Blackstone Canal

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Blackstone Canal
Moshassuck River Providence.jpg
The canal followed the Moshassuck River through Providence
Blackstone Canal is located in Rhode Island
Blackstone Canal
LocationProvidence, Rhode Island extending to Worcester, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°08′56″N 71°38′48″W / 42.14889°N 71.64667°W / 42.14889; -71.64667Coordinates: 42°08′56″N 71°38′48″W / 42.14889°N 71.64667°W / 42.14889; -71.64667
Built1824
Architectunknown
Architectural styleNo Style Listed
Governing bodyLocal
NRHP Reference #

71000030, 73000328

[1]
Added to NRHPMay 6, 1971
 
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Blackstone Canal
Moshassuck River Providence.jpg
The canal followed the Moshassuck River through Providence
Blackstone Canal is located in Rhode Island
Blackstone Canal
LocationProvidence, Rhode Island extending to Worcester, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°08′56″N 71°38′48″W / 42.14889°N 71.64667°W / 42.14889; -71.64667Coordinates: 42°08′56″N 71°38′48″W / 42.14889°N 71.64667°W / 42.14889; -71.64667
Built1824
Architectunknown
Architectural styleNo Style Listed
Governing bodyLocal
NRHP Reference #

71000030, 73000328

[1]
Added to NRHPMay 6, 1971

The Blackstone Canal was a waterway linking Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island (and Narragansett Bay) through the Blackstone Valley via a series of locks and canals during the early 19th century.

History[edit]

The initiative for the canal came from Providence, where a merchant community wished to profit from trade with the farming country of the Blackstone Valley and Worcester County.[2] The people of Worcester and the Blackstone Valley, eager for transport that would enable them to get better prices for their produce, welcomed the plan. However, since the trade of central Massachusetts was at that time going overland through the port of Boston, Massachusetts commercial interests succeeded in stalling the project for several years. Finally, in 1823, the Blackstone Canal Company was organized through an act of the Massachusetts legislature, with a Rhode Island company soon following.[3] The canal's construction may have been motivated by competition among rival industrialists to curtail "Water rights."[4]

Construction began in 1825 and cost $750,000 (twice its initial estimate). The canal opened on October 7, 1828 when the packet boat Lady Carrington arrived in Worcester, the first vessel to make the trip. The canal brought immediate prosperity to Worcester and the Valley; farmers' profits increased and mills were built, especially in Worcester.[3] Using water to transport goods was a great improvement over the rough roads of the era. At the time of its construction, it represented the best available transportation technology.

It was a two-day trip for the canal boats from Worcester to Providence and another two-day trip to return to Worcester. The overnight stopping point was in Uxbridge. Boston merchants moved to recapture the trade moving down the canal to Providence, opening a rail line to Worcester in 1835. (Boston merchants opened three railroads in 1835, one to Lowell, one to Worcester, and one to Providence, RI. These were very new technology.) In 1847 the parallel Providence and Worcester Railroad began operation, and the canal closed in 1848.

The canal was 35 feet or more in width. It ascended 451 feet, passing through an original 49 locks. The canal used "slack-water" to bypass narrow valley areas and intersected the Blackstone River 16 times over its 45-mile course. It ran in the river itself for 10% of its length. These portions proved troublesome since in summer, water was sometimes too low for navigation. In other periods, flooding was the problem. Winter added ice to the issues.

Each lock was 70 feet long by 10 feet wide and apparently 4 - 4.5 feet deep. All, except the wooden tide lock at Providence, were built of granite on a wooden foundation. The average lift of each lock was 9.2 feet, but there were variations.

The canal was built by Benjamin Wright (chief engineer of the Erie Canal) and Holmes Hutchinson (later Chief Engineer of New York's canals) as they were concluding work on the original Erie Canal. Its locks are therefore similar, although smaller, that the original Erie's.

The canal followed the course of Mill Creek from the center of Worcester, MA to the southern part of that community. It then followed the Blackstone River downstream to Ashton, RI. At Ashton, it parallel the river's west bank maintaining elevation until it entered Cranberry and Scotts Ponds on the divide of the watershed with the Moshassuck River. It then locked down into the Moshassuck Valley and followed that stream into Providence, RI.

The canal today[edit]

Since the canal's closure, parts of its watercourse were filled and other segments are now heavily overgrown with brush and trees. Other sections were converted to hydraulic canals for textile mills. Much of the lock masonry was sold for other purposes. Its remains, however, are still visible in many locations. About 85% of the canal remains. Two long sections of the canal exist in the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Massachusetts and the Blackstone River State Park in Rhode Island. Other sections are also publicly owned.

The canal is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ Teachushistory.org|Blackstone Canal-artery-heart of the Commonwealth
  3. ^ a b Muir, Diana, Reflections in Bullough's Pond, University Press of New England, p.112
  4. ^ "Stanely Woolen Mill, The Story". Deaneredevelopment.com. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Blackstone Canal at Wikimedia Commons