Farmington Canal-New Haven and Northampton Canal
|Location||New Haven, Connecticut to Northampton, Massachusetts|
(MA border) (New Haven outlet)
|Area||247.6 acres (100.2 ha)|
|Architect||Hurd, Davis; Farnam, Henry|
|NRHP Reference #||85002664|
|Added to NRHP||September 12, 1985|
The Farmington Canal, also known as the New Haven and Northampton Canal, was a major private canal built in the early 19th century to provide water transportation from New Haven into the interior of Connecticut, Massachusetts and beyond. Its Massachusetts segment was known as the Hampshire and Hampden Canal. With the advent of railroads, it was quickly converted to a railroad in the mid-19th century and in recent years has been converted to a multi-use trail (a rails-to-trails project) after being abandoned for years.
The entire length of the canal right of way in Connecticut (covering 25 segments and a total area of 247.6 acres) from Suffield to New Haven was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 under the name "Farmington Canal-New Haven and Northampton Canal". The 1984 NRHP nomination document provides a detailed history, and describes 45 separate bridges, aqueducts, weirs and other surviving features.
The Farmington Canal Lock in Cheshire, Connecticut, and the Farmington Canal Lock No. 13 in Hamden, Connecticut were listed separately on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1973 and 1982, respectively. Those are locks 12 and 13 out of 28 original locks on the canal.
Canal and railroad
Ground was broken for the canal in 1825 and by 1828 the canal was open from New Haven to Farmington. By 1835 the complete route to Northampton was finished and operating. The canal, however, was never successful financially. Competition with railroads threatened the canal. The New Haven and Northampton Company was built along the canal's right of way in 1848. Joseph Earl Sheffield was involved with the financing of both the canal and railroad. This railroad merged with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1887. Portions of the railway were in use up until the 1980s. A two-mile section from the Main/Whiting Sts intersection in downtown Plainville, to just south of Townline Rd (Plainville/Southington) is still in use(2009).
The canal makers reached a problem at the "great level" (the level stretch of land between locks 8 and 9, which was the longest distance of the canal at the same water level; once the Farmington river was reached, the canal was about 50 feet above river level, and the canal and river could not merge, so the aqueduct was built. The 280-foot aqueduct was spanned with 7 arches, spaced 40 feet apart. The pillars that remained after the canal closed were noted as a state landmark in the 50s, but the 1955 flood damaged the pillars beyond repair, and they were removed in 1956-58.
The Whitings basin
The Whitings basin, or Bristol basin, was located in Plainville, between Whiting Street and West Main Street. Edna Whiting built a general store, and had doors leading directly to the canal for drop offs. Whiting's general store sold a variety of jelly, spices, grains, etc. Other notable items that passed through and were dropped off at Bristol basin were the original Eli Terry clock weights, for the notable pillar and scroll clock.
Locks 1-8 are lost to history. Lock 12 is entirely restored and functioning, along with the lock keeper's house. Lock 13 is in the woods and horribly overgrown. The lock keeper's house for lock 13 is no longer standing; the foundation and well remain behind the lock. Lock 14 is still recognizable; however, there are many walls that have collapsed, and the inside of lock 14 is dry. The lock keeper's house is still standing, and plans to turn it into a Hamden municipal services building are on the way.
During the 1990s, the railroad right-of-way was converted to a rail trail for recreational use. The Farmington Canal Trail runs from downtown New Haven to Northampton, Massachusetts, closely following the path of Route 10.
- Hampshire and Hampden Canal
- New Haven and Northampton Company
- Farmington Canal Trail
- National Register of Historic Places listings in New Haven County, Connecticut
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- G. M. Guignino, The Farmington Canal 1822-1847: An Attempt At Internal Improvement, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
- Michael S. Raber and John Herzan (November 30, 1984). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Farmington Canal (New Haven and Northhampton Canal) / Farmington Canal". National Park Service. and Accompanying 20 photos, from 1984
- Joseph Sheffield Biography
- the making of bristol (print) by Beals
- personal encounters with the canal locks, and paper work printed at each station among the canal locks
- Farmington Valley Greenway and the Farmington Valley Trails Council (FVTC)
- Farmington Canal Rail-to-Trail Association
- The Farmington Canal 1822–1847
- Farmington Canal Greenway Vision Trail