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Dry Docks of the Erie Canal
1817-1917
 
A Summary of Research
Daniel H. Weiskotten
November 1991
posted October 27, 1998
 
Originally Prepared for the National Register of Historic Places Nomination for
Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum
(with some modifications in 1998)
 
Dan Weiskotten's HISTORY and ARCHAEOLOGY HOME PAGE
 
also visit my pages detailing the History of Chittenango Landing Dry Dock, and Locations and Statistics of Erie Canal Dry Docks
 

Sections in this paper incude:
Introduction      Goals of the Study      Sources      Summary of the Findings      The Dry Dock      Location of Dry Docks Relative to the Canal
Construction of the Docks      Ancillary Structures Associated with Dry Docks      Coexistence of Dry Docks      Capacity of the Dry Docks
Jobbing at Dry Docks      Workers at Dry Docks      Comparison of Chittenango Landing to Other Erie Canal Dry Docks

 
If anyone has additional information on these or other Erie Canal Dry Docks, please contact me
 
Introduction

In a year long research project as an undergraduate at SUNY at Albany I combed through thousands of maps and documents in the collections of the New York State Museum (NYSM), Library (NYSL), Archives (NYSA), Office of General Services (OGS), and the Department of Transportation-Waterways (NYSDOT-W), as well as dozens of local historical societies and libraries to find the locations and outline the histories of the dry docks along the Erie Canal between 1817 and 1920.  My work is far from being complete but I have, by necessity, stopped research.  In other (personal) projects I am continually coming across clues that will help me with my dry dock research and still have hopes to complete this major study. The material that follows represents a summary of the findings of my study of the Dry Docks of the Erie Canal.

I became involved with the fledgling Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, located on the abandoned Erie Canal in Chittenango, Madison County, NY, in the summer of 1989 when I took on the job of supervising ten at-risk youth under the sponsorship of the New York State Conservation Corps (NYSOPR&HP), Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum (CLCBM) , and the Idyllic Foundation.  Because their usual archaeologist, Gordon De Angelo, could not be on site that summer I also took on the responsibility of keeping records of the excavations that were made during that season.  I was also at that time the Historian for the Town of Cazenovia and had had many years of experience conducting historical research and archaeological excavation in Madison County and central New York.  The only detriment that I brought to the project was that my home town of Cazenovia is located in the hills to the south of the route of the canal and thus I never had the opportunity to study the Erie Canal.

When I began my attendance at SUNY Albany that fall I stopped at the State Museum Office of Historical Survey where Craig Williams worked.  As Craig had given the folks at Chittenango Landing some documents regarding their Dry Dock I thought I would see if there was anything else to be found that Craig had not yet come across.  At that time I had no intention of making it a four semester independent research project, but because there had never been even a cursory study of the Erie Canal Dry Docks Craig convinced me to look into the matter.  Because few western records were to be found in Albany at the time of my project (as well as the difficulty of making a day trip to examine sites) I focused on the eastern half of the canal (Albany to Jordan).  I did examine completely the major sets of materials at Albany including the Holmes Hutchinson, Schillner, Structure Book, and Blue Line map collections.  Examination of the entire series of maps, field books, and plans assured me that I systematically found all references to dry docks along the entire length of the Erie "from Albany to Buffalo" but there was not much effort put into the descriptive and historical aspect of these sites such as I was doing in the eastern portion of the canal.
 

Goals of the Study

My primary goal for this project was to look at the well preserved archaeological evidence at Chittenango Landing and compare it to the other dry docks of the Erie Canal.  With a good knowledge of Chittenango Landing's structures and features, I first had to locate the other dry docks.  I made no attempt to look at the vast collections of material on the Champlain and other lateral canal materials even though there is obviously much pertinent data.  I had hoped to find information that would identify the uses and spatial aspects of Chittenango Landing by identifying similar patterns at other sites.  One particularly perplexing puzzle I hoped to solve was to identify the "Mystery Foundation" that was found along the side of the heavy bay.  I had hoped to find similar structures at other dry docks, but, after three years of research the foundation still remains a complete mystery.  Not many patterns were seen (as of yet) but much valuable data has been gathered to show how dry docks generally operated.

I do intend to eventually complete the synthesis of the data that I have collected as my work is the only of its kind and will be immensely valuable to canal historians.  The problem was that by the time I finished conducting the basic research with the vast amount of materials that was available, I was in graduate school and other priorities took the place of the composition of a worthy history of Erie Canal Dry Docks (although a "University Center" the University at Albany did not really succor innovative, individual, and independent research.)  My field of scholarly following at the time was examination of the settlement pattern of the Oneida Iroquois, which bears little relation to the canal, but I also got little support in my work in that arena.  On top of that this situation unfortunately put a damper on my Cazenovia research as well as the final polishing up of my Western Inland Lock Navigation Company (Little Falls Canal) work.  If I only got credit or recognition for the research I was already doing!
 

Sources

Most of the material that I investigated for my study of Erie Canal Dry Docks is found at the New York State Library and Archives where many of the official records, field books, surveyor's notes, maps, contracts, etc. are now to be found.  They had been in the regional offices of the DOT Waterways, but many from the eastern part of the state have been taken in by Craig Williams the NYSM Canal Curator.  As many of these records have only recently arrived at the NYSM Craig and I were among the first to use them to any extent for historical research.  The primary collections in the State Archives, Library, and Museum which I used include the Holmes Hutchinson Map Series (1830s), Schillner Map Series (1896), Canal Structure Books, Surveyor's notebooks, historical county maps and atlases, census records, Sanborn Insurance Co. maps, and several photograph collections.  From the NYSDOT Waterways office I obtained some of the materials that were similar to but not included in the State Archives/Library collections or used their microfiche of archive and library material.  At OGS I obtained several abandonment maps and checked indices for pertinent material.  From each of these collections and sets I examined many hundreds if not thousands of individual items.

The amount of work that went into finding the data was immense because very little of this material is catalogued with anything other than a general description and most of what I was after was secondary to what would have been indexed.  The most productive way to conduct the research involved plowing through entire collections one item at a time (I inspected each book in 24 boxes of surveyor's field note books - approximately 1,500 books!)  Once a site was identified I made at least one field investigation to see what the situation of the site was and what remained.  Field notes, consisting of sketches, dimensions, and descriptions of the physical remains and situation, were made for my files.  Because this was all done out-of-pocket I was limited to those near home or between Albany and my home town of Cazenovia.  I have field notes on each identified Erie Canal Dry Dock from Albany to Jordan.
 

Summary of the Findings

My study located 44 individual dry dock sites on the Erie Canal between Albany and Buffalo.  This is not meant to say that there were 44 at any one time as this data represents a one hundred year time period during only a few were in operation at any one time.  Some were short lived, others were replacements for earlier docks that were abandoned when the canal alignment was changed (as at Chittenango Landing), and others were built while a nearby one was still in operation.  Thirty-one (70%) of the identified dry docks are located in the eastern half of the canal.  It is not clear whether this low count of dry docks west of Jordan (only 13 or 30%) is due to actually fewer dry docks or from a result of my research strategy.  If I recall there were few eastern dry docks which I actually located by examination of obscure or singular sources (census records, history texts, etc.).  Because these obscure or singular sources were not examined for the section between Jordan and Buffalo it is possible that there are several more that were not found.  Also, while extensive information on eastern dry docks allowed approximate time-spans to be assigned, the different research strategy in the west did not allow date bracketing for the western dry docks. Because of the nature of the sources, which recorded the situation of the canal structures at a particular point in time and not a history of the structures, few actual beginning and end dates were found.  Many times the ending date for the dry dock is confused when maps show the dock although it is known to have been defunct.   Such docks may have been represented on maps for several years (documentary research narrowed out some of these instances) and some maps, principally the structure maps of the 1860s and 1870s, were overly selective in their information and did not show dry docks that were known to be in operation both before and after that time period.
 

The Dry Dock

It should be noted before I get too much farther that I (and the documents tend to) identify an Erie Canal dry dock as being a basin or bay connected in some way to the main canal and used for the repair and sometimes building of canal boats.  This bay or basin is set perpendicular, parallel to, or otherwise along the side of the canal with a mechanism (narrow entrance with a gate that could be closed) for blocking the flow of water between the basin or bay and the canal so that the basin may be drained without affecting the operation of the canal.  One dry dock (that at Sprakers) was found not to have a basin at all but was instead, apparently, a level area along the canal onto which boats were pulled by way of a ramp or other such device up on to dry ground so that the boat could be repaired.  Several of the other dry docks also had areas along the side elevated bank or side of the canal, bay, basin, or feeder (such as at Chittenango Landing) where canal boats were constructed and then slid into the water when completed, but it is not known if boats were hauled out of the canal and onto these places for repairs.  All photographs showing this situation have boats under construction on the level ground.  All along the canal there were many basins where canal boats moored to rest or transfer freight.  These basins were usually a wider section of the canal (or a wide water) which would allow a number of boats to pull out of the way of traffic, but some basins had narrow entrances and appeared on historic maps to be dry docks but were found to be private basins and not dry docks.  It should be noted that almost anywhere along the canal or any of the lateral waterways could have been suitable for the location of a boat building establishment (the Oneida County 1870 Census of Industry shows that many boats were being built on Oneida Lake.)  Many dry docks built boats, but not all places that built boats were dry docks.  I have not yet compiled the data regarding which dry docks built boats.

The Erie Canal Dry Docks are of several forms.  It should be noted that the canal was four feet deep when first constructed and only later deepened to seven feet in the 1840s to 1860s Enlargement.  The most important aspect for locating a dry dock was the feasibility of draining the water from the dock, and most docks were located on the edge of streams or slopes where water could be easily drained.  The Chittenango Landing dry dock, which is being reconstructed for the museum, is built on very level ground and thus it was necessary for the owners to run an open ditch, 15 feet deep, nearly 2,000 feet to the nearby creek but this situation and a few others are rare exceptions.  Because of difficulties in entering the dock and blocking traffic along the canal, as well as for situational reasons, most docks are located on the berm side of the canal.  Only three of the 44 Erie Canal dry docks that I identified were located on the towpath side of the canal.  Because the towpath was usually located on the down hill (low) side of the canal the dry docks were most often located on the up hill (high) side which greatly affected the choice of sites for dry dock construction (see below.)
 

Location of Dry Docks Relative to the Canal

In order to bring the long canal packets and freighters into the docks without blocking traffic or causing damage to boats and banks the dry docks also were often set off from the canal at a basin or wide-water, or along the side of the canal with a small notch shaped basin.  Entrances to dry docks were found in several forms: direct with no basin (a tight squeeze), through a basin, angled, perpendicular to the canal alignment, or a combination of any of these.  Fifteen dry docks of the Erie Canal had a perpendicular and direct access to the canal (the most difficult); ten had perpendicular entry through a basin; seven had various access through a basin (from a side or corner and not affecting canal use); three had angled access; three had angled entrance with a basin; and one each of direct, perpendicular, basin, perpendicular and angled through basin, unknown, and none (the inclined access at Sprakers).
 

Construction of the Docks

The most easily constructed dry dock took advantage of natural stream beds or hollows on the upland side of the canal (usually not the towpath side).  The canal edge would be banked across the low spot and a culvert would be constructed to carry the stream under the canal (only small or intermittent streams were suitable for this.)  By building a gate to control flow of water through the culvert and cutting a neck with a closable gate to the canal the basin formed could be used as a dry dock.  I presume that some modification of the basin would be necessary in order to make the floor level, to maximize the space available, and prevent erosion and silting.  This type of dock is found only at two sites: Clute's and Schenectady, both of which were opened in the early years of the canal.  Clute's, near Vischers Ferry, was modified into a geometrical straight walled dock about 1852 and the Schenectady dock was closed by about 1855.

The next most easily constructed docks are characterized by being located immediately along side of larger streams that intersect (flow under) the canal.  By taking advantage of the higher banks of the stream, or the broad hollow cut through which the stream flows, the basin could be easily constructed.  The earliest forms consisted of squarish or rectangular earth walled enclosure (or so it appears on the maps and in the field where evidence was still visible.)  Later docks may have had stone or wooden timber walls.  Most were dug into the ground to get to the level of the canal and might have been cut in on one edge and banked on another.  This situation took best advantage of the direct drain of water to a much lower point.

Another simple form was the built-up dock, of which only one example was found, that being an early dock (pre-1850) at Pattersonville.  This consists of a shallow oval basin which was banked with earth and had access to the canal by a narrow opening which appears to have had no gate and may have been closed with an earthen dam.  The basin drained into a ditch which eventually ran under the canal through a culvert.  This singular instance is located on very flat ground and was apparently very easily built with little excavation and a minimum of banking.  It also encompassed a large area that could have held a minimum of eight boats at any one time (see below.)  Another form of built up dock, but different than that at Pattersonville, is that at Montezuma.  This dock was built along an elevated section of the canal which necessitated a great deal of filling to bring the site up to the level of the canal.  This situation allowed for easy draining of water from three sides and thus this two bay dock was able to have separate drains for each bay.  The built up area around the dock was large enough to accommodate several buildings on three sides.

Several of the more advanced and later docks took advantage of existing works or abandoned sections of the canal to make construction of the facility easier, more accessible, or more valuable.  These "advantage" docks, such as that at Chittenango Landing, could be situated at the junction of feeders; at points where the alignment of the canal had been changed leaving an open section of the old canal bed that only needed to closed off (sometimes enlarged) and gated; and along side of or near a lock where the ground was built up and water was easily drained away.

The most difficult type of dock to build would be that which had to be dug into the ground with little benefit of surrounding topography.  Both the older (pre-1850) and new Chittenango Landings are of this type (but secondary to the fact that they took advantage of the feeder for their location) and are characteristically located on flat ground a long distance away from an easy drain for their water.  In the case of Hagerman's dry dock near Vischers Ferry the dock is built on the high edge of a ravine and an incredible amount of earth moving had to be done in order to make the dry dock viable.

Because of the lack of physical data for the western dry dock sites it has not been possible to categorize several of the dry docks identified by my study.  Also one documented dry dock, that at Sprakers, can not be fit into any of the above categories because it was located on dry land without a basin.  Schwaub's Dry Dock in Utica is early (1830) shown as a structure with no basin but is labeled "dry dock."  It is later shown with a water filled bay.  Also, as in the case of Chittenango Landing, it should be considered that some of the dry docks might be fitted into more than one category.  In summary there were, of the dry docks identified on the Erie Canal, 19 "stream side" (2 dual category), 14 "dug" (4 dual), 10 "advantage" (3 dual), 2 "basin" (1 dual), 2 "built up," and 3 of unknown categories (1 dry land - no basin).

As for complexity of construction, the dry docks of the Erie Canal are found to be of many different types ranging from the simple earth walled depression such as that at Pattersonville, to the multi-bay dry docks with complex drain systems, and self contained manufacturing and production services such as at Chittenango Landing, Port Byron, Frankfort, or Lock Port.  Walls of basins and entrances may be made of banked earth, cobblestone,  slightly pitched or vertical timber, or slightly pitched or vertical cut stone.  At the few sites where the type of wall construction could be determined there was usually a combination of several of these types.  Gateways were often better built than any other part of the dock as this was the point which took the most abuse and stress.  Floors of the dry docks appear to have been timber in all cases where evidence is seen (no negative evidence for this).  Photographs show wooden floors and weigh timbers of the same or similar configuration as the heavy bay of Chittenango Landing at Clute's, Canajoharie, and Port Byron.  No evidence of other support structure, as seen in the medium and light bay at Chittenango Landing, has been found at other sites.  Interesting evidence of a timber floor is seen at Hagerman's dry dock where an impressive pattern of depressions in the soil indicates that the timbers were set twenty feet apart with stringers about eight feet apart.
 

Ancillary Structures Associated with Dry Docks

Analysis of structures at dry dock complexes, as indicated by insurance maps, photographs, and canal structure maps, include many of those types that have been found at Chittenango Landing.  Several additional structures directly related to dry dock operations not found at Chittenango Landing were identified as well as a number of other less-related structures.  Many other buildings obviously related to the dry docks were seen but they are not labeled or otherwise identified on any of the many maps consulted and thus cannot be included in this analysis.  Of the 44 identified Erie Canal Dry Docks 13 had blacksmith's shops at or nearby (12 directly associated with the dry dock); 11 had boat building shops (or shops other than those listed below); 9 had lumber sheds or piles (4 directly associated); 8 each of carpenter's shops (7 direct), saw or planing mills (5 direct), sheds or warehouses (5 direct), store (3 direct), and stable or barn (5 direct); 6 hotels, taverns, or saloons (2 direct); 5 had icehouses (3 direct); 4 had pitching or tar kettles; 4 had an engine; 2 had a paint shop; 2 had a room for bench work; and 2 had a boat house.  Other structures directly related to dry docks, but seen in singular incidents, were an office, stock room, hand fire engine, machine shop, and a building for hardware and metal storage.  Because of the difficulty in identifying the limits of dry dock properties any dwellings and tenant houses, which are know in many instances, including two at Chittenango Landing, were not considered for this section.

Chittenango Landing has been found to fit into 10 of the structure categories that I was able to identify (9 in direct association).  The dry dock at North Crescent fit 11 (5 direct); Fultonville 9 (9 direct); Canajoharie 7 (6 direct); Durhamville 15 (12 direct); and New Jordan 10 (3 direct).  The other 38 Erie Canal Dry Docks had only a few or no identified buildings associated with them.  Most of the data for building identification came from the Sanborn Insurance Company maps of the late 19th and early 20th century and most canal and structure maps only showed the configuration and location of buildings without identifying their use.
 

Coexistence of Dry Docks

The most dry docks that I have found operating at any one time on the eastern half of the Erie Canal was 20 (probable) during the period of 1860 to 1880 (minimum of 18 positive in 1875-1880).  Except for 1920 when the canal was being closed there were no fewer than 11 dry docks in operation between Albany and Jordan (pre-1830 material is generally lacking).  Based on calculations of the capacity of individual dry docks there were (except for 1920) no less than 36, generally about 45-50, spaces for boats of 20 x 100 feet dimension.  There may have been as many as 84 spaces in 1835 and may have been as many as 60-65 between 1860 and 1880.

While the dry docks are generally spaced across the landscape so as to best meet the needs of boaters, two patterns were readily noticible: several intervals where there were no docks for great distances, and few docks in urban areas.  I have not been able to explain ther large gaps between docks, some of which are over 30 km (20 mi).  While most docks are found about every 10 km (6 mi), some can be very close to each other (perhaps indicating that they did different work and thus did not compete) there seems to be a dearth of docks in populated areas where traffic was highest.  Two sites in Utica, one in Rome, one in Syracuse, and one in Rochester seem un natural, but for the fact that these areas were also the points of juncture for lateral canals which had their share of dry docks.  Perhaps it was more efficient to pull you boat off from the main line and have it repaired in the less travelled areas.
 

Capacity of the Dry Docks

These capacity calculations are based on dock dimensions derived from structure maps and are generally considered accurate indicators of area.  Each dry dock was sketched to scale and a scale outline of a canal boat (18 x 100' with a few feet added to each side for work space) was variously overlaid on the sketch to find the maximum number of canal boats which could have been brought into the dry dock at any one time.  A single bay, such as at Chittenango Landing would be about 25 to 30 feet wide (18 feet for the boat and about five feet of work space on each side).  The width of a multi-boat bay may be calculated using the following formula: Width of Single Bay + (Width of Boat + Shared Work Space) x Number of Boats Minus One, or, W=30+(20+5)(n-1).  A 5 boat dry dock basin would need to be 130 feet wide [30+(25+5)(4)=130] in order to be used to the maximum potential for five boats (with ample work space between each boat.)

The width of the three bays at Chittenango Landing measure (at the bottom) 25.5 feet in the heavy bay, about 26 feet in the medium bay, and 26 feet in the light bay.  The heavy bay, with a square end, is 107 feet long at maximum, while the medium and light bays, with the straight drop gates and rounded ends, are both 105 feet long at maximum.  With an estimated elevation of the surface of the canal when full at 429 feet the light bay had a water depth (to floor planks) at the center of six feet, the medium bay had seven feet, and the heavy bay eight feet.

It must be remembered that early canal boats were of a smaller size and in later years many small boats (tugs, groceries, passenger barges, and pleasure craft or private cruisers, etc.) also used the canal and dry docks.  As an example of how this data should be used with caution is the western basin of the (new) Port Byron dry dock in which I calculate that only two large (18 x 100') boats would have fit into the bay, but a photograph in the collection of the Canal Society of New York State actually shows eight small boats packed closely within the dock.
 

Jobbing at the Dry Docks

The Port Byron photograph noted above shows no less than eighteen men in the bay.  A ledger for the Doran Dry Dock at Durhamville (CSNYS 1077 Hager donation), which is very similar to that at Chittenango Landing (see below), gives clues to what kind of work was done to boats and what the expenses of docking and labor were for the period of 1868-70.  At Doran's there were two side by side bays or docks apparently referred to as the light and loaded bays (:104) with a docking charge of $3.00 and 4.00 respectively.  Between June 1, 1869 and May 31, 1870 there were 230 jobs done; 149 in the $3.00 dock, 33 in the $4.00 dock, and 42 which required no docking and thus no docking charge.  There were also four $5.00 and two $10.00 dockings which may indicate that boats were drawn up and out of the canal and on to dry land.  Docking price seems to have had nothing to do with the amount of work done or the time for which the bay was occupied, as the most expensive job seen, costing $1,333.62, was only charged $3.00 for docking.  Charges include labor (three charges give the number of hours of labor and the total cost from which it is seen that labor charges were calculated at 27.5 cents per hour), keeping of horses, "getting boat off wall" (:110), and most jobs used pitch and oakum (spun oakum was $.25 per pound :71).  The various projects used hardware of all kinds: iron, cut and wrought nails and spikes of various sizes, stove pipe, drawer handles, screws, bolts, hinges, dead eyes, clasps, washers, and hooks.  Many types of boat furniture or fittings (flooring, decking, ceiling, moulding, butts, whipple trees, hatches, rudder posts, tillers, blinds, and horse bridges) were made or sold.  Types of lumber used include oak, spruce, maple, white pine, elm, pine, and hemlock.  Brushes, oil, putty, paint, lamp black, turpentine, and yellow and green ochre show that painting was also done although not specifically identified as such (included in labor).  Much tobacco, and some pepper sauce, matches, and soup were also on some of the accounts at Doran's Dry Dock.  A store house and hotel are shown near the dry dock on Gillette's 1859 Madison County Map and a store is seen in the 1875 Oneida County Atlas, and it may be that the store was part of the dry dock complex at the time of this account book.  Many other maps do not show a store.

Census records also give us more general data regarding the production of dry docks.  Chittenango Landing had the most extensive data (see below) which in summary shows that a large dry dock had about $10,000 in capital invested, had or used many thousand of dollars of raw material, employed about 15 people at about $45 per month wage (1865 - compare to wages of a tailor $30, cooper $25, cabinet maker $25, blacksmith $25-30, shoemaker $25), were in operation for the eight to ten month canal season or sometimes year-round, and made canal boats at a cost of $3,000 each and did many thousands of dollars in repairs annually.
 

Workers at the Dry Docks

Looking at the birth places of dry dock workers at Chittenango Landing (1850, 1855, 1860, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1915) I found 46 different people that could be connected to the dry dock, twenty five came from New York state (nine with state designation only, nine from Madison County (in which the dock is located), two each from Herkimer and Oneida counties, and one each from Onondaga, Schenectady, and Saratoga counties - all canal counties); seven are listed as "U.S." only; three from Canada; two from Massachusetts; two from Vermont; two from England; two from Germany; one from the West Indies; and two unknown.  They were either identified by their occupation listed in the census records (not all censuses had this category) or by direct association with another dry dock worker.  The occupations listed at Chittenango and other dry docks include: Boat Builder, Ship Carpenter or Shipwright, Boat Repairing, Boat Caulker or Corking Boats, Carpenter (with Apprentice), Blacksmith, Grocer, Clerk, Clerk in Warehouse, a Dock Tender, and of course Laborer.
 

Comparison of Chittenango Landing to Other Erie Canal Dry Docks

Chittenango Landing really has no parallel in the other Erie Canal Dry Docks that I have located.  Several of the western dry dock sites where I have not made field inspection of may have been as complex (judging from map data) as Chittenango Landing, but it is clear that those of the eastern half of the Erie are not the same.  The dry docks at Durhamville and Fayetteville, both two bay docks, were very similar in form to Chittenango Landing having well built stone walls, deep bays, complex drain systems, and boat building as well as repairing capabilities.  I take the data to indicate that the only real difference (construction wise) between the three docks is that Chittenango Landing has three bays while those at Durhamville and Fayetteville have only two.  Following the route of the canal of 1855 (Enlarged Erie) it is 18.4 km (11.4 mi) from Chittenango Landing to Durhamville and 13.7 km (8.5 mi) from Chittenango Landing to Fayetteville.  From the time of the opening of the Chittenango Landing Dry Dock in 1856 to the closing of the old line of the Erie Canal in c.1917 there were no other dry docks between these three so the striking similarities between them is important.  A similar pattern of dry dock form (but of different characteristics) can be seen in several of the western dry docks such as those at Newark, Albion, Middleport, and Lockport (east) which leads me to believe that they were built at about the same time and possibly by the same contractor.

As for condition and present setting of dry docks for possible reconstruction there are a few other dry docks where reconstruction and or archaeological excavation might be possible.  Because my field examinations only took me to sites between Albany and Jordan I do not have field data for the western sites.  Archaeological data might be easily obtained from the following sites: Watervliet, North Crescent, Clute's*, Hagerman's* Vischers Ferry*, Pattersonville*, Fultonville, Stone Ridge*, Indian Castle*, Fink's Basin*, New London*, Durhamville*, Chittenango Landing (old* and new* of course) and Fayetteville*.  Those of the above marked with an * are, archaeologically speaking, still quite intact.  Because dry dock bays may be up to ten feet deep it is possible that archaeological evidence of the other sites (including those not listed) may still be found and should be protected or noted.  Only Clute's, which is within the Vischers Ferry Nature Preserve, and Chittenango Landing which is being reconstructed and studied, are presently protected and able to be visited by the public.  Of the sites that are fairly intact none are as complex as Chittenango Landing.  Of the two dry docks most similar to Chittenango Landing the Durhamville Dry Dock is now little more than a refuse filled depression probably robbed of much of its stonework and the Fayetteville Dry Dock has also become a refuse dump and its bays cannot now be delineated.  But the caveat of this is that Chittenango Landing, when I first saw it 30 years ago, was nothing more than break in the canal wall with a jungle of box elder growing up over it.  Excavation found the stone robed, the bays filled in with junk, and foundations bulldozed, but the archaeological record was incredibly intact and informative.

I suppose that many of the western sites are gone due to Barge Canal construction.  A number of the eastern sites are in developed or urban areas and are not accessible or visible from the surface, but that does not mean that there would be no archaeological evidence.  Another factor which makes the Chittenango Landing site more valuable as an interpretive exhibit is that it is situated on a section of the canal which is still flooded.  Only Clute's, New London, Durhamville, Chittenango Landing, and Fayetteville are presently in this situation.  The few western Erie Canal Dry Dock sites that I have visited would not be suitable for interpretive exhibits.

END