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Step back to 1900 and ride the Great Gorge Route


A White Water Experience (From the Brooklyn Eagle)

Our friend Patrick Sirianni is a Niagara Falls researcher from the Canadian side of the border.  He found this article which mentions both Capt. Matthew Webb and Carlisle Graham, two of our permanent residents.  Interesting idea, however I think the river would have been no match for White's Cork Suit. - Tim Baxter


July 16th-17th 1886

George W. White, the Oswego barber, who came here yesterday with the announced intention of swimming the rapids this morning clad in a cork suit about three quarters of an inch thick, said last evening that he had successfully swam the Lachine Rapids on the St. Lawrence, and added:

"The Whirlpool Rapids are much worse, but with my cork suit I can get through all right. I went down along the bank here and had the folks point out the spot where Captain Webb was killed. His mistake was in trying to dive through the mountain of foam where the outside currents of the river surge to a peak. There is a sunken rock there against which he struck. In making my attempt I will simply float on the surface and will save my strength to push away from any rocks. If, as people say, I will be sucked under the surface by the undertow I can stand it for five minutes. The current will carry me along better underneath and it would be best, for the passage occupies only four minutes."

A bystander expressing a disbelief that White could do any such thing, a pail was quickly filled with water, and White immersed his head in it for four minutes.

"You fellows need not think I am fooling," he said. "for I intend to go through. It will knock Graham and his barrel sky high, and he will not have a chance to exhibit himself much."

In a reply to a question as in his object in making the attempt, White replied: "I am a poor barber, and if I go through safely I will make a fortune. If I don't, it will be little loss to the world."

At 9 O'clock last evening White heard that the Canadian detectives were after him, and he secluded himself. Before going away White arrange with a few persons to witness his attempt, so that there would be no dispute about the feat if he got through. The general sentiment is that if White gets in the rapids he will be killed. The police on the American side say they will not interfere with White.
At 10 O'clock this morning a crowd of people had gathered on the bank expecting White to make his appearance, but up to this hour (10:30 a.m.) he has not done so.

The Next Days Commentary from the Niagara Falls Gazette

A careful search yesterday failed to discover the whereabouts of Geo. W. White who wanted to swim the rapids in a cork suit. The last positive record of him was late Thursday evening in the streets of Niagara Falls Ont. It is not known positive where he stayed Thursday night. It is claimed by some that he is hiding from the police, and as soon as he can get away from them, will make his trip.

The police make a mistake when they announce that they will arrest any person attempting to go through the rapids on the grounds of "self murder." This fact known to a class of deadbeats, who will come here make a great blow of what they will do, get in the newspapers, and then skip out for fear of police interference. Cpt. Rhodes was afraid of police. Heliaio Balsia was also afraid of arrest, but neither was half as afraid of the police as they were of the rapids. What is true of them may be said of others. At the present rate there will be several more just such cranks here before the season is over, and they should be given the assurance that if they come here to swim the rapids they must do so within an hour after they arrive or leave town. The man who spends the day and night travelling from saloon to saloon with some sort of invention which he says will safely carry him through the rapids, getting drinks by exhibiting it, will never be missed by the country at large. 

White will probably never show up again, but if he should and desires to go through the rapids, he should be allowed to go, for if the dispatches from Oswego are true, surely they will not miss him.

The following is the dispatch"

Oswego N.Y. July 15th- The Geo. W. White who is mentioned in wanting to go through the rapids of the Niagara river is the barber who eloped with a girl from Amsterdam some time ago since after deserting his wife in Oswego. No attention should be paid of him.


Side by Side for all Eternity

Tim Baxter, Director of Operations, Oakwood Cemetery

In the late 1800’s there was one man who ruled the roost when it came to barrel stunting in Niagara Falls.  Carlisle Graham had built his reputation on with his daring do.  He was a cooper, a barrel builder by trade, and it got him thinking.  “I’ll bet I could run my barrel through the Whirlpool Rapids and come out unscathed”, Graham thought. 

Everyone knows of Niagara Falls with their 170 foot drop.  Watching the magnificence and power of 4 of the 5 Great Lakes plunge 17 stories before your eyes is a sight to behold.  When standing at the edge you can feel the earth vibrate.  The mist from the water hitting the rocks shoots skyward and covers your face.  It is said that negative ions are produced making the viewer feel more alive with each breath.  What people may not realize is the water continues its journey through the gorge it carved out thousands of years ago.  All that water, 4 fifths of the Great Lakes trying to squeeze through that tight area on its way to Lake Ontario then out to the Atlantic through the St. Lawrence Seaway.  The drop in elevation, the narrowness of the river all create what in now Class 6 rapids.  The deadliest rapids on earth.  This is what Carlisle thought he should ride his barrel through.

On July 11, 1886 Carlisle took his barrel to the river’s edge, screwed himself inside and became the first daredevil to perform a barrel stunt at Niagara Falls.  In just 30 short minutes he popped out of the barrel shaken up, but alive.  What does any good daredevil do when they accomplish their goal?  They do it again, only this time he upped the ante.   On August 19th 1886 he went through the rapids with his head sticking out of the barrel.  He came out alive again, and partially deaf after the violent trip.  He made the trip several other times as well.  After his success, he set his eyes on the prize, going over Niagara Falls in his barrel.

In the meantime, in Bay City, Michigan, Annie Edson Taylor had her eye on that same prize.  Annie had come from an upper middle class family.  Her father had left some money to get by on and she enjoyed her comfortable lifestyle.  She had married earlier, but her husband passed away, and her money was running out.  She needed something big to keep her in the style she had become accustomed to.  She hatched her plan.  She would design her barrel to go over Niagara Falls, become famous, (although that was not the goal) and rich.  Well, it didn’t work out quite that way.

Annie was well ahead of her time.  She was 62 years old in 1900 as she plotted her future course.  Her barrel was genius.  She attached an anvil to the bottom to keep her upright.  She sealed the barrel by soaking rags in tar and stuffing them between the staves.  She had padding and a harness to hold her in place.  She even pressurized the barrel with a bicycle pump to give her extra oxygen on her trip. 

On her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901 she ventured out into the river in her barrel and rode the wooden contraption over the edge of the Horseshoe Falls.  Included in those waiting for a sign of the barrel at the base of the Falls was Carlisle Graham.  Low and behold, the barrel popped up and they were able to snag it and drag it ashore.  Carlisle broke open the lid and exclaimed, “My God, she’s alive!”  Annie emerged, in shock with a gash to the head, but alive.  Her thoughts?  “Nobody ought ever do that again!”

Annie went on to tour the nation, but had her barrel stolen by her manager who hired a younger prettier girl to play Annie.  Her dreams of gathering a fortune faded in the mist.  Annie never trusted Carlisle.  It is said she thought he wanted to steal the plans for her barrel.  Carlisle on the other hand never cared for Annie as she accomplished what he didn’t do.  The both lay in the Stunters Section of Stranger’s Rest in Oakwood Cemetery.   Side by Side for all Eternity.







State of New York | Executive Chamber

Andrew M. Cuomo | Governor
For Immediate Release: June 13, 2014


Barge Canal System among sites across the state nominated for listing

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 28 sites have been nominated to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Barge Canal Historic District was one of the properties, resources and districts across the state advanced for the historic designation by the New York State Board of Historic Preservation.

“New York’s rich history is among its greatest assets and remains a strong draw for this state’s fast-growing tourism industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “By nominating these sites as historic places, we are working to preserve that legacy for future generations, while also encouraging travelers from every corner of the world to visit and explore the sites that made New York the Empire State.”

The Barge Canal Historic District includes the four historic branches of the state’s 20th century canal system; the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals – all much enlarged versions of waterways that were initially constructed during the 1820s. The district sprawls 450 miles over 18 counties and encompasses 23,000 acres. Past and present day photos of sections of the canal can be found here.

Individual nominations and photos of all 28 sites can be found here.

Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), said, “The nomination of the Barge Canal Historic District and other notable sites across the state to the State and National Registers of Historic Places builds on Governor Cuomo’s robust historic preservation record. Adding these to the Registers places them in distinctive company and is a momentous step in their long-term preservation and celebration.”

Brian U. Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation, said, “I commend the New York State Board for Historic Preservation for its nomination of the Barge Canal to be listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. All along New York’s Canals are communities, both large and small, that share a sense of identity and common heritage that stems directly from the Canal system. These nominations give this marvel of American engineering its rightful place in history and further it as a mechanism for spurring tourism, economic growth and environmental restoration.”

The New York State Barge Canal is a nationally significant work of early 20th century engineering and construction that affected commerce across much of the continent for nearly half a century. The Erie Canal, first opened in 1825, was America’s most successful and influential manmade waterway, facilitating and shaping the course of settlement in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains; connecting the Atlantic seaboard with territories west of the Appalachian Mountains, and establishing New York City as the nation’s premiere seaport and commercial center. New York’s canals were enormously successful and had to be enlarged repeatedly during the 19th century to accommodate larger boats and increased traffic. The Barge Canal, constructed 1905-18, is the last and most ambitious enlargement.

Extensive research and documentation for the nomination, including an inventory of more than 200 canal structures, was prepared by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, National Park Service Heritage Documentation Program, and Canal Corporation, in partnership with OPRHP.

Mike Caldwell, Regional Director of the National Park Service, Northeast Region, said, “The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor was recognized as an iconic national treasure by Congress in 2000. Since then, the National Park Service has worked very closely with the State of New York and local communities to plan and implement preservation and revitalization opportunities. This historic district listing will further enhance the Erie Canalway's stature as one of our nation's greatest and most recognizable heritage assets.”

State and National Register listing can assist property owners in revitalizing buildings, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. Developers invested $1 billion statewide in 2013 to revitalize properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, while homeowners using the state historic homeowner rehabilitation tax credit invested more than $14.3 million statewide on home improvements to help revitalize historic neighborhoods.

The State and National Registers are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology and culture of New York State and the nation. There are more than 90,000 historic buildings, structures and sites throughout the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as components of historic districts. Property owners, municipalities and organizations from communities throughout the state sponsored the nominations.

Once the recommendations are approved by the state historic preservation officer, the properties are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where they are reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.


Albany County
Philip Livingston Junior High School, Albany – Designed by Albany architect Andrew L. Delehanty and completed in 1932 for a growing city population, the school building blends Colonial Revival and Art Deco styles and is an early example of the junior high school movement in New York State.

Chautauqua County
Jamestown Downtown Historic District, Jamestown – The collection of 101 contributing buildings is a small urban core of mostly commercial buildings, which reflect the city’s evolution from a small village in the 1870s to a bustling downtown of an industrial city with over 40,000 residents by the mid-1950s.

Dutchess County
Corlies-Ritter-Hart House, Poughkeepsie – Built ca. 1872, the Second Empire-style home was associated with a series of families important to the history of local music education, performance, and commerce.

Dover Stone Church, Dover Plains – This geological formation of metamorphic rock situated in a densely wooded location in eastern Dutchess County was a celebrated and much-visited tourist destination in New York State by the middle decades of the 19th century.

Charles Morschauser house, Poughkeepsie – The Queen Anne-style home was built in 1902 for Charles Morschauser, a prominent trial lawyer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and defense counsel in the nationally followed trial of Harry K. Thaw, accused of killing renowned architect Stanford White.

Violet Avenue School, Poughkeepsie – Completed in 1940, the Colonial Revival school is closely associated with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who influenced its design; it was built under the auspices of his New Deal school building program administered by the Public Works Administration.

The Zion Pilgrim Methodist Episcopal Church Site, Fishkill – The archaeologically significant historic resource in the Baxtertown area was the site of a church, erected ca. 1848, that served as the central religious and social gathering place of an early rural African-American community in the Hudson Valley.

Erie County
Public School #60, Buffalo – Completed in 1922, PS 60 represents the evolution of the Buffalo public school system, first as a neighborhood elementary school erected and expanded as the city grew and later as a vocational training and community center.

Genesee County
First Presbyterian Church, Le Roy – Erected in 1825-26 and modified subsequently during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the church has stood prominently at the center of the village since its construction, offering a gathering place for the community.

Kings County
Nassau Brewing Company, Brooklyn – The lager beer brewing complex dates to 1865, when an explosion of lager brewing was taking hold in Brooklyn, accompanied by the influx of German immigrants to the New York metropolitan area.

Lewis County
Pinckney Corners Cemetery, Pinckney – The cemetery provides important information about the region’s early 19th century settlement families and includes the graves of two Revolutionary War veterans and twelve War of 1812 veterans—a demonstration of the strategic nature of the region during that conflict.

Monroe County
First Unitarian Church, Rochester – Built 1961-62, this nationally significant example of Modern architecture was designed by internationally prominent architect Louis I. Kahn and is regarded as his breakthrough moment, where he transcended his position as a good modern architect to become one of the most influential architectural minds of the late 20th century.
North Star School #11, Hamlin – The rare surviving mid-19th century rural school building has been serving the community for its 170-year existence, first as school built in 1844, and then as a community center, beginning in 1952, and now as a local history center.

Nassau County
William Landsberg House, Port Washington – Built in 1951, this excellent example of modern
residential architecture was designed by William Landsberg, a modernist architect, and distinctly illustrates his preference for openness, simplicity, efficiency, and natural materials.

New York County
Circle Line X, New York – Built in 1944, the Circle Line X started life as a Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) Large (L) in World War II, ferrying troops to island invasions in the Pacific Theater; after the war it was reconfigured as a sightseeing vessel, taking visitors on a 35-mile tour around Manhattan Island.

Colony Arcade, New York – The 1912 store-and-loft building was part of the development of the “Midtown Loft Zone,” as it was known historically, which flourished in the wake of the garment manufacturers' desire to be near the city’s major department stores as they moved uptown around the turn of the century.

Niagara County
High and Locusts Streets Historic District, Lockport – The neighborhood developed as a popular location for many of the city’s notable professionals, politicians and business people during a period of significant growth and today includes a highly intact collection of residential styles dating from 1840 through 1936.

Oakwood Cemetery, Niagara Falls – Established in 1852 to serve the needs of the growing community, the cemetery includes a section dedicated to “stunters,” or daredevils (successful and failed), who were drawn to Niagara Falls, where Annie Edson Taylor, first person to survive going over the falls in a barrel, is buried.

Onondaga County
Hanover Square Historic District Boundary Expansion, Syracuse – The nomination expands the historic district created in 1975 to encompass many of the buildings vital to the city’s commercial life that were constructed in the early and mid-19th century to take advantage of the Erie Canal and the Genesee Turnpike.

West Brothers Knitting Company, Syracuse – The manufacturing building was constructed in 1906-1907
to house a growing knitting company started by Eugene and George West in 1890, as scores of diverse industries arose to drive the local economy as the city’s traditional salt industry fell into decline.

Richmond County
Residence at One Pendleton Place, Staten Island – The rare example of a High Victorian Italian-style villa on Staten Island was built in 1860 and was twice featured in the Horticulturalist magazine, a 19th century journal which helped popularize picturesque designs in the United States.

Schoharie County
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Historic District, Schoharie – The district is composed of the former St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, an 1801manse, St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery, and the 1743 Old Lutheran Parsonage, which are all associated with the 18th century migration of Palatine German settlers to the Schoharie Valley.

Steuben County
Philip Argus House and Winery, Pulteney – The 1886 stone house and 1890 stone winery were built by Philip Argus, a German immigrant who recognized that the Finger Lakes area had similar weather and soil conditions as the wine regions of Europe and helped make winemaking a major part of the region’s economy.

Suffolk County
The John Mollenhauer House, Bay Shore – Built in 1893, the excellent, and increasingly rare, example of a Shingle style estate was built as a second home for John Mollenhauer, a German immigrant and successful businessman known as the “Sugar King of Brooklyn.”

Wayne County
Ambrose Lapham House, Palmyra – Constructed 1869-1870, the Italianate style home was constructed for Lapham, a Palmyra native who made his fortune in banking in the Detroit area and selected Palmyra as a place to retire, remembering the rural, pastoral landscape of the Finger Lakes.

Westchester County
Glenwolde Park Historic District, Tarrytown – The subdivision of largely intact Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival-style homes was developed in the 1920s in response to the expansion of the local economy and the related increase in demand for housing.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Hall of Records, Yonkers – The Neoclassical building, designed to mask its fireproof construction, was built in 1906 as a remote repository for Metropolitan Life’s records as it grew to become one of the largest insurance companies in the United States.

These nominations, along with the tens of thousands of buildings already on the State and National Registers, highlight the significance, depth and diversity of New York’s history. Celebrating and promoting New York’s historical assets is also a significant economic development driver for the State. The Governor has demonstrated his commitment to showcasing New York’s rich history and cultural significance by launching the State’s Path Through History initiative. The Path Through History initiative uses 13 themes to organize 500-plus heritage attractions across the State, including New York’s vast network of museums, historic sites, and other cultural institutions. Visitors can locate sites by looking for the Path Through History markers on major state highways, additional local signage, and online at



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New York State | Executive Chamber | | 518.474.8418