History of Lock 33

Donated by Terry Potoczny

The lock was built as a double Enlarged Erie in the late 1830's-say 1838 -1840. It was definitely opened for navigation and brought into use at the opening of navigation in 1840. Therefore it had to be built in the few preceding years. Since Clinton's Ditch ran on a diagonal South of the lock they could work on this lock "in the dry" without concern about traffic and navigation on the old canal. The lock probably took only a year or two to build, probably 1838-1840. If construction did start earlier it could have begun NO earlier than 1836 as that is when construction of the Enlarged Erie began.

It was lengthened during the Winter-Spring of 1887-1888. The contract was awarded to Soule and Raynor of Syracuse who also lengthened Lock 32 at Fort Plain. Their bid was $24,620.50 for Lock 33 and $24,111.50 for Lock 32.

It was lengthened at the head of the berme side instead of the foot probably because Lock 33 is located at the end of a curve and lengthening it at the foot would make the lower end of the lock stick out into the curve taking away from the arc of the bend rendering it sharper and for double headers this could be a big problem. Here again that is my interpretation as I have not found that in writing as of this message. There must have been a good reason for lengthening at the head because it is more difficult and expensive to lengthen at the head than the foot because of the greater excavation required into the upstream canal bed as opposed to the downstream end where all that is required is excavation for footings. Compare bids for Locks 32 and 33.

As to the extra width-again not yet verified in the reports—there was a waste weir with wooden bulkhead about 100 to 245 feet west of the lock on the BERME side. It was 19 feet 7 inches long with 3 gates. The weir could have created a strong current toward that side of the canal and may have made it difficult for boatman to guide and align their boats properly to enter the lengthened chamber especially animal powered double headers.

Perhaps the remains of that waste weir is still there. There was another waste weir on the towpath side about 2,400 feet (1/2 mile perhaps 3/4 mile) West of Lock 33. Perhaps that has been buried under the road or the muck piles from the 1930's deepening of the Barge Canal to 14 feet depth. Tom Grasso

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