D&H Canal Museum
The D&H Canal Museum chronicles
and celebrates the first million dollar commercial enterprise
in America. In the hamlet of High Falls, where a flight
of five locks compensated for a drop of 70 feet in elevation,
the museum and the remnants of these old locks tell the
story of the waterway, built largely by pick and shovel
wielded by immigrants. With maps, colorful dioramas, enlarged
photographs, artifacts, and working models, the Museum
of the D&H Canal Historical Society, housed in the
former St. John's Episcopal Church, depicts life along
the canal and its related industries.
The Delaware and Hudson Canal was
a 108-mile, man-made waterway, an engineering feat of
pre-industrial America that brought a new form of energy
from the hills of Pennsylvania out to the Hudson River.
From 1828 to 1898, mules pulled barges laden with anthracite
coal along river valleys from Honesdale in northeastern
Pennsylvania to Eddyville on the Rondout Creek near the
villages of Kingston and Rondout. From here, it was shipped
on barges down the Hudson to New York City and up the
river to Canada.
was conceived in 1823 by William and Maurice Wurts,
two Philadelphia dry goods merchants who had purchased
large tracts of land in northeastern Pennsylvania rich
in anthracite coal deposits. Though the British had
been supplying America's fledgling industries on the
eastern seaboard with bituminous coal, the War of 1812
caused America's supply to be cut off, creating a crisis.
The Wurts brothers recognized New York City's need for
a new source of cheap energy and believed that their
anthracite coal was the answer to the problem. However,
a reliable method of transportation had to be found
and a market created, for anthracite had not previously
been taken seriously and many doubted its ability to
They hired Benjamin Wright, Chief
Engineer of the newly created 350-mile Erie Canal, to
survey and design a canal out to the Hudson. The canal
proposed would be four feet deep, 32 feet wide, contain
108 locks, 137 bridges, 26 basins, dams, and reservoirs,
and cost an estimated 1.2 million dollars. In contrast
to the state-financed Erie Canal, the D & H Canal
was begun with private money.
To raise money and interest in the
project, the Wurts brothers arranged for a demonstration.
On January 7, 1825, the business leaders of New York
City gathered at the Tontine Coffee House on Wall Street
to witness for the first time the glow of anthracite
fire that was to shape the industrial and domestic development
of the city. The stock offered for sale that day was
oversubscribed within a few hours, and the newly-formed
Delaware & Hudson Canal Company became America's
first million-dollar private enterprise.
The Canal operated successfully until
the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company made a unique
transition in 1898 into a railroad company, becoming
America's oldest continously operating transportation
The musem houses an impressive collection
of artifacts of about 4,000 individual items relation
to the D&H Canal and its economic impact on New
- Maps, 1826-1973, D & H Canal
and villages along its route.
- The Wakefield Collection, 1846-1993,
Manville Wakefield’s research for his book,
"Coal Boats to Tidewater", including original
scratch board illustrations, bills, blueprints, permits,
contracts, broadsides, postcards, notes, typescripts,
- Phillipsport Lock Collection,
1855-1911, contracts, time records, school tax statements,
boat permits, docking orders, receipts, inventories,
bills, agreements, letters, blueprints of canal activities
at Lock 48 in Phillipsport, NY.
- Photograph Collection, 1878-1968,
gelatin silver prints of locks, boats, creeks, bridges
and villages along the canal.
- Miscellaneous Document Collection,
1815-1982, broadsides, agreements, reports, bills,
blueprints, permits, charts, programs, pamphlets,
circulars, advertisements, legal papers, docking orders,
surveyor’s field books, inventories, leases,
letters, logs, patents, prints, receipts, stock certificates,
timesheets pertaining to D & H land, boats, roads,
workers, and the related industries of cement and
- Research Collection, 1853-1973,
clippings, articles and reports pertaining to the
history of the D & H Canal and canals in general.
- Artifacts Collection, hardware,
snubbing posts, bow lamps, boatman’s horn, cane,
telegraph desk, field lap desk, tools, bilge pumps
and boat tillers.
- Dioramas and Models, two boats
passing, mules & hoggee boy, gravity railroad,
working lock 16, 20 ton "Flicker" boat,
150 ton and 140 ton boats
- Paintings and Prints, reproductions
of E.L. Henry’s, "Days Before Rapid Transit"
and a gouache on paper dated 1865 by William Rickarby
Miller depicting Lock 13 and Lock 14, the Rondout
Creek and environs.
Visitors can trace the canal on a
wall map from its beginning in Honesdale, 967 feet in
elevation, and along its course parallel to four bodies
of water - the Lackawaxen, the Delaware, the Neversink
River, and the Rondout Creek - to its terminus at Kingston
at sea level.
HOURS: May through October, Monday
& Thursday - Saturday 11 AM - 5 PM & Sunday
1 PM - 5 PM.
The Five Locks Walk is a trail maintained
by the D&H Canal Historical Society. Designated
a National Historic Landmark in 1969, Locks 16-20 are
a legacy to the determination and skill of the engineers,
stone workers and laborers who build the D&H, without
the aid of machinery, in just two and a half years.
These locks were part of a new route
created in 1847 when the canal was enlarged to accomodate
140 ton boats. On the way to the Roebling aqueduct,
the locks lowered the canal over 70 feet, each dropping
an average of 12.61 feet.