Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Canal Diggers

The Erie Canal is the magnum opus in the early establishment of  the Empire State as the jewel of the U.S.A.  Called the “greatest engineering marvel of its time,” the canal was built at a time (1825) when there wasn’t even a single civil engineer in our new nation!  So where are the monuments to this sterling achievement?  Well they are few and certainly far between.  But here in Seneca Falls, N.Y. along the banks of the Seneca-Cayuga canal, an offshoot of the Erie Canal, one will find a most sentimental and solitary salute to the great Canal Diggers (the monuments’ actual title.)

Here on the back side of the main business district one will come upon two statues standing solidly in the water.  Each weighs a ton.  Both are evocative of the canal workers who came through this region of Upstate New York by the tens of thousands.  One essays an Irish digger and the other an Italian.  Brian Pfeiffer of Bennington, N.Y., is the sculptor.  The statues are located along the Ludovico Sculpture Trail which runs a mile and a half along the old canal.  Several statues along the path (which is an abandoned rail bed) pay silent tribute to several hallmarks of the region including feminist Amelia Bloomer, the wine industry, local industries and others.

A small wooden staircase allows the casual visitor to walk down to the water’s edge and eye the statues from only a few feet away.  It is not a stretch to imagine that the two silent sentinels are looking up at you from under their crumpled immigrant hats as if to say, “How about this canal, huh?  It’s really something isn’t it?”

The next time we visit we will discover a statue which commemorates the “Miracle of the Adirondacks.”

Chuck D’Imperio

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