on the north side. What is remarkable that all the wood is gone, except for the gates. Someone made use of the wood and started on the stone. You can also see the end of the tunnel. Nowadays, even without the snow, the tunnel is covered by lawn.

What I didn't realize is how quickly the land dropped off on both sides of the lock. The lock really sits on the edge of the contour or elevation change and was built out into space with banks formed on both sides. It is clear that soil and land was removed during the construction of the Thruway, but not that much. If you take a look at these photos, you can get a sense that the land did drop off.

Why the drop off? Drainage.On the map, you can see the drainage ditch collected water from the wet areas on the south side of the canal and routed it north toward the Seneca River. The map shows the ditch running down both sides of the canal, and the cross under culvert. The stonework for the culvert is still in very good shape on both ends. There is even an intact culvert marking stone.

The road on the map crossed over the drainage ditch on a small bridge that is somewhat intact.
The road is still remarkably intact although I don't know if you would be able to see it in the summer. After walking around the wet area to the southwest, we got this view of the lock and what is called Guidone's Hill, a small drumlin that was cutting off and used as fill during the construction of the Thruway.
Another road was constructed during the Thruway building, and it is now known locally as Rooker Drive. It was a temporary entrance to the Thruway from Route 31 for a bit as the Thruway to the east was being finished.
You can also see the line of the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Trolley going off to the left. The first canal, Clinton's Ditch followed this line also. We then headed over to see what could be found of Tanner's Drydock and Clinton's Ditch Lock 60.

One chamber of the drydock is fairly visible, as is the drydock entrance. I thought that the first lock was part of this chamber, but I don't quite know anymore. The top map is the same as I posted before, and the second map shows the location of both locks in the 1850's. If you look at the property lines, you will see that the ditches and drydock don't quite line up. But it is close. Stone from the lock may have been used in the construction of the drydock.

 Here you can just see the stonework and drain for the drydock. The drydock pit is beyond. Below is the curved stone entrance as seen from the canal.
This is about as close as I could get to duplicating the old photo of the man on the boat.

So there you have it, a winter day tour of Lock 52. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Montezuma- Then and Now

 Mary and I took a walk around the Montezuma Heritage Park and I tried to get some then and now photos. It also shows just how hard it is to describe what use to be when so much has changed. Without a visual aid, can anyone really understand what use to be going on here? The top photo shows the Exchange Hotel and parts of the business area. The change over bridge going to the Cayuga Seneca Canal is directly overhead. We can see the shadow of the bridge on the path and some of the abutment stonework on the left. Today, this is the trailhead leading into the Park.


These two show the Montezuma Aqueduct. Looking at the top photo, it is easy to see what an aqueduct does. It is full of water, and boats float across the river. Today, not to easy. The wooden trunk is gone and we see the stonework. So where is the canal? It is especially hard as much of the stonework is gone also.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

More of the Long Gone (Seneca River) Bridges of Cayuga County

Well, the search continues with help from Montezuma Historian Cheryl Longyear and Bill Hecht's site of old photos.You can find the collection that has these top photos here.

The top photo shows the bridge that carried the old West Shore (officially the New York, West Shore, and Buffalo Railway)  over the Seneca just north of Montezuma. My guess is that the photo was taken from the old Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Interurban Trolley line bridge. This bridge is no longer there.
The bottom photo is of the New York Central RR mainline bridge, a much more substantial structure as it carried four tracks across the river.  This bridge is still being used.

These two photos show Free Bridge over the Seneca, which is now Route 5 and 20 across the Montezuma Marshes. I include the top photo because it is fairly representative of the style of bridges that were used to cross the river before the Barge Canal. As the river wasn't really used for shipping, the bridges could rest on low piles and be a much simpler structures. Once the Barge Canal was dredged out of the river, the bridges had to be rebuilt and or raised. The 1917 photo of the new "Free Bridge" shows what was built to replace the older crossing. Of course, this bridge was replaced by a newer bridge which is called the Menard Memorial bridge, and now that is now going to be rebuilt. Locals still call it "free bridge".

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The (Long Gone) Seneca River Bridges of Cayuga County

 I am on a quest to find photos of all of the original Seneca River / Barge Canal bridges and I have a couple from my files. The bridge above was the first that crossed the river north of Weedsport on what is now Route 34. The little building in front was used by the local buoy boat men to house the boat and supplies.

This was the bridge over the river north of Port Byron on what is now Rt 38. This bridge had to jump two channels, which is why it is so long. 
The first was the natural channel that went north around Haiti Island, before it was an island, but just a bump of land surrounded on three sides by the river. The second channel was the man made channel that created really turned Haiti Island into an island for real. A new channel cut off all the loops around the group of islands in this area, and the junction of the Owasco Outlet and Seneca River was moved west.
All these bridges have the decorative panel at the end of the span over the right of way. Does this keep people from climbing up there? Birds from sitting?

My good friend and the Montezuma Historian Cheryl Longyear kindly sent along photos of the Montezuma bridge, which carried Rt 31 over the Seneca. Look at the size difference between the old and new.

I have included this last one as it does show some of the bridge, but also a boat house that I never knew about. 
The man is Arthur Helmer, who if you have ever read "Drums Along the Mohawk" , you would know this man's family and run of Adam Helmer, who is buried in Weedsport.  

 Here is the Montezuma bridge as it sits today.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

1936 Flood and the Standard Oil Tanks

 I was looking for photos of the bridges over the Seneca River / Barge Canal and came across this in my files. The bridge can be seen off in the distance behind the trees, but for this post, the Standard Oil Tank farm can be seen just around the bend of the road. In the days before pipelines and the thruway, the large oil companies would have these oil tank farms located along the canal. The barges would fill the tanks all during the summer and then sell the heating oil in the winter, along with other petroleum products. You can still see these in some communities, although they have long ago been abandoned and replaced by oil tank farms located along the underground pipelines that cross the landscape. This farm was taken down in the late 1990's, although some signs of the brownfield left behind can be seen next to the restaurant.

I found this newspaper article that details what was going on when this photo was taken all the way back in 1936.