Waterford, New York, (population 2,204) is located at the area of confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. The area was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Henry Hudson in 1609. During the American Revolution, Waterford was the location of many military encampments. The village of Waterford was incorporated on March 25, 1794.
Waterford’s location on the Hudson River placed it in an ideal spot for trade, which increased after the opening of the Champlain and Erie canals in 1825. Waterford became a gateway to the canal system and a vital manufacturing town. Today, the canal system is mostly used for recreation.
The Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center is housed in an 1830 Greek Revival home, overlooking the Mohawk River and the Old Champlain Canal. The museum includes a working scale model of a 19th century canal lock, based on the Old Champlain Canal Lock #4 at the front of the museum.
The CanalWays fourth-grade education program introduces children to the village’s Erie and Champlain Canal history. Founded in 2003, the four day program exposes children to historic canal navigation through vintage Edison film footage, a tour of the more than 100-year-old tugboat Urger, and a boat ride through a lock to better understand canal mechanics.
In 2005, Waterford was awarded an Environmental Protection Fund grant to create design guidelines, overseen by a volunteer Design Review Committee. The policy augments the existing preservation ordinance to include detailed explanations of various architectural styles, steps for building owners to research their properties, and steps to analyze architectural character and integrity in order to plan appropriate rehabilitation work.
Waterford is included in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, and is also a part of the Hudson Valley National Heritage Area. Waterford is also a member of the 15 community Historic Saratoga-Washington Partnership on the Hudson, which encourages collaboration among communities to promote agriculture, open space, tourism, and historic preservation.
The New York State Canal Corporation has helped with physical improvements to the canal system, including a visitor’s center at Waterford’s harbor. Through the Canal Corporation, the city of Waterford received a grant of $50,000 to clear overgrowth in a half mile of viewshed along a historic towpath of the Champlain Canal.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2009.
For more information
Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center
Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor
Hudson Valley National Heritage Area