The History of the Erie Canal

By Mia Lamanna

The largest artificial waterway in all of North America.


The Erie Canal was built in the early to mid-nineteenth century. It was set to be about 40 feet deep and contain over 83 locks due to the hilly nature of the area. For eight years, the land was excavated and dug out in order to make this waterway possible, a remarkable feat of labor and engineering.

The Erie Canal was constructed by a mixed group of Irish Immigrants and U.S.-born citizens. Most of the work done to dig out the canal was done using animals but a lot was also done by hand. This now seems like a grueling task that no one in their right mind would sign up to do. The benefits of this canal were enormous, however. It would enable fast and efficient trade and travel for years to come.

The Erie Canal starts in Albany, then runs through Syracuse and Rochester, ending in Buffalo at Lake Erie. It passes through many smaller towns on its route and became the quickest way to get from one city to the next. In early 2000, Congress officially recognized the Erie Canal’s historical significance, establishing the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. This recognition was given to approximately 200 communities in upstate New York.

The Erie Canal runs through Rochester of course, but it also comes through Brockport. Indeed, the city of Brockport was originally moved and established after the waterway was built as a way to be close to the travel and trade that is provided. Many cities and towns are set up around waterways for similar purposes. Before the Canal, the small city was suffering economically. The business that the Erie Canal provided boosted Brockport financially.

In the town of Brockport, the Canalfront Welcome Center and the Museum Without Walls pay homage to the Canal and the aid that is provided. Walking tours share the history of the canal and Brockport.


Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor :: History and Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved from website

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor: Village of Brockport. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2021

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