OSWEGO – Bring the family to Oswego’s Historic Maritime District on West First Street Pier to celebrate the canal’s history. The Oswego Canal Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 1 through 3.
“We encourage the public to come out and enjoy the festivities,” said Mercedes Niess, executive director of the H. Lee White Marine Museum. “We’ll have an historic line-up of vessels along with music, baked goods, crafts, games and more.”
On Sept. 1, noted historian Dr. Gary Gibson presents two talks. “The Oneida,” a discussion about the first U.S. warship built on the Great Lakes begins at 1:30 p.m. “Early shipbuilding and shipping traffic at Oswego” starts at 3:30 p.m. and explores the glory days of shipping on Lake Ontario in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Gibson has explored the naval perspective of the War of 1812 on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River for more than 20 years.
He authored several publications, including “Service Records of U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Officers Stationed on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812.”
Oswego County Historian Justin White presents “The Oswego Starch Factory and the Kinsgford Family” at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 and at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 3.
Thomas Kingsford was a chemist with William Colgate & Company and invented a process for manufacturing corn starch which was superior to any other on the market and sold the world over.
Located on the Varick Canal, the Oswego Starch Factory was the largest of its kind in the world and the leading employer in 19th century Oswego.
A life-long resident of Oswego, White has worked as the Oswego County Historian and records administrator and archives clerk. He currently serves as the president of the Oswego County Historical Society, which owns and operates the Richardson-Bates House Museum, an Oswego landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Michael Pittavino presents his discussion, “American Boom-Towns: The New York Canal System” at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 and at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 3. Come learn about the historic rise and fall of boom towns along the canal system as this presentation compares the economic differences between using the New York State Canal System as a shipping highway, to its current service as a gateway to historical tourist attractions.
Pittavino is a SUNY Oswego alumnus and a current history graduate student.
He worked at the H. Lee White Marine Museum as an intern during the spring semester and is now a seasonal employee.
Niess added, “These presentations tell the fascinating history of New York’s canal system. To further enhance the experience, we will have a parade of boats along the pier for people to enjoy walk-aboard tours.”
The Urger, a New York State Canal tug, will be in the Oswego Harbor from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.
She will be available for free walk-aboard tours during regular museum hours.
Another highlight of the festival will be the Lois McClure, a full-scale replica 1860s canal schooner.
The 88-foot boat depicts 19th century canal ships that both sailed on open water and moved people and goods through the canal systems.
“The Lois McClure is currently making the voyage with her tugboat, the C.L. Churchill to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812,” said Niess. “Many ports on the tour either had forts that were significant to the War of 1812 or supplied naval ships to the American fleet during the war.”
The Lois McClure will be open for free public tours during festival hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to a renowned line-up of visiting ships, attendees are invited to tour Oswego’s distinguished home fleet.
A National Historic Landmark, the U.S. Army Tug LT-5 is a 115-foot ocean vessel built in 1943. She is the last remaining operational U.S. Army transport vessel of her type from World War II.
The New York State Canal Derrick Boat No. 8 was constructed in 1925 and used for dredging, canal lock repairs and lifting heavy boats.
She is the last remaining steam-powered barge along the canal system and is also considered an actual shipwreck.
The Eleanor D was originally built in 1948 and later purchased by the Cahill family. She is the last U.S. commercial fishing vessel to work Lake Ontario.
The Ontario, an 85-foot topsail schooner, was built by volunteers to be used by the Oswego Maritime Foundation as a floating classroom.
She is the only ship of her type on U.S. registry dedicated to public service on Lake Ontario.
Museum guides will also be available to discuss the canal system and Oswego’s maritime history, and a display that highlights youth sailing, fishing, diving and more will be located in the Oswego Maritime Foundation Pavilion.
“The Oswego Canal played an important role in transporting people and products through the region and this event allows us the opportunity to highlight this history,” said Rich Bush, president of the board of trustees for the H. Lee White Marine Museum.
The museum’s annual “Tales of the Haunted Harbor” program will also take place over Labor Day weekend.
The event begins at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1.
In the event of inclement weather, call the museum at 315-342-0480 for a rain date.
A separate admission will be charged.
The main sponsor of this year’s festival is Wayne Drug Store.
Additional sponsors that helped make this event possible are Oswego Elks Lodge #271, Mrs. Norma DeAmbra, and Stewart’s Shops.
Further support is provided by the Pfund Family in memory of Captain Dick Pfund; Drs. Morgan, Humphrey and Stephens of Oswego Family Physicians; Drs. Dexter, Baker and Youngman of Harbor Eye Associates; Oswego Port Authority; the city of Oswego; The Picture Connection and the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.
Festival admission is free and the museum will offer reduced admission to visit the main building.
For more information about the Oswego Canal Festival, call the H. Lee White Marine Museum at 315-342-0480, or find them online at www.hleewhitemarinemuseum.com or Facebook page.