You know that the Erie canal is of major importance to our
community, but sometimes we just take it and its beauty for granted and
think of it as a placid place for recreation. But did you know (or remember
for those of you long time residents), that the canal has broken three
times in or around our space between the village and Bushnell’s Basin?
The first time was in 1911. That break was caused when the water was put
in the enlarged canal. The bank was new and composed of soil. Once the
water stared to flow, the earth and bank gave way quickly and washed out
Marsh Road. It just missed hitting a trolley and water tore up the tracks.
The next break occurred in 1912 and there was no damage to homes because
most of the water flooded farmlands downstream. The break happened right
over a culvert of Irondequoit Creek. That old culvert was built in 1840
and when they put the new canal over it, they did not change it. It began
leaking and the canal just went to pieces. Concrete pieces 8 to 10 feet
think were pushed all around and there was an enormous amount of water
on both sides.
But the break that many of remember and the one which caused the most
damage, happened on a lovely October day in 1974. The whole street of Brook
Hollow was affected with one home completely washed away and many others
suffering tremendous damage. Other homes on neighboring streets also suffered
damage with many basements covered with water, mud and debris.
Miraculously no one was killed that afternoon, but one woman was caught
in the rush of water as it washed away her basement wall and carried her
right out of the side wall and into her yard. She was able to grab onto
a tree and call for help but not before her jeans and shoes were torn off
and she was bleeding and bruised from the ordeal.
The break was caused by a contractor tunneling under the canal as part
of a pure waters sewer line development. It was not until seven years later
that the suit finally was settled against the Greenfield Construction Co.
The canal has caused disruption in the village at other times such as
1973 when the State Street bridge was replaced and closed for two years.
The North Main Street bridge was closed and rebuilt in 1983. It opened
a year later, almost one year prior to the schedule.
But get ready again for the canal and its bridges to cause disruption – the
Route 31 bridge is on the list for reconstruction and traffic will again
be re-routed. What a traffic jam that will create! But our Erie Canal is
a jewel of which we should all be proud and tout it for what it was – an
engineering marvel and completely paid for by New York State residents
without one penny of federal funds!