Historic Lockport NY on the Erie Canal
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City and Town of Lockport New York Historic Erie Canal in Niagara County NY

History of Lockport, NY

1816-1840 | 1840-Present

In 1840 construction work started in Lockport for enlarging the canal. All Lockport industry was operated by water power prior to this time. Coffer dams shut off the power and Lockport industry was stopped. Portable steam engines were brought from Utica but proved not as effective as water power.

By 1840 Lockport had flour mills, cotton mills, cooper shops, tanneries, asheries and constantly growing business sections in both Lower and Upper Towns. The 1840 Census was 6,088 and had changed from a village of log houses to a village of substantial stone, brick and frame houses. The cheap frame buildings were being replaced by stone and brick buildings. The Lockport Glass Works opened. The question of slavery split the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Alexander McLeod trial was held. The north tier of the locks was completed. The famous Lockport House burned.

Erie Barge Canal

In 1842 the steam boat arrived on the canal. A trip from Lockport to Niagara Falls cost 50 cents. In January, Jesse Hawley the canal advocate died. Washington Hunt erected Wyndham Lawn on Old Niagara Road. Dr. Isaac Smith, the first physician in Lockport, died on April 13, 1842.

The first conviction for murder occurred in Lockport. The result was the only hanging in Niagara County. Alfred Holmes was the prosecuting attorney and Washington Hunt defended David Douglas. This execution led to John Greenleaf Whittier writing the poem Human Sacrifice condemning capital punishment.

In 1843 a $5 bounty was placed on wolves. Twogood and Company established a glass company at the corner of Gooding and Grand near the brow of the hill. The Universalist Church was built on the southeast corner of Church and Niagara.

A deed of land was given to the Quakers at Lincoln and Pine for a burial ground in 1845. Hildreth, Marks, Keep and Webber took over Twogood's glass company.

On November 6, 1845, the second telegraph line in the United States and the first to charge for messages was completed. The Lockport office was on Canal Street. Mr. Boughton was the first telegraph operator.

A railing on the Main Street Bridge fell into the canal while a crowd leaned against it to hear Abolitionist Alvin Stewart speak. Two people drowned.

William E. McMaster of New York City took rooms at the Eagle Tavern to allow the public to examine his paintings and have likenesses done.

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In 1846 the Lockport Glass Works Company built a modern plant on Green and Transit. The Union School House was erected.

In 1847 it was reported that one of the frequent fights that broke out on the canal resulted in the death of a raft captain. The New York State Legislature passed a law during this year authorizing companies to build plank roads and collect tolls. Lockport seemed to be the center of this craze. A dozen companies were formed to build toll roads in every direction from Lockport.

Lyman Spalding built boats on the canal and operated a line. The second set of locks was completed. They now allowed for twice as much boat traffic. An enlargement of the Hydraulic Race quadrupled available water power. Most importantly, on March 31, 1847 the Lockport Public School System was founded by a special act of the New York State Legislature. The Union School was passed.

In 1850 Washington Hunt was the Governor of New York. A railroad started through Niagara County. Thirty thousand boats passed through the locks. They collected $50,000 in tolls. During this year the Village records were destroyed by fire on October 31. The fire was in the Merchant Block where the Masonic Lodge is now located.

The Lockport Gas Company was organized in 1851. Mr. Flagier became the director and president of the company. On December 31, 1851 the first gas street lights were turned on.

Water reservoirs were constructed in three places in Lockport: Main and Locust, Pine Street and the west end of West Avenue.

In 1852 General Winfield Scott visited Lockport.

Millard Fillmore came to Lockport in 1853. In that year a city charter was patterned after that of the City of Buffalo.

On November 2, 1854 Lockport's big fire began in the Lockport House Hotel and destroyed 26 buildings and ten acres of the village were burned.

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In 1856 the Lockport Hydraulic Company was formed in 1857 Governor Washington Hunt and Senator March acquired the Albany Land Company and organized the Hydraulic Power Company. Alfred Holmes became the first elected Niagara County Judge in 1857. This was also the year the cornerstone for St. Patrick's Church was laid at Church and Caledonia. The Lockport Manufacturers Building was erected on Market and Exchange.

The year 1859 was important to the development of industry in Lockport. Birdsill Holly arrived in Lockport from Seneca Falls to manufacture sewing machines. Later that year the sewing machine company was absorbed by the Holly Manufacturing Company. Race, Matthews & Co. were builders of fire engines in Seneca Falls who also followed Holly to Lockport. He was their inventor and chief engineer. Their company manufactured diverse articles but Holly's chief interests were fire engine pumps and fire protection methods.

On August 24, 1859, Benjamin Moore built a stone flour and grist mill. Today that building is called The Old City Hall. July 30th of that year a hot air balloon ascension took place on their old fair grounds.

In 1860 the Lockport School System consisted of 7 small district schools generally one room stone buildings. There were several private schools. On March 18, 1860 Susan B. Anthony spoke on anti-slavery at the Universalist Church. There were at least 3 well-organized baseball teams: The Niagara, The Union and The Lockport. Games were played at the Courthouse Square. A house and a lot at 63 Locust Street was taxed at $3.31 in 1860. At this time the canal enlargement was complete.

Cobblestone House, WNY

In 1861 William H. Bush was the owner of the Oyster Saloon located under the Exchange Bank. He learned of Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers before official notice was given. He posted signs on the Pine Street wall of the saloon asking for recruits to sign up offering to lead them as their captain. This has been acknowledged as the first volunteer regiment of the Civil War. The 28th, 151, 129 and 8th Heavy Artillery together with other regiments from Niagara County camped and drilled on the Old Fairgrounds at Washburn and Willow Streets.

It was noted in 1862 that for three days straight 175 boats a day passed through the locks. On September 22, the canal was full of dead fish, mainly pike and bass. The cause was unknown.

In 1863, Birdsill Holly demonstrated the efficiency of his fire hydrants in the Village of Lockport. In 1864 substantial stone buildings were erected on the canal and the new complex was called Holly Manufacturing Company. On July 5th the Hydraulic Race Co. advertised for bids on a 19 and a half foot tunnel from above the locks to the Holly buildings.

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Birdsill Holly devised works system to provide a uniform and reliable supply of water to homes and fire hydrants. The Village of Lockport contracted with the Holly Manufacturing Company to install the new system of fire protection.

On April 11, the New York State Legislature passed an act making Lockport the first city in Niagara County. The first election in the City was held on May 9, 1865. Benjamin Carpenter was chosen as the first mayor. The first Common Council Meeting was held in Joshua Gaskill's office. Later they met at the Arcade on Pine Street later known as the Eagles Temple. It was in this year that the city police force was formed. The Washington House where Lafayette was entertained was destroyed by fire.

In 1866 the Holly Manufacturing Company occupied the site at Gooding, Lock and Caledonia Streets.

On February 2, 1867 Washington Hunt died in the City of New York. That was the year that the Sisters of St. Mary Namur moved into St. Joseph's Convent.

The "Niagara" grape originated on the Odd Fellows farm, owned by Claudius Hoag in 1868. Williams Brothers Co. started as Lerch & Williams in that year. Lockport built the Hydrant Hose House on Cottage Street. A new brick schoolhouse was constructed at Adam & Clinton Streets.

On July 21, 1869 a second tunnel was being blasted on the west bank of the canal to join the first underground Holly tunnel to be used for water power.

Birdsill Water Tunnel

Richmond Manufacturing was organized and constructed a tunnel to join the main tunnel from Holly.

Birdsill Holly received a patent for a system of water supply for cities on September 14, 1869.

The utilization of water power from the canal by overhead cables to Upper Town destroyed the monopoly on power held by Lower Town in the year 1870. It was also in this year that the Farmers & Mechanics Bank was chartered.

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In 1871 work began on the Hodge Opera House. The following year, 1872 an iron cable from Buffalo to Lockport was laid on the bottom of the canal for the steam tug Governor Clinton. This was an experiment. Alonzo Mansfield purchased Lockport Glass Manufacturing Company at that time. In 1873 a Farmers Club and Fruit Growing Society was organized.

In 1876 Birdsill Holly designed a 18 story skyscraper to be erected on Goat Island. It was proposed that this would be a wonderful tourist attraction for the area. The idea was rejected. In that same year Holly used his home at 31 Chestnut Street to prove that buildings could successfully be heated with steam heat. His central steam heating system would forever change the way homes and buildings were heated.

Ann Eliza Young, former wife of Brigham Young, lectured on Mormonism at the Hodge Opera House.

The Lockport Horse Car Railroad began operations in 1876. In that year S.S. Gooding Co. Inc. was established. He was a printer and lithographer.

The First National Guard Unit formed The Separate Co. of the 31st Brigade N.G.S. more commonly known as the Niagara Light Guard.

In 1877 the Holly Steam Combination Co. was organized with a capital of $25,000. On December 29 of that year, prominent citizen Robert Dunlap disappeared. An extremely important event of the year 1877 occurred when the City Council decreed an end to segregation in schools.

The Holly Steam Combination Co. was incorporated in 1877 and John D. Walsh became associated with Birdsill Holly.

March 2, 1878, an experiment to heat Lockport by steam proved successful. Three miles of pipe were laid to a control boiler house and 50 different dwellings, including a large school were heated.

Richard Crowley was elected to Congress. It was hoped that he might someday be a candidate for President of the United States. In 1878 the Lockport Glass Manufacturing Co. burned and was rebuilt on a larger scale.

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The first phone in Lockport was installed in the American Hotel on the southeast corner of Main & Locust Streets in 1879. On August 21, Lockport was shaken by another earthquake.

In 1880, a large, modern 4 story building was erected on Elm Street to manufacture equipment for steam heating.

That year also saw the first telephone directory printed for Lockport by M.D. McNeil, the proprietor of the New York Tea Store.

On January 19, 1881 the Holly Steam Combination reorganized and the name was changed to American District Steam Company.

A disastrous fire on January 5, 1881 burned the law office of Richard Crowley in the Old Hodge Opera House forever destroying the records of the Susan B. Anthony Trial, the Fort Niagara Murder Case and the Ballard Counterfeiting Case.

Two patents were insured to Holly for District steam in 1881. Records showed that by that year $42 million dollars in canal tolls were collected at Lockport since the opening of this waterway. In 1884 the Order of Red Men was formed.

Eugene and Alfred Cowles established the first aluminum smelting plant in the world in Lockport in 1885. Electric street lights were installed and door to door delivery of mail began in Lockport.

The first formal evening school opened in the fall of 1885. Alonzo McMaster invented the camp wagon.

Lockport Lodge #41 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was formed.

In 1886, Holly envisioned the construction of a surface canal from a point on the Niagara River about 10 miles above the Falls to Eighteen Mile Creek in Lower Lockport, a distance of 15 miles. Power to be developed in Lockport using 155-160 foot drop from the escarpment would have water discharged from wheelpits into the creek. The project would have been perfectly feasible.

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In 1888 the First City Hospital at 291 West Avenue was deeded to the City of Lockport by Thomas Flagler. It was commonly known as the Flagler Hospital. During this year Western Block was also erected. In 1891 Lockport Felt Company began.

In 1893 the City of Lockport purchased the flour mill constructed by Benjamin Moore in 1859 for the City Hall.

On April 27, 1894 inventor Birdsill Holly died in his home on Chestnut Street, the first building to be heated by steam heat. In 1895 Castles Dairy opened.

On August 19, 1897 an earthquake rocked Lockport. This was the year that Thomas Flagler died.

Trolley service between Lockport and Buffalo began in 1898. The Mortimer Co. established a wallpaper and paints store on Main Street. In 1899 Canal Street changed to Richmond Avenue.

In 1901 the Holly workers went on strike. Artist Raphael Beck sketched President William McKinley at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. He finished the sketch minutes before the President was shot.

In 1902 American District Steam Heat merged with the Snow Co. The cornerstone of Old Lockport YMCA was laid on November 17, 1900. The Lockport Camp 83 United Spanish War Veterans formed with a roster of 80 members.

Holly Manufacturing Company closed its doors in 1903 leaving 500 Lockport men jobless. Covert Motorette, a horseless carriage, was manufactured by Byron V. Covert.

In 1904 the last casting was made at Holly Manufacturing. On August 10 of that year the Lockport Aerie 825 Fraternal Order of Eagles held its first meeting.

The State appropriated 101 million dollars in 1905 for the enlargement of the canal. The following year, 1906, a contract for construction of a new 19 bed hospital was negotiated. Dussault Foundry Works also began operations. In 1907 the Franklin Mills, the manufacturers of Wheatlet were destroyed by fire.

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Enlargement of the Erie Barge Canal

The work on enlarging the canal at Lockport began in 1908. Lockport Memorial Hospital also opened in that year.

The Holly Manufacturing Co. Buildings were destroyed by fire in 1909 as was the Boston & Lockport Block Factory.

Simonds Saw & Steel Co. built their plant here in 1910. This year also marked the beginning of Harrison Radiator. Farley Coal & Oil as well as Upson Co. were started in Lockport. This year witnessed the first Old Home Days.

Harrison Radiator officially began its operation with the shipment of a radiator to the Remington Standard Motor Company in 1911.

The cornerstone for St. Joseph's Church at the corner of Adam and Gardner Streets was put in place. Norton Laboratories came into being in 1915. The first section of the Harrison Washburn Street Plant was constructed in 1917. In 1918, Harrison joined General Motors.

The Hodge Opera House burned in 1925. The YMCA was built in downtown Lockport in 1926.

On February 1928, the Hodge Opera House was again burned. On June 16, 1928 the W.T. Grant Co. opened its doors.

The Lockport Public Library was constructed in 1937. DeSales Catholic High School opened its doors in 1946.

Future President of the United States, John F. Kennedy campaigned in Lockport in 1960.

William E. Miller, the Republican candidate for Vice President for Barry Goldwater, opened his campaign office in Lockport on September 5, 1964.

Lockport Locks 150th Anniversary
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Lockport, NY on the Erie Barge Canal



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