I like to imagine what it was like to have lived in one of many villages that began in the 1800’s along the Erie Canal in New York State. The industrial revolution just exploded all along the canal as the canal provided low cost transportation for raw materials and finished goods while at the same time provided natural water power to power the various mills and factories. The little village of Lyons, NY has done an excellent job in capturing the scene that I just described with a series of murals around the town (click here).
But contrast the mural of the canal which shows barrage traffic on the canal and a street car of the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Railroad crossing over the canal to the scene that I saw on a Sunday afternoon. The canal was deserted. Not even a pleasure boat passing on the water and hardly anyone outside enjoying the September sunshine.
There along the locks beside the bridge which crosses over the canal stands the old building of the H.G. Hotchkiss Essential Oil Co. which was established in 1839 – a business which was passed down to several generations of the Hotchkiss family. Imagine making and selling the essential oils of peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen, oil of birch, sassafras, pennyroyal, and wormwood and candy made from peppermint. Now the building houses the Heritage Society of Lyons.
I want to return to Lyons to see the rest of the murals located there. There is a lot of history to learn in Lyons. The businesses that once thrived along the Erie Canal are either closed or have moved out of the State of New York. But I believe that the potential to thrive still lives in these little communities. They have survived because they offer a community type of lifestyle. And by working together, they can meet the challenges of the future.