April 29, 2024
Albany, NY

Ahead of Erie Canal Bicentennial, Governor Hochul Announces Plans for New Visitors Experience at Canalside in Buffalo

Ahead of Erie Canal Bicentennial, Governor Hochul Announces Plans for New Visitors Experience at Canalside in Buffalo

Interactive, Multimedia Exhibits at the Longshed Building will be the Starting Point for Visitors During 2025 Erie Canal Bicentennial Commemoration

Buffalo to Host World Canals Conference in 2025

See Renderings of the Visitors Experience Here

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced plans for “Waterway of Change: A Complex Legacy of the Erie Canal,” a new Erie Canal bicentennial visitors experience at Canalside in Buffalo. On May 7, after four years of construction in the Longshed, the replica Erie Canal Boat Seneca Chief will move out to make way for interior construction and installation of the new experience in the building. Work will be completed in time for next year’s Erie Canal Bicentennial. Renderings are available here.

“Waterway of Change will share the remarkable story of the Erie Canal and the area now known as Canalside with visitors,” Governor Hochul said. “As the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal approaches in 2025, this visitors experience will draw more people to Buffalo’s waterfront and help them connect to its history in a new and participative way.”

The concept for the 2,900-square-foot Longshed, located at Canalside on the historic western terminus of the Erie Canal, is to create a visitors experience that acts as a gathering space and starting point for visitors beginning their Bicentennial Commemoration journey. Plans include visitors’ experiences that will explain and detail how Canalside’s timeline, from its beginnings as traditional homeland of the Haudenosaunee to the development of a rural village at the time the Erie Canal opened in 1825, to a thriving port and shipping hub at the end of the 19th century. Waterway of Change will include interactive multimedia exhibits for visitors of all ages and abilities, sharing Buffalo’s Erie Canal story in an inclusive and diverse way through the use of short films, touch screens, audio, historical artifacts and dramatic lighting. A series of outdoor interpretive exhibits will also be created at towpaths along and around the canals.

Local Projects, a multi-disciplinary exhibition and media design firm based in New York City, has been working with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation to create the visitor experiences for the Longshed and Canalside. Other partnerships include exhibit fabrication, with Buffalo’s Hadley Exhibits, and project development with the Buffalo History Museum. The museum is providing interpretive content and historical guidance through all phases of the project. The collaboration includes consulting with a diverse group of community stakeholders and subject matter experts to ensure Buffalo’s Erie Canal story is shared with visitors from multiple perspectives and viewpoints.

ECHDC Chairperson Joan Kesner said, “Waterway of Change will be the premier attraction at Canalside when we mark the historic 200th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal in Buffalo next year. We’ll be hosting visitors from around the globe, as well as our neighbors across Western New York, at this visitor experience and we are excited to share the first renderings of this beautiful and educational space in the Longshed. ECHDC also will be offering fun, thoughtful, and hands-on programming located on the lawns, ruins, and towpath areas. We have lots more in the works, enjoyment for all ages, all abilities—history buff or not, you may just want to make all of Summer 2025 a Canalside staycation!”

Additionally, the content in the visitors’ experience will be utilized by schools to supplement their Erie Canal history curricula during visits to the Longshed. The content will meet New York State Education Department standards to broadly reach and resonate with Grade 4-12 educational experiences.

While the anniversary of the bicentennial will likely be marked at events throughout New York State, ECHDC is planning a large celebration at Buffalo’s Canalside, which will also host the World Canals Conference in 2025. That event, first announced by Governor Hochul in June 2022, will bring together canal and inland waterway enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world to learn about a variety of canal-related topics. The event will highlight Buffalo’s transformed waterfront district, which has seen more than $400 million in new investment, including new hotels, a major sports arena, a children’s museum, retail shops and a re-created waterway on the footprint of the original Erie Canal in the Queen City. Today, the Buffalo waterfront attracts more than 1 million annual visitors.

In 2020, a wood frame structure at the northern end of the Central Wharf, now called the Longshed Building, was completed. The structure reflects on the history of the wharf location by incorporating elements from the Joy and Webster Storehouse that was situated on the site in the early 1800s. Work on the building, which incorporates select interior modifications to incorporate a small office, transient boater shower rooms, and public restrooms, is currently being completed.

State Senator Tim Kennedy said, “This new experience will give visitors at the Bicentennial Commemoration the opportunity to learn about our waterfront's shared history, and the recent investments New York has made to restore it and preserve it well into the future. Once this project is complete, I look forward to seeing the Longshed once again serve as a gathering space and scholastic resource for our greater community.”

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “Erie County will become the epicenter of New York next year when the Erie Canal celebrates its 200th anniversary, and the vision for a new, multimodal visitor experience at Canalside will bolster our waterfront’s entertainment sector before an influx of visitors travel here to learn more about the history of the canal — one of our state’s greatest technological achievements. The new exhibit, ‘Waterway of Change: A Complex Legacy of the Erie Canal,’ will not only serve as a gathering space and starting point for visitors as they start their Bicentennial Commemoration journey, it will also capture in detail the history of Canalside, the integral and often overlooked role that the Haudenosaunee played, and how the canal’s success as a shipping hub forever changed the fate of the City of Buffalo. I want to thank Governor Hochul and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for their ongoing commitment to ensuring the vitality of Canalside as one of our region’s premier attractions.”

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “As a true ‘Waterway of Change,’ the Erie Canal was the key factor in the growth of Buffalo, Erie County, New York State and the American frontier. It served as a super-highway for commerce and culture, opening the interior of North America for westward expansion, and also brought new Americans right here to Erie County. This new experience at the Longshed Building will be an immersive and educational one, giving visitors a real life look at how the Erie Canal changed Western New York and spurred the advance of the United States. I commend and thank Governor Hochul for adding this attraction to Canalside for the Canal’s bicentennial commemoration.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “It is good news that the replica of the Seneca Chief boat will be moving from the Longshed building and docking at Canalside. The replica will draw visitors from near and far. Also, the new educational exhibit ‘Waterway of Change’ that will be taking its place inside the building, will be a welcome addition to the attractions enjoyed by many.”

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “On the eve of the Erie Canal's 200-year anniversary milestone, we are thrilled to be working with Governor Hochul and our agency partners to bring to life Waterway of Change at Canalside in Buffalo. The Erie Canal holds a special significance in New York’s history, and this new interactive exhibit will tell the story of the canal and New York’s Queen City to visitors from near and far. Throughout the next two years and culminating with the 2025 World Canals Conference in Buffalo, the Canal Corporation is eager to celebrate the Erie Canal’s Bicentennial as we prepare for the next century of operations and opportunities along the entire New York State Canal System.”

About Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) is governed by a nine-member board consisting of seven voting directors and two non-voting, ex-officio directors. The seven voting directors are recommended by the New York State Governor and are appointed by the New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development as sole shareholder of ECHDC. The two non-voting, ex-officio director positions are held by the Erie County Executive and the City of Buffalo Mayor.

As a subsidiary of Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside, the Ohio Street corridor and the Outer Harbor that is attracting critical mass, private investment and enhance the enjoyment of the waterfront for residents and tourists in Western New York. Its vision is to revitalize Western New York’s waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region’s legacy of pride, urban significance, and natural beauty.

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