Without a doubt, the construction of the Erie Canal was one of the most defining moments in New York history.
Constructed between 1817 and 1825, the Erie Canal ran 363 miles from the Hudson River in Albany to the Niagara River in Buffalo. This amazing engineering feat allowed goods and people to more easily move westward through the state and greatly increased the development of both New York and midwestern states along the Great Lakes.
In 1820, the Erie Canal to Syracuse was completed, and the growth of the canal paralleled the growth of the city, turning Syracuse into one of the largest cities in Upstate New York.
Wanting to learn more about the amazing history of the canal, I visited the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse.
The Erie Canal Museum was founded in 1962 to preserve the Syracuse Weighlock Building. This building was where canal boats would be weighed to determine their toll. Thanks to the work of the museum’s founders, the museum is still housed in the only remaining weighlock from the Erie Canal.
The Erie Canal Museum offers a fascinating look at the history of the canal, its impact on the state, and what life was like for those that lived and worked along it.
Just inside the entrance, the first floor displays do a great job of highlighting the history of the canal. Through artifacts, signage, and even a few interactive activities, visitors can really get a nice overview of the Erie Canal
Upstairs, the museum focuses on life in Syracuse and how it was impacted by the arrival of the Erie Canal. This is done through a series of artifacts and even a few dioramas of places like a tavern and a general store.
The upstairs area is also home to a fun play area for kids that includes the ability to do a puppet show, and a temporary exhibition gallery.
The highlight of the museum, however, is housed within the old Weighlock Building. Here, where the scales once weighed boats, is a replica canal boat. This offers a great visual of what a boat would have looked like on the Erie Canal and how a weighlock worked.
Climbing aboard, you can get a great feel for these boats and a better appreciation of the life of those that lived, worked, and traveled aboard them. Heading inside, there are displays that showcase these stories and really do a great job bringing them to life.
Inside the rest of the first floor of the Weighlock Building, visitors can see the Weighmaster’s office and learn more about how the canal was financed and the role that tolls played on the canal.
Without a doubt, the information in the Erie Canal Museum is incredibly well done, and visiting is an enjoyable and informative experience whether you breeze through or read every word on the signs.
If you are looking for an in-depth look into the history and impact of the Erie Canal or are simply looking for a quick overview of the history of Syracuse, the Erie Canal Museum is a fantastic spot to visit while in the city.
Definitely consider this spot one of the best things to do in Syracuse, NY if you are at all interested in learning more about how Upstate New York was settled and built.
Note: My visit to the Erie Canal Museum was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
You can also learn more about the Erie Canal by taking a Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruise in western New York.
Erie Canal Museum
Hours: Daily: 10am-4pm
Cost: $10 suggested donation per person
Address: 318 Erie Blvd East
See map below for other area attractions.