We overnighted in Amsterdam on our way to Ilion, right above lock 11. Right next to the lock was a limestone house with two large wings. The house looked directly onto the canal, though it did seem to have two fronts. Intrigued by this, once we had docked I headed over to find out more. There were a few panels on the canal side of the house, including one with a Benjamin West painting (I’ve always been a big fan of his, once convincing my parents to take me to see a painting of his that was in Ottawa). The painting was of Guy Johnson, the nephew of Sir William Johnson. William Johnson, who was Superintendent of Indian Affairs on the New York Frontier in the mid 18th century, was a frontier character. He structured his household retinue to resemble a European court and was attended by Natives and Europeans alike. My studies in school have led me to learn more about the Johnson family, so I was pretty excited to see the house that they lived in. After expounding to Tom about the Johnsons, he and I went in to Amsterdam on a quest to find a post office. In this world of instant messaging, email, and constant communication, people are still thrilled to receive a handwritten postcard.
Though the days of New York’s frontier are gone, Amsterdam is a visual collection of the layers of immigration. The steep streets leading up from the canal are lined with spectacular houses, striking examples of the prosperity the canal once brought to this area. Churches were also plentiful, their architecture augmenting that of the 19th century buildings still standing.
In the distance we were willing to walk, the post office never made an appearance. We returned to the Lois with our pockets still full of unsent mail, ready to go on another quest in a different town to find a post office.
Blake is a conservation lab intern at LCMM. She will be a senior at Bard College this fall, where she is studying Colonial American history.