Source of View: The view is based on a water color by James
Eights. The original water color is believed to be in the
collections of the Albany Institute of History and Art. The
view was made into an engraving by Rawdon, Clark & Co.,
Albany. The engraving was printed by W.A. Davis. and
published in the Memoir Prepared at the Request of the
Committee of the Common Council of the City of New York, by
Cadwallader D. Colden, New York, 1825. This memoir,
containing speeches and an account of the festivities, was
presented to the mayor of New York at the celebration of
the completion of the Erie Canal.
Title of the Engraving: View of the Aqueduct Bridge at
Some Variations in Size and Type:
Plates: 5.5 and 7.5
Pitchers: 6.25 and 9 inches; creamer 3.5 inches (Reverse, Entrance of the Erie Canal into the Hudson at
Pitchers: 7, 8.25, 9 and 9.5 inches (Reverse, View
of the Aqueduct Bridge at Little Falls)
Historical Background: Construction for the original canal
aqueduct in Rochester over the Genesee River was started in
the fall of 1821. The first contractor for the project, Mr.
William Britton, reportedly used a work force that included
28 prisoners, seven of whom had escaped before the end of
the year. Unfortunately, Britton's untimely death in
December of that same year brought construction to an
abrupt halt. In 1822, a new contract was awarded to Mr.
Alfred Hovey, who completed the structure in September
1823, for the sum of $83,000.00.
The original aqueduct over the Genesee River was
constructed of Grimsby (Red Medina) Sandstone quarried in
the Village of Carthage, now situated within the northern
limits of the City of Rochester. The aqueduct also included
a coping of Onondaga Limestone, quarried at Union Springs.
When finished, the aqueduct was 802 feet long, 17 feet
wide, and was supported by 11 Roman-style arches that
towered above the river. The aqueduct at Rochester,
spanning the Genesee River for more than 800 feet, was the
longest stone-arch bridge in the world when it was
By the 1830s, the original aqueduct was leaking badly, it
was so narrow (only 17 feet wide) that boats could not pass
on it, and it had a hair pin turn that was difficult to
navigate at its east end where the canal turned south to
parallel the Johnson and Seymour mill race and the Genesee
River. This aqueduct had a reputation as the site of many
brawls as crews fought for right-of-way across the
aqueduct. One spectacular fight reportedly erupted at the
west end of the aqueduct in 1829. So many people had
gathered on a bridge overlooking the canal (near present
Exchange Street) to view the event that the bridge
collapsed, tumbling everyone into the canal.
Rochester became a great boom town on the western half of
the Erie Canal. The swiftness of Rochester's growth was
incredible. It was here that the canal crossed the deep and
rugged Genesee River which tumbled over rapids and
waterfalls, ready to power new industry. With the
completion of the canal to Rochester in 1822, new
industries were springing up every day. The rushing waters
of the river gave power to one waterwheel after another as
new factories were built. Stores began selling goods even
before their roofs were finished. Eleven flour mills made
Rochester one of the greatest milling centers in the world.
Millstones in the city turned day and night, grinding out
flour so endlessly that warehouse space ran out and the
barrels of flour had to be piled in the open. Rochester
also became the center for canal boat construction and
hundreds of vessels were turned out in her boatyards. By
1835, nearly half the boats on the Erie Canal were either
owned or controlled by Rochester interests.
When approval was granted for the first enlargement of the
canal in 1835, one of the first projects undertaken was the
construction of a new aqueduct over the Genesee River, just
south of the original one. Mr. Josiah Bissell was awarded
the contract for construction of the new aqueduct in 1836
and it was completed in 1842, for a cost of $445,347.00.
Some of the red sandstone blocks from the original aqueduct
were removed to Mr. Bissell's home at 630 East Avenue, now
the Upton Court Building of the Rochester Methodist
The new aqueduct took a different alignment from the
original structure thereby eliminating the sharp hair pin
turn at its eastern end and making it longer by 46 feet for
a total length of 848 feet. The new structure was supported
by seven arches and the width was increased to 45 feet.
This second aqueduct (which is still standing) was built
entirely of Onondaga Limestone quarried in Syracuse and was
the only all-stone aqueduct on the enlarged canal.
The Broad Street bridge deck above the aqueduct was built
in 1924 and the aqueduct functioned as part of Rochester's
subway system from approximately 1925 to 1956. The Broad
Street bridge deck above the aqueduct was rebuilt as it
stands today in 1973-1974.