The New York State Museum
has received a $3.1 million federal transportation grant to make mechanical upgrades to the Day Peckinpaugh, paving the way for the historic canal boat’s transformation into a permanent floating museum, dedicated to sharing the history and heritage of the state’s canal system.
The grant was among more than $81 million in federal funding for 59 transportation projects across New York State, announced by Governor David Paterson. Funds will be allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP) projects. TEP finances transportation improvements with cultural, aesthetic, historical and environmental significance.
“These projects will make necessary improvements to our local walkways, bicycle paths and other transportation routes while spurring economic development and job creation,” Governor Paterson said. “I thank President Obama and the entire New York State Congressional Delegation for working to ensure that transportation funds were included in the economic recovery package. New York is committed to using the federal resources at our disposal to put people back to work and ensure that our State provides safe and accessible travel beyond that provided by traditional highways and bridges.”
“These projects, which were made possible by the Economic Recovery Act, will both beautify our neighborhoods, spur commerce and job creation and allow us to better interact with our neighbors and surroundings,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.
"This tremendous historical resource may now be shared across New York State, bringing to life the history of our famous canal corridor,” said Commissioner Richard P. Mills. “New Yorkers can find inspiration in the remarkable accomplishments of our past. The Regents and I are proud of our New York State Museum staff and our many partners who have rescued the Peckinpaugh and will be giving it this new role.”
The Peckinpaugh is scheduled to have temporary exhibits installed for the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain quadricentennial celebration tour in August and September. This was organized by the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor, in conjunction with the State Museum, Saratoga National Historical Park and the New York State Canal Corporation. This new federal grant will provide funds for the rehabilitation work necessary before permanent exhibits can be installed and the Peckinpaugh is ready for continuous tours.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Peckinpaugh was saved from the scrap heap in 2005 through the efforts of the New York State Museum, in partnership with the New York State (NYS) Canal Corporation; NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission; the National Park Service and the Canal Society of New York State.
“This collaboration of state and federal agencies, and private not-for-profits and private donors, have made possible the rescue and rebirth of this iconic vessel,” said New York State Museum Director Dr. Clifford Siegfried. “Not only will this rehabilitation project result in the creation of jobs for steel workers, welders, electricians and others, but this traveling museum will boost the economy of communities up and down the Hudson River through increased tourism. It also will allow the State Museum to reach out to new audiences and share the history of the canal system with generations to come.”
The value of a waterborne traveling exhibition, dedicated to sharing the history of the canal system, became apparent when more than a million visitors turned out to visit the 1976 Bicentennial Barge, which reached several dozen communities over a five-month journey. It is estimated that as much as 85 percent of the state’s population live in regions within a half-hour drive of the state’s waterway network.
The Peckinpaugh will follow a schedule of visits from New York City to Plattsburgh to Buffalo to Ithaca. When it is not touring during the navigation season it will be available for tours at the historic Matton Shipyard at Peebles Island State Park in Waterford. During the winter season it may also be open at its winter berth on the Waterford Flight.
Plans call for the Peckinpaugh’s permanent exhibitions to be installed and ready for visitors by summer 2010. The National Park Service will coordinate the development and operation of the exhibitions in the 130-foot long open cargo hold of the motorship, which at one time carried 160 tons of dry cement. While maintaining the Peckinpaugh’s industrial character, initial plans call for the creation of a gallery that is nearly as large as some gallery spaces in the State Museum. The gallery will be universally accessible and compliant with the American Disabilities Act..
This grant will help to mitigate a decade of neglect that left many of the boat’s mechanical systems in disrepair when it was largely abandoned in Erie, Pa. between 1995 and 2005. It follows a $290,000 grant in 2006 from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Environmental Protection Fund that has been used to stabilize the Peckinpaugh. Additional work will include the replacement of fuel tanks, ballast piping and valves, the possible addition of a new ballast tank and the rebuilding of fresh water, sanitary and electrical systems. Plans also include some hull plate replacement, repair and painting.
As the first motorship of its kind specifically designed for the dimensions of the 20th-century Erie Barge Canal, and the last surviving vessel of its kind remaining afloat, the Peckinpaugh has become an iconic fixture on the state’s waterways. Built in 1921 in Duluth, Minnesota to carry grain from the Midwest to New York City, it was the harbinger for nearly a hundred other canal motorships that were seen everywhere on the waterway until 1950. In 1994, the Peckinpaugh made its final commercial voyage, with communities from Rome to Oswego turning out to wave goodbye.
"The Canal Corporation is pleased to learn about the recent commitment to enhance the historic Day Peckinpaugh,” said Carmella R. Mantello, director of the New York State Canal Corporation. “The Day Peckinpaugh will not only traverse the waterways this summer as part of the quadricentennial celebration, but will travel across the New York State Canal System for years to come portraying the significant story of the waterways of yesterday and today. The Corporation is proud to partner with many of our partners to help ensure this legacy continues."
"This is fantastic news,” said Beth Sciumeca, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor director. “These critical funds for restoration and interpretive exhibits and programs will help the New York State Museum and its partners realize our goal of sharing the Day Peckinpaugh and New York's nationally significant canal history with millions of New Yorkers."
Robert Kuhn, assistant regional director for State Parks, said, "State Parks is thrilled to know that the Day Peckinpaugh calls Peebles Island State Park and the park's historic Matton Shipyard its home. We look forward to working with the New York State Museum, the State Canal Corporation, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and our many local partners to make Mattons a great heritage tourism destination for visitors to the Peckinpaugh."
“Having the Day Peckinpaugh project move ahead is great news,” said Peter Wiles, Jr., chair of Canal New York and president of Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., Ltd. “Giving new purpose to this historic vessel preserves the commercial heritage of this vessel and the NYS Canal System. More importantly, the Day Peckinpaugh's ability to travel permits her not only to display that heritage within her former cargo holds, but also to demonstrate today's commercial activity, while transiting NY State's waterways.”