Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum

2013 Heritage Award Recipient

With nothing more than an 1895 map of a bygone boatyard on the banks of the Erie Canal and a solid mass of box elders in view, a small determined group of people who cared about their community's canal history decided to dig in. They would unearth and restore the Chittenango Landing Boatyard.

Over 25 years, their circle—and their dream—continually expanded: young people, retirees, teachers, businessmen, archaeologists, historians, librarians, politicians, craftspeople, and others – were steadily drawn into the project. Their “labor of love” made Chittenango Landing what it is today: a place, and a community of volunteers, with much to celebrate.

The museum features the restoration of a three bay drydock where 90-foot long canal cargo boats were built and repaired on the Erie Canal from 1855 to 1920. The site showcases the only remaining boatyard on the historic canal which includes a reconstructed canal-side store, walk-on canal boat exhibit, sawmill, blacksmith, and woodworking shops, mule stable and visitor education center.

What makes it great?

Archaeology & Reconstruction
Unearthing and rebuilding Chittenango Landing showcases the engineering and innovation of the Erie Canal. Of 30 drydocks that once served canal boats, Chittanango Landing is the only one that remains.

Must-do Travel Experience
Chittenango Landing is the only historic site of its kind in New York State. Visitors have the opportunity to experience the Enlarged Erie Canal, towpath, boat building and repair facilities, and craftmanship that built the canal and opened the nation in the 19th century.

The museum offers a full slate of events and educational programs and serves more than 30 school districts. Chittenango Landing offers "hands dirty" education programs for students and the visiting public. A kids' camp and youth group offer additional opportunities for young people to actively participate and learn.

Community Involvement
Restoration at Chittenango Landing has been carried out entirely by volunteers, with guidance from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. More than 125 volunteers contribute to the museum's programs, restoration efforts, and ongoing maintenance. Donated goods, services, financial contributions, and legislative and foundation grants have been essential to bringing the buried canal site to life.

Overcoming Obstacles
With no road map to follow, volunteers tackled challenges including learning proper excavation and archaeology techniques, and bringing water, sewer, and electricity to the site. The group raises funds from a variety of sources, including legislative and foundation grants, donated goods and in-kind services, membership drives, and fundraising events.

"So often this country doesn’t preserve its history. This was my opportunity to salvage the past for the future."
- Doug Rainbow, co-founder