I am trying to get back into exploring and traveling, 2019 (just look at those posts) being probably my best year. And, that year I discovered the Canal Society of New York State, and also the sadly now defunct (thank you COVID) Blount Small Ship Adventures. Yes, I have been interested in canals for ever, live close to the first canal in the US, and have a desire to learn more and more. Taking a focused trip with the Canal Society has now for the second time brought me into a geographical area I could learn more about. And, when I sailed with Blount in 2019, I came down the Oswego Canal, and wrote in that post “…I still need to get back to explore Oswego,..” Glad I made it this past week. And, how can you not enjoy saying — “Oswego?”
How do you get to Oswego on Lake Ontario, four and 1/2 hours away per google? Back roads, of course, with no tolls and explorations encompassing over nine hours instead. Below is a map (that you can click for full screen) to give you the routes I took west, and then back east, which I will relate in Part II of this trip report.
So, Route 67 from North Bennington, VT, west until it ends at Route 5 in St. Johnsville, NY. I hope you realize that the Battle of Bennington (Vermont) happened just off Route 67 in Walloomsac in the Town of Hoosick, New York. I have visited before, but had to drive up the hill to share with you the monument, and spot of the New Hampshire regiment that stopped in Walpole on the way there.
Close to where 67 dead ends on 5 is Fort Klock built in 1750. Just up from the Mohawk River (seen through the trees on the left) and the Amtrak line, the grounds were open so I could enjoy the spot.
Made of stone, you know I enjoy sharing images with texture. In the walls are slits for muskets to fire through.
Arriving in St. Johnsville I saw a small sign “Lock 33.” Quick left, cross the Mohawk River, and left onto Dump Road. Yes, one of the original locks built in the 1840, the lock became a dumping spot until reclamation began in 1999. Checking the map later, this lock was basically just across the Mohawk from Fort Klock.
Remember you may “click” images in my galleries for larger views.
Just outside Rome is where the Erie Canal was begun – basically the mid-point. The Erie Canal Village is there, but sadly has been closed and is deteriorating. Their website says soon to reopen, but as I crossed into the parking lot, the decay is continuing from what I observed over ten years ago.
I then back roaded on Routes 69 and 13 (along the NY Revolutionary Byway) to Port Ontario on the lake. Remote Oswego County that I have now been in. Then I followed the NY Seaway Trail west. Even though so labeled on the NY State maps there is nothing special about the NY State byways – little information on what to see as to why you should be there. Arriving in Oswego (say it twice or three times fast), a block of rooms for the society was in the Best Western Plus Hotel right on the river (not my usual “home away from home”). But, actually a very nice and spacious room with a sitting area and couch (better than what I had last month at the Mount Washington Hotel for almost three times the price) — but, the view from my balcony – right side image looking to Lake Ontario.
I then drove around a tad, looking out to the lake, and then south on the west side of the river.
and, then it was “good night Oswego” complete with storage silos for concrete from Canada.
SUNDAY – 8 MAY – I had until 1PM when the program began. I was not able to see Fort Ontario when I was quickly through in 2019, and was thrilled to learn the fort would open at 10AM for a War of 1812 Drill and Training Reenactment Event – and I was there before the guard doors opened. The current star-shaped fort dates to the early 1840’s with 1863 to 1872 improvements portrayed in the restoration. Its history, due to its strategic location, dates to the French and Indian Wars, and before. “The fourth and current Fort Ontario is built on the ruins of three earlier fortifications which were the site of three French and Indian War and two War of 1812 battles. It was occupied by the U.S. Army through World War II. From 1944 to 1946 the fort served as the only refugee camp in the United States for mostly Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.” With a history of almost 300 years, I would not mind going back. I did purchase the fort’s history book, and for some quick learning here is a website to check out.
Below the fort at the entrance to the Oswego River and town with a population of about 18,000.
and, entering the fort, the re-enactors were set up.
This group has not been able to assemble in two years due to COVID. So it was practice and training of new recruits.
some images around the fort. Inside one of the staff rooms it was gratifying to see a copy press properly described (in the rear of the lower right image). Used in the 19th century to make copies of letters on moist tissue paper, copy presses were also used for small book binding, and normally (by the uninformed) called book presses. The barrack’s tiers for sleeping were three high, and moveable for thorough cleaning for good health.
REWARD – I WANT ONE – I saw this tin chandelier in the mess room of the barracks – never seen anything like it with reflectors. In another building a heard hammering, and discovered a tinsmith at work. Conversation of course, as you may recall I did tinsmithing with my overnight at OSV, and attended a demonstration at Historic Deerfield. And, this tinsmith learned from the fellow who was at Deerfield. Ends up the fellow here made this chandelier based upon an image he saw of one that had been in a sailing ship. He too never saw anything like it. With all my pleading he said, “sorry I just cannot make another for you.” So, FIND ME ONE.
In the intro video (always the place to start) I saw passageways in the fort walls. Of course I asked, and learned there were two openings atop the walls that are open. I found them, and down below found this musical group enjoying and entertaining.
Also “on the list” and I had time, was a visit to the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum. on the grounds of the fort. Here 982 refugees from World War II were allowed into the United States as “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These refugees were housed at Fort Ontario from August 1944 until February 1946. The museum is in one of the remaining brick buildings from the US Army days on the grounds
It was disturbing when the refugees arrived by train from NYC to find their new safe abode behind fences. They had left incarceration from behind fences, and were scared, and as well when all their clothing was taken for cleaning. No difference from their experiences under the Nazis, but remember this was a military installation. The image below shows where the wooden military buildings they were housed in were located – upper right. That area (remember aerial view above) is now athletic fields.
Remember you can click the above for larger full views. Originally all the refugees were to return to Europe after the war, but that changed, and those who wished were allowed to stay in the US and attain citizenship. Many of those individuals made significant contributions to our country and you may wish to learn more about this little known aspect of US history.
It was then time for the Canal Society of New York State to gather. Sunday started at the Coast Guard station followed by a too short a visit at the H Lee White Maritime Museum (hey, a reason to return).
Lots to learn inside here, but I thought fun to share these facts about Teddy, and the workings of a Fresnel lens in a lighthouse
The museum has a tug tied up and also an old canal barge, now on land following its sinking shortly after it was acquired. The steam driven crane is fascinating – remember you can click and enlarge.
and two fact filled panels on the barge.
so, back to my balcony, then dinner with the group with a fascinating talk on the salt industry in Syracuse dating way back, and with that product transported on the canal. Back in my room more study on my balcony in preparation for Monday’s tour of the locks (shore side) which I will share in PART II.
Thank you for traveling with me, yours, RAY