Facility Explains the Spindle City’s Crucial Links to Earlier Versions of the Erie Canal

For Immediate Release: 09/18/19

COHOES—The city of Cohoes today opened a visitor center that includes exhibits that detail the city's indelible links to the original Erie Canal, which once had 10 locks that spurred the development of the knitting mills that put Cohoes on the map.

The project had been awarded a $62,000 grant from the New York State Canal Corporation and a $65,000 grant from the New York State Council for the Arts, as part of funding from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council.

"The legacy of Cohoes and the heritage of the Erie Canal are forever intertwined," said Brian U. Stratton, New York State Canal Corporation director. "This is the place where the Erie Canal's designers overcame some of their most formidable challenges and enable the Canal to transform New York and this nation into a dominating center of commerce and trade."

In many ways, the Erie Canal and Cohoes grew up together. The Canal was a runaway success when it opened in 1825. However, vessels on the waterway experienced the 19th-century version of gridlock in Cohoes, where numerous boats vied to use the narrow locks to climb 112 feet to be on the same elevation as Cohoes Falls.

Construction on an enlarged Canal began in 1835, which included 10 locks—with double chambers to enable barges to travel in both directions--that traveled two miles through Cohoes. Between the water power from Cohoes Falls and the ease of shipping because of the Canal, many knitting mills sprang up in Cohoes, which was dubbed the Spindle City.

As in dozens of other cities, the Erie Canal catalyzed businesses and encouraged people to move to Cohoes, which was incorporated as a city in 1870. The current version of the Erie Canal uses the Mohawk River and no longer travels through Cohoes. However, many remnants of the enlarged canal in Cohoes can still be visited.

Cohoes Mayor Christopher M. Briggs said, "The long-awaited renovations to the Cohoes Visitors Center will provide an entirely unique and high-quality experience, showcasing the city's most recognized historical attribute, the Erie Canal."

The grant was made in conjunction with the celebration of the Erie Canal's bicentennial, which began in 2017 to mark the start of construction and will run until 2025, the 200th year from when the entire Erie Canal was opened.

The visitor center is owned by the city and operated in partnership with the Spindle City Historical Society. It is located at the Cohoes Music Hall on Remsen Street, an historic structure that dates back to 1874 and is the fourth-oldest operating music hall in the U.S.

Learn more about the Canalway Grant Program.

About the New York State Canal Corporation

New York's canal system includes four historic canals: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca. Spanning 524 miles, the waterway links the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. The canals form the backbone of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and connect hundreds of unique and historic communities. In 2019, New York will mark the 200th anniversary of the first trip taken on the Erie Canal, from Rome to Utica.

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Steven Gosset
Media Relations
(914) 390-8192