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The ride along Clinton's Ditch

March 19, 2009

You know, it’s really a shame we don’t own any land and our jobs are a pretty long commute from where we live, because every day I like it more and more.  On Sunday, after my trip to the library and after K put together his bike, we strapped on our bike rack, loaded the bikes, and headed to the canal.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

We live near the Erie Canal, also known as Clinton’s Ditch, after Governor Dewitt Clinton who championed it.

The Erie Canal is a man-made waterway New York state that runs about 365 miles from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo at Lake Erie, completing a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. First proposed in 1808, it was under construction from 1817 to 1825.

The problem was that the land rises about 600 feet (180 m) from the Hudson to Lake Erie. Locks at the time could handle up to 12 feet (3.7 m), so at least 50 locks would be required along the 360 miles (580 km) canal. Such a canal would cost a fortune even today; in 1800 the expense was barely imaginable. President Jefferson called it “a little short of madness” and rejected it. Nevertheless [it] managed to interest New York governor DeWitt Clinton. There was much opposition, and the project was scorned as “Clinton’s Folly,” or “Clinton’s Ditch.” But in 1817, Clinton got the legislature to appropriate $7,000,000 for construction.

Thank you Wikipedia.

In reality, we could probably bike to the canal from our home, but K doesn’t have a helmet yet, and the road there is pretty busy, so in the interest of safety we decided to drive to the trail.  In the future though, we’re definitely going to bike all the way into the city.

We headed along the canal towards the Stockade district, along a very busy state route. There were lots of bikers out today, it was really nice outside!

Biking along Rt. 5

Biking along Rt. 5

We finally got off the busy highway and headed into the Stockade District.  The Stockade is a historical district that was a very early Dutch settlement (think 1630s early!) to protect the inhabitants from the Iroquois Indians.  The first stockade was burned and about half the inhabitants massacred by the French and Northern Indians in 1690.  It has over 100 landmarked homes.

The first landmarked building we passed was the Robert Sanders House.  I can’t figure out who he was after Googling, but the Sanders family was a big name in the area (as judged by the Glen Sanders mansion, but that was owned by a John Sanders).

Robert Sanders House (dated 1750)

Robert Sanders House (dated 1750)

As you may be able to see from the historical marker, this house was visited by George Washington and later became the Schenectady Female Academy.  I had a double take when researching this because in all the pictures I found of it on the Web, it’s a brilliant white, but I guess it has been repainted red since the doorway is the same.

Then we came across the beautiful First Reformed Church, whose congregation dates back to 1680.  However, the first building was destroyed in the 1690 Stockade massacre.

First Reformed Church

First Reformed Church

Over one of the doors to the church, called the Bride’s Door, is this inscription:

"His banner over me was Love"

"His banner over me was Love"

We continued on past some gorgeous historical houses:

Quintessential Dutch home dated 1742.Quintessential Dutch home dated 1742.
Lovely gingerbread trim

Lovely gingerbread trim

And continued biking out of the Stockade district to the old industrial area nearby.

Going under the railroad trestle

Going under the railroad trestle

Old industrial warehouse

Old industrial warehouse

K and I have often driven past this abandoned building, dreaming of turning it into a year-round market a lá Marche Atwater in Montreal.

Interesting architecture

Interesting architecture

This one looks closer to the actual Atwater building :)

On the way back to the car, we noticed the ice breakup on the canal this year.  Although the river is now free-flowing, huge blocks of ice have been deposited on the banks of the canal all the way up to the bike path.

Ice chunks near the overlook

Ice chunks near the overlook

Huge ice chunks

Huge ice chunks

Ice on and next to the trail

Ice on and next to the trail

Compare these pics with what the river looked like only 6 days ago:

Ice break on the canal March 9, 2009

Ice break on the canal March 9, 2009

The above photo is from a local blog:  http://giacalonephotos.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/ice-jams-at-riverside-park/.  I did not take it.

But look how far the ice has come in just 6 days.  Spring is almost here and I can’t wait to plant!

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