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You are here You are here The Red Mill Inn News 2007 News 2007 Archive - Story  Story

Red Mill Inn is perfect spot to taste rich history of Erie Canal

One-Tank Trip / Baldwinsville
By Deborah Williams - SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
August 26,2007
Red Mill Inn is perfect spot to taste rich history of Erie Canal

John McHarrie Jr. and Stephen Baldwin built a three-story gristmill 179 years ago on the Seneca River, north of Syracuse. The construction took thousands of man-hours and two years to complete.

The Red Mill Inn, in a former flour mill built in 1832, overlooks the Seneca River and Erie Canal Lock 24.
The Red Mill Inn, in a former flour mill built in 1832, overlooks the Seneca River and Erie Canal Lock 24.
Photos by Marshall Brown.

 

Today, visitors can spend the night in luxurious and comfortable rooms created in this same 1828 mill building. Original massive timbers and beams enhance the rooms, hallways and public rooms in what has become the Red Mill Inn, a name that evokes its humble origins.

Throughout its history, the mill was known as both "The Farmers Mill" and "The Red Mill." The timber-framed building was the first gristmill to be built in the area, and it is the area's last mill building still in existence.

The Baldwin and McHarrie families also began many other businesses in the area and were instrumental in the founding of the community that is now Baldwinsville.

The mill operated as a flour and grain mill until 2002. Last year, it opened as a unique 32- room inn on the river and Lock 24, one of the Erie Canal's busiest locks.

The village is currently undergoing a renewal of its waterfront. Red Mill Inn guests can enjoy easy walks to canalside restaurants. Just behind the inn is an amphitheater on Paper Mill Island. Concerts are held here throughout the summer, and it is a popular destination for boaters.

The inn welcomes canine guests, and there are several trails nearby along the river that are enjoyable for both dogs and their owners. There is firstrate fishing on the river right alongside the inn.

Inn guests have a ringside view of boats heading through Lock 24, and lockmasters are happy to help boaters learn locking rituals. Guests in canalside rooms can watch from their rooms or from the lock itself.

The Red Mill Inn guests staying in canalside rooms can watch boats heading through Lock 24 - either from their rooms or from the lock itself.
The Red Mill Inn guests staying in canalside rooms can watch boats heading through Lock 24 - either from their rooms or from the lock itself.
Photos by Marshall Brown.

 

Until the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, Baldwinsville had always been a part of the east-west water transportation system. However, the original Erie Canal bypassed the village. In 1917, when the current route of the Erie Canal was completed, Baldwinsville again became part of the state's eastwest water transportation system.

The Erie Canal proceeds eastward from Baldwinsville on the Seneca River to the Oneida River and Oneida Lake from Three Rivers Point, the confluence of the Oneida, Oswego and Seneca rivers.

From Baldwinsville, it is less than a 20-minute drive to Camillus Erie Canal Park, a wonderful canalside park managed and run entirely by volunteers through the Camillus Canal Society. This 300-acre park includes a restored section of the canal (the second canal), nine miles of trails and two picnic areas.

Volunteers cleared the canal bed and trails and built bridges, boats and boathouses as well as the Sims Store Museum. Volunteers continue to maintain the park, staff the boat cruises and are now working to restore the 1844 Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct. This impressive stone aqueduct used to carry the Erie Canal 144 feet above the creek.

The Sims Store Museum serves as the park's headquarters. It is actually a reproduction of the 1856 Sims Canal Store that was located about two miles from the park. The original Sims building was both a general store and a departure point for canal travel. It was destroyed by fire in 1963, and the new store was built in 1976.

The main floor features a recreation of a 19th century general store. On the second floor is a small museum with exhibits about the Erie Canal, including early photos, local artifacts and models of locks, aqueducts and canal boats.

Just outside Sims Store is an operating lock exhibit demonstrating how a canal boat was taken from one level to the next, and a replica lock tender's shanty.

For another view of Erie Canal life, visit the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse. This is the nation's leading museum dedicated to Erie Canal history and is housed in the 1850 Weighlock Building, the only structure of its kind in the world and the sole survivor of seven Erie Canal weighlocks.

The building is the museum's most important artifact. It was the busiest weighlock on the canal system. It sat at the juncture of two canals - the Erie and the Oswego - that met in downtown Syracuse. The building operated in its original purpose for 32 years as a tollbooth. Thousands of boats from the Erie and Oswego canal pulled into the building's lock chamber to have their cargo weighed and tolls assessed.

When tolls were abolished in 1882, the building continued to serve as an emergency drydock and housed canal administration offices. Much of today's canal was designed in the building's second-floor offices.

During the 1950s, the building was abandoned by the state and scheduled for demolition. A group of concerned citizens saved the building, and it became the Erie Canal Museum in 1962. Museum displays include historic artifacts, models, dioramas and photographs that tell the story of the canal's construction and canal life. A highlight of the displays is the Frank B. Thomson, a replica 65 foot-long canal passenger and cargo line boat.

Visitors are invited to board for a look at canal life. Visitors learn about aquatic elevators or locks, sources for canal waters and types of Erie Canal boats. Outside stroll through the Lock Tender's Garden.

If you go

For The Red Mill Inn, call (800) 841-0411 or visit www.theredmillinn.com.
For Baldwinsville call (315) 638-0550.
For Syracuse and Onondaga County call (800) 234-4797 or visit www.VisitSyracuse.org.
Camillus Erie Canal Park, 5750 Devoe Road, Camillus, (315) 488-3409, www.eriecanalcamillus.com.
There are twomile, five-mile and popular dinner cruises on the canal through October.
Erie Canal Museum, 318 Erie Blvd. East, Syracuse, (315) 471-0593 or visit www.eriecanalmuseum.org.

Directions

Driving directions to The Red Mill Inn: Take the New York State Thruway east. Take Exit 39. Merge onto I-690 North/Fulton. Take the Van Buren Road Exit, turn right onto Van Buren Road.

Follow to the traffic light and take a left onto Route 48, which will turn into Syracuse Street. Follow through two traffic lights and the Red Mill Inn is on the left just past the second traffic light over the Erie Canal Bridge.

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