|Arkell Museum by Bakrell1 vis Wikicommons|
While driving across New York following the Erie Canal, I had the opportunity to stop at some of the smaller museums that are often missed by tourists. This is one of favorite things about taking a road trip, getting to see the places that many people just drive right by. These are often hidden gems of art or pieces of history that are not well known.
Arkell Museum - Canajoharie NY
|Bakrell1 at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons|
The first time I stopped in Canajoharie to see this collection, it was almost twenty years ago. At that time it was housed in a room in the back of the Canajoharie library. Today, The Arkell Museum houses not just its permanent collection, but two more galleries with rotating exhibits, often of local artists.
The collection was started by Bartlett Arkell, the founder and first president of the Beech-Nut Food Packing Company. He collect mostly works by American artists. Arkell was concerned about the lives of the workers in his factory, so Beech-Nut was one of the first companies to provide a healthy lunch and cafeteria for it workers, complete with live music played in the room. They organized sports leagues and outdoor leisure activities. Arkell also made his collection of artwork available to the town by building a gallery space in the public library, where everyone could enjoy it.
Today, the Arkell Museum’s permanent collection includes a thorough collection of American works, including twenty one paintings by Winslow Homer and several bronze statues by Remington. There is also a full size reproduction of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. The museum also houses a collection of Mohawk Valley history and a history of the Beech-Nut Corporation. Its rotating exhibitions feature New York State artists many from the Mohawk Valley.
Fort Stanwix – Rome NY
|Offical Website - http://www.nps.gov/fost/|
The city of Rome, New York is 110 miles east of Albany. It sits at a point that was very important 300 years ago. It was a key portage site for anyone traveling by canoe between the Wood Creek, which leads to Lake Ontario and the Mohawk River, which leads to the Hudson River. This made it a strategically important place, and in 1763, the British built Fort Stanwix to guard and control the portage.
By the start of the Revolutionary War the fort was mostly unused. American troops rebuilt it and placed a garrison in it. On August 3, 1777 a force of about 1500 British, German, Canadian and American Indian forces led by Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger laid siege to the fort. The British forces had come from Ontario in hopes to join with Gen. Burgoyne in his campaign to capture the northern colonies. In the fort were about 800 New York and Massachusetts troops, led by Col. Peter Gansevoort. On Aug. 6 1777 a force of 800 American troops, led by Gen. Nicholas Herkimer advanced on the fort in an attempt to end the siege. These troops were ambushed about six miles from Fort Stanwix, by British and Indian forces in the Battle of Oriskiny, which was the bloodiest battle of the Revolutionary War. While the battle was progressing, troops from Fort Stanwix carried out a raid on the British and Indian camp taking many of their supplies and destroying their tents. This caused the British and Indian fighters to break off their attack and return to the camp, but in a greatly weakened position. While the siege continued until Aug. 21, the British forces were never able to advance beyond this point and never joined up with Gen. Burgoyne. This left a much smaller force to attack Fort Ticonderoga and the British were unable to defeat the American forces in the north.
Fort Stanwix was abandoned and burnt down in 1781. In 1978 it was rebuilt by the National Park Service. Today the fort, which sits in the center of Rome, is a tribute to the town’s history. It has an excellent visitor’s center that covers this period with films and interactive displays.
Erie Canal Discovery Center – Lockport NY
There are many historical and cultural centers along the Erie Canal, but one of the best is the Erie Canal Discovery Center in Lockport. This museum has many exhibits on the history of the canal, but the best is a simulated trip through the Flight of Five locks, built in Lockport as part of the original Erie Canal. It is worth the stop.
Arkell Museum – 2 Erie Blvd. Canajoharie NY. Take the NYS Thruway to Exit 29. Turn right onto Main Street. In town, turn right onto Mill Street, go one block and turn left onto Erie Blvd.
Fort Stanwix – 100 N. James Street, Rome NY. The Visitor’s Center sits at the corner of Erie Blvd West (NY-46) and South James Street.
Erie Canal Discovery Center – 24 Church Street, Lockport NY. From the East or West, take NY-31 into town. Turn north onto Transit Street (NY-78) and then make a right onto Ontario Street. There is a parking lot there for the Discovery Center and the Canal Locks.