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Original Stones Used to Reconstruct Historic Commercial Slip

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The Erie Canal Inner Harbor Redevelopment Project is taking a major step forward. Construction crews have started the pain-staking process of reconstructing the historic commercial slip wall.

More than 180 years ago, as many as 20 men, using a primitive rope and pulley system, were needed to maneuver heavy stones into place while building the original slip. Thursday, a man in a crane, guided by two workers, accomplished the very same thing, while a host of dignitaries looked on.

The original stones were recovered several years ago and are being used once again as officials restore the original terminus of the Erie Canal. Waterfront planner Thomas Blanchard said the reconstruction will take several months.

"By the end of this summer, all of these stones will be in place," Blanchard said. "The (barrier) which keeps the lake water out now will be removed, and there will be navigable water in this slip."

Blanchard said like its predecessor, the restored slip will be fully navigable, accommodating both commercial and recreational boats. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra says it will be the centerpiece of what he is sure will be a tourist magnet.

"Every fourth grader in this country, when they study the Erie Canal, can now come here and better understand what this meant to opening up trade from the East to the West," Giambra said.

The original commercial slip holds a significant place in the city's history. It transformed Buffalo from a frontier village into a thriving city. It was eventually filled in and paved over by streets and parking lots.

Originally, the state was not planning to restore the slip as part of waterfront redevelopment. But under intense pressure from preservationists, the state reversed course. Thursday, on an unseasonably warm March day, waterfront planners provided the clearest evidence yet that a part of Buffalo's storied history is being brought back to life.