Books: by Title: Lockport: Historic Jewel of the Erie Canal
From its beginnings in the early 19th
century at the site where "art triumphed over nature,"
when the Erie Canal's Flight of Five locks was one of the wonders
of the world, Lockport burst almost overnight into a thriving
community that eventually outgrew the canal that gave it life.
Building the earlier sets of locks along the canal
route had presented problems of their own, most notably
finding a waterproof cement that was affordable. Keeping the
costs of construction down was a major concern for New York's
canal commissioners, especially in the face of political
opposition to the "ditch" and the repeated refrain
that it was a foolhardy scheme that would burden the
taxpaying citizens of New York.
The engineers in training, after considering both
wooden and stone locks, finally settled on stone because it
would last longer. But stone locks required hydraulic cement,
which was available in Europe but prohibitively expensive to
import. Canvass White, the "genius of the Erie
engineers" came up with the answer to this problem.
Determined to find a way to manufacture the cement in the
United States, he searched first in New England, and then, by
chance, discovered the solution closer to the canal itself. A
gray powder of pumice or lime was found near Chittenango, and
it passed the waterproofing tests.
After many years of challenge and change, the city now looks
to its glorious past to ensure its future.
History professor Kathleen L. Riley
has published numerous works of American historical scholarship
over the last 20 years. This history of her hometown is her first