Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

September 13, 2010

Canal schooner lands at Upson Park for weekend

LOCKPORT — A piece of canal history is on the way to Rochester after a brief stay in Lockport over the weekend.

The Lois McClure, a replica of an 1862-class canal schooner, spent Saturday and Sunday docked at Upson Park. The short stay in Lockport was a part of a 1,000-mile journey from Basin Harbor, Vt., which included stops in 20 historic ports along the Erie Canal. The tour concludes in October with a visit to Waterford, the last stop before the Lois McClure heads home to Vermont on Oct. 15. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum of Basin Harbor, Vt., operates the Lois McClure.

The World Canals Tour began in July with the first stop in Whitehall and continued east with visits to a few more communities along the state’s canals. Middleport residents had a chance to welcome the Lois McClure on Thursday before it landed at Upson Park for the weekend.

Art Cohn, executive director of the Lake Champlain museum, said the reason for the tour was simple: To get people interested in the history of the canals and the impact they had on the very communities the Lois McClure was

visiting.

“We want to engage people,” Cohn said. “If you were here in the 1860s, this (the schooner) is what you would see going through the Flight of Five. And the canal is what made Lockport.”

The Lois McClure is modeled after a pair of 1862-class schooners that sank in Lake Champlain. By studying those wreckages, the museum was able to put together the Lois McClure, because records or blueprints of similar ships do not exist. Cohn said the work took about four years because the museum wanted everything to be accurate. The wheel for the Lois McClure was recreated from photos of the wheel from the O.J. Walker ship, one of 300 ships that sank in Lake Champlain.

“It was a focused, meticulous build,” Cohn said.

The 88-foot schooner was launched in 2004. More than 150,000 visitors have come aboard, including a group of Royalton-Hartland students on Thursday in Middleport. Cohn said roughly 240 kids were aboard the Lois McClure on their second day of school.

“They were so interested, a lot of them came back afterward with their parents,” Cohn said.

The Lois McClure’s journey will culminate in Rochester for the opening of the World Canal Conference on Sept. 19. Canal historians, operators and promoters will meet for lectures, idea sharing, discussing research and experiences along the canal.

To welcome the Lois McClure, the Erie Canal Discovery Center and the Old Home Week centennial committee held a number of events over the weekend. The schooner was welcomed with a military salute by Civil War and War of 1812 re-enactors, a concert in the park by the Lockport Community Band on Saturday, as well as an adult wine and cheese party afterward. Sunday afternoon was marked with a performance by the Buskers on the Banks, and the public was invited to a take a tour of the schooner, where members of the crew were available to answer questions and provide information.

The turnout for the weekend’s events was pretty good, said Douglas Farley, director of the Erie Canal Discovery Center. “We had a couple hundred people out,” he said.

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