by Art Cohn
Don’t get me wrong, we love over-nights at canal facilities, but the invitation extended to us from John Jermano to stop at the Schenectady Yacht Club was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. John is the former (1984-1995) director of the New York State Canal Corporation (NYSCC). Today, the NYSCC, led by Carmella Mantello, is one of the principal sponsors for our 2010 World Canals Tour.
In 2007, during our Grand Canal Journey, we observed that the Schenectady Yacht Club was located just east of the old Rexford aqueduct. The opportunity to get a better look at this historic canal feature and learn more about it was very exciting to the crew and to me. One of the key observations we are making while on the canal is just how much it has changed during its more than 180-years of continual operation. Expanded locks, prisms and canal boats and new alignments for the locks and canal have left a rich legacy of canal features scattered around the canal corridor landscape. Rexford is one of the great places to view the past canal and having John as our guide was a chance to learn from a true expert.
The portion of the stone aqueduct that was still standing was part of the Erie expansion of the 1840’s. From John we learned that this aqueduct was built just east of the original aqueduct which was converted to a bridge after the new one was opened. The aqueduct brought the Erie canal from the south to the north side of the Mohawk River if you were heading from Rome to the east. Just west of the new aqueduct were two sets of double locks, still visible in the ground today, with one lock chamber ingeniously adapted to serve as the bay for the marina’s travel-lift. John also described the remnants of the dam and feeder canal we would see when we began our trip west.
John’s explanations and the features still visible were so clear that when I returned to my computer to work on the lecture I was giving at the Fort Plain Free Library, I admit I was struck for the first time to realize that I had a map of the Rexford expansion showing all these features “as built” which had been provided to me by historian Duncan Hay of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, also one of our principle sponsors. Now because of John’s good lessons and our observations, I could understand exactly how this important Rexford crossing looked in its day.
Thank you John for your gift of knowledge and hospitality.