After years of work, much of it behind the scenes and guided by an intense passion for preservation of the local heritage, Wayne County's only memorial to the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal is about to be dedicated a mile west of Hawley along Route 6.
The D&H Canal Park at Lock 31 is a project of the Wayne County Historical Society. The organization is based in Honesdale where the main museum is located in the 1860 brick off building of the D&H Canal Company.
From 1828 to 1898, the canal and its accompanying gravity railroad system transported millions of tons of freshly mined anthracite coal as well as other cargo to market. Helping to fuel the nation's Industrial Revolution, the canal was responsible for the creation of Honesdale, the development of Hawley from a tiny mill hamlet, and the founding of other towns along the 108 mile route to the Hudson River.
It was this very canal heritage that brought over the Stourbridge Lion locomotive to Honesdale in 1829, as a test to see if it should be used in place of the gravity railroad. This event signaled the first commercial use of the steam locomotive in the Americas.
This canal, which laid the bedrock of prosperity for much of what would come ahead, quickly fell as an abandoned relic. A hundred years later, few remnants survived to distinguish busy canal operation and way of life from the weeds and fill and asphalt that would replace it. Here and there a careful eye can find a few field stone walls marking the canal and its locks.
Along with most of the canal being filled in, most of the associated buildings and structures are also long gone.
Historical societies along the way have actively pursued preserving what is left and interpreting the remains for a new generation. The Wayne County Historical Society, based where the canal work started, took advantage of an opportunity that came almost 20 years ago to rescue a vital link in this history.
On Saturday, August 24, 2013, at 9:45 a.m., a ceremonial rope is to be cut dedicating the preserved park, and launching their first annual Canal Festival. A host of activities for all ages is planned between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The public will learn about the canal heritage and sample a taste of life from that era.
*** How it began***
It began with an inspiration of a former trustee of the Wayne County Historical Society, Clinton Leet. In the mid-1990's he proposed the idea to the Board of Trustees to consider acquiring the property to advance the preservation of the canal's heritage.
Leet said he is very pleased with what has been done. The Honesdale resident recalled the day back in the 1990's when he was walking the canal towpath starting near the Route 6 Plaza towards Hawley. He said they walked on the portion the Society now owns and observed the remnant of Canal Lock 31 and the large, old wooden house.
Page 2 of 4 - He said he thought this would have a lot of potential if it could be acquired and cleaned up, to show as an example of the D&H Canal.
James Bader was president of the Society at the time, and encouraged other trustees to back it. Bader said he is very proud of what has been accomplished. "It's fantastic what they have done," he said.
Traced back to the early 1800's, the house became an inn that catered to the canal travelers as well as local community. The lock-tender lived next door. Lock 31 was well preserved, with some wood timbers still visible and the walls intact. Just north of it the canal widens into a well-preserved basin where boats would be parked and tied, or wait their turn going through the lock.
Long time owners during the canal period were Russell Daniels, and later, Ernst A. Heintze. A sign bearing the name "Heintze's" was found over the door on the canal side. Hintze also kept a small store in the building to serve canal boat customers.
The Society first started acquiring a mile length of the canal and towpath in 1995. John Weidner was the former owner. The parcel with the house would come later.
The old house was in the Selberg estate. In 1996, after William Selberg died, a cousin, Robert Olsen, and his wife Debbie inherited the property. Olsen died in 1997.
Finally in 2001 the Society purchased the house and 10 acres from Debbie Olsen. It was her wish that the property be preserved for history.
Sally Talaga, who is currently on leave from her 20 year tenure as the Society's Executive Director, pursued several grant opportunities and requirements that came with the project. She has remained active with the project to this day, currently as a volunteer.
Leet commented, "Sally was the spark plug. It wouldn't have happened without her interest." He added that a lot of people participated, all who were important to seeing the project move forward.
*** Many volunteers***
Numerous work days were held with scores of volunteers through the years. They were cutting back brush and trees, removing trash and branches, and putting their skills together at stabilizing the building.
Fred Murray has been volunteering every week to mow the lawn.
Work-release crews from Wayne County Correctional Facility have been busy on site.
Tom Colbert is Chairman of the Lock 31 Towpath to Trail Committee. He has been coordinating the volunteers and led the painting detail.
"The Society is very grateful for the all the help we've had. Without them we couldn't do it," Colbert said.
About 40 people have been working on the day-long Canal Festival, August 24.
In the fall of 2012, with certain state grants about to expire, much work was done to the grounds and exterior of the building.
Page 3 of 4 - About half of the building was scraped, sanded and painted by volunteers. Thirteen windows were re-glazed and painted.
Last fall, $204,938 was spent on foundation and sill repair, reconstruction of three chimneys and other exterior and utility work. All of this had to be monitored by a state historic architect. Grant funding for this work came from the Pa. Historical & Museum Commission and PennDOT.
Grant funds, matched with local donations, allowed them to create the chipped stone driveway and parking lot, install handicapped parking spots and a bluestone walkway. This work was funded with a $30,000 Pa. Department of Conservation & Natural Resources grant and local matches including $15,000 from the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, $4,000 from Wayne County Community Foundation and local gifts including $1,000 each from PPL and Wayne Bank.
Matthew Duncan, a Boy Scout from Lake Ariel, built an orientation kiosk and wooden benches for his Eagle Scout project.
This spring, volunteers finished the exterior painting. This past week, a road side sign was installed, funded by a $6,000 grant from Pa. Environmental Council, with a partial donation from Hunt Signs being used towards the match.
Three interpretive panel signs will also be set up shortly.
*** Great potential***
Interest has already begun to build since the building has been painted, he said. They also hope that the festival will inspire more to be involved.
Further work and need for both funds and volunteers are ahead. This will include finishing the back porch and a ramp. A later phase, as funds permit, will be the restoration of the building's interior.
The Society has in view a living history museum to showcase the D&H Canal story.
Clinton Leet commented that the site has so much potential and can envision one day having a D&H Canal boat reconstructed, with a horse. Colbert, who has been a Society Trustee for seven years, also said a boat propped on stilts and even flooding the canal basin with water for the boat to float, could be done. Another future project is to replace the earthen bridge that now cuts across the old canal with a real bridge.
The D&H Canal Park at Lock 31 is open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset, Colbert said. No alcohol or fireworks are allowed, and visitors need to keep take any trash out rather than leave litter. That includes dog droppings. Historical artifacts remain the property of the Wayne County Historical Society. The public may also fish from the river's edge on the 16-acre property. A boat launch is being planned.
For more information visit online at www.wchs-lock31.org or www.waynehistorypa.org or call (570)253-3240.
***** SCHEDULE AS OF AUG. 14*****
D&H Canal Park at Lock 31
Page 4 of 4 - First Annual Canal Festival schedule
PALMYRA TWP. (WAYNE) - The following schedule for the First Annual Canl Festival at the D&H Canal Park at Lock 31, is as of August 14th. The festival, hosted by the Wayne County Historical Society, is set for Saturday, August 24, 2013 at the park a mile west of Hawley off Route 6. The event is rain or shine.
For updates or more information visit online at www.wchs-lock31.org or www.waynehistorypa.org or call (570)253-3240.
9:45 - 10 a.m. Rope cutting ceremony
9:30- 10:30 a.m. Live canal-era music featuring "Poison Love" with Dan Brinkerhoff
10- 10:30 p.m. Guided towpath tour- Tom Kennedy
10- 11 a.m. Audubon Society bird walks
10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Horse & carriage rides on the towpath- Brook Valley Farms (nominal fee)
10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Children's games, readings of a children's book about the canal at various times
10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Horseshoe contest
Quilting demonstrations, antique quilt display- Amy Dunn
10 a.m.- ? Baked foods, other refreshments for sale
10:30-11 a.m. Richard Pauling, Commonwealth Speaker, to give a first person narrative on the Westward Expansion
11- 11:30 a.m. Canal boat life with a boat model- National Park Service
11 a.m. - 12 Live canal-era music featuring "Poison Love"
11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Petting zoo
11 a.m.- ? Food for sale
12- 12:30 p.m. Canal songs- National Park Service
12:30- 1 Demonstration of a model of a canal lock- National Park Service
12:30- 1:30 p.m. Live canal-era music featuring "Poison Love"
1:30-2 p.m. Richard Pauling, Commonwealth Speaker
2- 3 p.m. Fiddlin' Around with Steve Jacobi
2- 3 p.m. Old fashioned races for kids- gunny sacks, wheelbarrows, etc.
3-3:30 p.m. Richard Pauling, Commonwealth Speaker
3:30-4:30 p.m. Fiddlin' Around with Steve Jacobi
3:30- 4 p.m. Canal boat life with a boat model- National Park Service
4- 4:30 p.m. Guided towpath tour- Tom Kennedy
4- 4:30 p.m. Demonstration of a model of a canal lock- National Park Service
4:30- 5 p.m. Canal songs- National Park Service.
A canal store exhibit will be set up with souvenirs and canal-related books for sale.
The public is welcome to bring lawn chairs, blankets and even a picnic, said Tom Colbert, chairman of the Lock 31 Towpath to Trail Committee.