You know that the Erie Canal is of major importance to our community, but sometimes we just take it and its beauty for granted and think of it as a placid place for recreation. But did you know (or remember for those of you longtime residents), that the canal has broken three times in or around our space between the village and Bushnell's Basin?
The first time was in 1911. That break was caused when the water was put in the enlarged canal. The bank was new and composed of soil. Once the water stared to flow, the earth and bank gave way quickly and washed out Marsh Road. It just missed hitting a trolley and water tore up the tracks.
The next break occurred in 1912 and there was no damage to homes because most of the water flooded farmlands downstream. The break happened right over a culvert of Irondequoit Creek. That old culvert was built in 1840 and when they put the new canal over it, they did not change it. It began leaking and the canal just went to pieces. Concrete pieces 8 to 10 feet thick were pushed all around and there was an enormous amount of water on both sides.
But the break that many of remember and the one which caused the most damage, happened on a lovely October day in 1974. The whole street of Brook Hollow was affected with one home completely washed away and many others suffering tremendous damage. Other homes on neighboring streets also suffered damage with many basements covered with water, mud and debris.
Miraculously no one was killed that afternoon, but one woman was caught in the rush of water as it washed away her basement wall and carried her right out of the side wall and into her yard. She was able to grab onto a tree and call for help but not before her jeans and shoes were torn off and she was bleeding and bruised from the ordeal.
The break was caused by a contractor tunneling under the canal as part of a pure waters sewer line development. It was not until seven years later that the suit finally was settled against the Greenfield Construction Co. of MI.
In 1973 the canal caused yet another disruption in the village when the State Street Bridge was replaced and closed for two years. The North Main Street Bridge was closed and rebuilt in 1983. It opened a year later, almost one year prior to the schedule.
Our Erie Canal is a jewel of which we should all be proud and tout it for what it was – an engineering marvel and completely paid for by New York State residents without one penny of federal funds!