After the Erie Canal’s groundbreaking in Rome on July 4th, 1817, it took two years to open up the first 15 miles from Rome to Utica.
By 1820, the relatively flat middle section of the canal was open from Utica to Salina.
In 1825, the full canal was opened by Governor DeWitt Clinton’s journey from Buffalo to Albany.
It was an immediate success, and it also spelled success for the cities along its path — Utica, Rome, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
The Port of New York also benefited from the route opened by the Erie, and by 1830, it was the busiest port in the nation, surpassing Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined.
In the late 19th century, the state was looking at expanding the canal to accommodate increased traffic volume.
However, by the early 20th century, the use of the Erie was beginning to wane because of competition from railroads, which often ran parallel to the canal.
By 1918, the Barge Canal system had replaced much of the old Erie and many communities were filling in the abandoned sections.
Physical remnants of the original canal remain around central New York.
The economic and social remnants aren’t as recognizable but are still evident every day — 80% of upstate New York’s population lives within 25 miles of the canal.