Barge Canal Construction: Middle Division

In 1903, New York State decided it was necessary to enlarge the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals, in order to compete against evolving modes of transportation and the growth of railroads. This enlarged system of canals, known as the Barge Canal, was completed in 1918. The enlarged Barge Canal was 12-14 feet deep, 120-200 feet wide, and was able to accommodate larger, self-propelled vessels carrying up to 3,000 tons of cargo.

The Canal Society Collection contains a large sub-collection of Barge Canal Construction albums. These albums, which are organized by contract number, were created as official State records documenting construction projects on the Barge Canal as they progressed. It is likely that these albums originated at the Syracuse Weighlock Building (now the Erie Canal Museum) when it was the Middle Division headquarters. The Middle Division of the Erie Canal stretched from Cayuga County to the eastern boundary of Oneida county. The albums were taken by the Canal Society after the New York State Department of Public Works vacated the building in the late 1950s.

These photographs document construction of the Barge Canal and the first few years of its use, from 1905-1925. Coverage encompasses the entire Middle Division of the Barge Canal, between Cayuga and Oneida counties.

Collection owner: Canal Society of New York State in collaboration with the Erie Canal Museum