Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Old Champlain Canal, Pottery & Lime Kilns

If you have been up US Route 4 between Schuylerville and Fort Edward you've probably noticed the two markers on a patch of grass along the side of the road near the intersection of County Route 77, AKA Bald Mountain Road. If you were really observant you would have noticed the hand cut limestone blocks in an almost triangular shape along the side of the road. You have been traveling part of the Old Champlain Canal.

Marker for Lock 12 of the old canal
 The Champlian Canal opened in 1823 as a way for farmers & manfacturers to ship their goods out to customers & to receive supplies. Hundreds of business sprang up along the canal route to capitalize on this technological marval.

This NYS marker has nothing to do with the canal

One such industry was the production of earthenware & stoneware. As early as 1810, earthenware was being made in the hamlet of Bald Mountain by Lemuel Rowell using local clay. By 1824 it is believed Rowell was manufacturing
stoneware by importing the materials from New Jersey by way of the newly opened Champlain Canal. In the 1840s Otto V. Lewis began working at the potters & married Rowell's daughter Sarah in 1846. After Rowell's death in 1850, Lewis moved down the canal to Stillwater, and the land was, eventually, sold to Robert Lowber around 1852.

Roadside marker at Bald Mountain & Lick Spring Roads

Eastern most part of Greenwich showing the canal, plank road & lime kiln
Lowber constructed two large lime kilns for the production of quicklime. Limestone is placed inside the kiln & heated to 1000°C (1832°F) in order to create a chemical reaction to create the quicklime used in building trades. Quicklime also glows, & was used for lighting before electricity, hence the term "limelight". The quicklime was then transported over the plank road built by Lowber down to Champlain Lock 11, where it was loaded on a boat & shipped. I was always able to see the old lime kilns when driving Bald Mountain Road as a child. My sister & I thought they were castles, & there was one for both of us. They are no longer visible from the road & may have been torn down.

Lowber's lime kilns c. 1970
So, the next time you are driving, or cycling, on US Route 4 pull over & take a look. Lock 11 is gone, but Lock 12 is still there. Just south of the pull off for Lock 12 is the Denton Preserve. It is a nice little hikinhg trail & you can see more remnants of the old canal. In the meantime, here are some photographs I took in October 2009.

For more information on the Champlian Canal click on these websites:

To find out how a canal works visit:

A great source for information on stoneware in Upstate New York check out:
Pottery Works: Potteries of New York State's Capital District and the Upper Hudson Region by Warren F. Broderick & William Bouck- ISBN 9780838635384

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