Schenectady Harbor - August 21st-23rd, 1992 (The Encampment)


From the begining, the cornerstone event of the 1992-1994 Bicentennial was to be a reenactment of the departure of the survey batteau of the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company from the old Schenectady Harbor on August 21st, 1792. (Read more about this expedition at the New York State Museum wesbite.)

In conjunction with the City of Schenectday Urban Cultural Park, and informed by the research undertaken at the State Museum through the Durham Project (1982-1992), a weekend-long living history festival was planned along the waterfront on the margin of the historic Schenectady Stockade.

The water along the western edge of the Stockade, just behind the Schenectady County Historical Society, was an intact remnant of the old 1790s habor (see below), and the shoreline there today is that same waterfront, where batteaux and Durham boats would have come and gone in the 1790s.

Click on any image to enlarge
Old Schenectady Habor This painting done in the 1890s is based on eyewitness accounts and shows the harbor as it would have looked in the 1790s. The waterfront shown still survives intact and the wharf on the left is where "Discovery" was moored in 1992.

The three day program drew living history interpretors and reenactors from all over the Northeast, included a contingent of batteaumen from the James River Batteaux Festival in Virginia, where they have recreated a fleet of 19th century cargo batteaux - a different type of boat from that used in New York State.

The living history approach had been adopted for the W.I.L.N.C. Bicentennial programming because it was felt it allowed a broader educational experience for observers, and allowed them to imagine more completely what life on their community's waterfront might have been like two centuries ago.

For that reason, at each program location, the living history encampment - whether huge like Schenectady, with hundreds of participants, or tiny like Onondaga with just the boat crew - was always as important a part of the educational setting as was the replica batteau itself.

The mooring site The mooring site for "Discovery" was right in the center of what would have been the wharf area for batteaux in 1792. A small dock had been erected there for the program.
Batteau crew camp The batteau crew pitched their camp right on the edge of the old harbor, next to the dock where "Discovery" was moored. This was considered the most historic spot on the waterfront.
Frontier style camp Some of the camps pitched in Riverfront Park reflected the type of frontier trader and merchant establishments found along the inland waterways far to the west of Schenectady in the 1790s.
Military encampment at riverside More in the style of a military encampment, this row of tents in Riverfront Park housed some of the dozens of reenactment groups that joined in this unique commemoration of waterfront history in Schenectady.
This complex of tents and shelters housed the Beverwyck Brigade, a voyageur canoe reenactment group from Schenctady, that continued to participate in our field programs through the rest of 1992 and 1993.
Modest boatman's camp This camp of Olof Jannson's is typical of the small tents and portable accoutrements that boatmen in the 1790s would have used along the route to Oswego.
Simple portable shelter Phil Lord's camp is based on a very simple shelter, made of a single square of canvas and three saplings. Often the boatmen used the sail and oars to make a riverside shelter.
Authentic 18th century camp The opportunity for the public to wander through the encampment provided another dimension to the educational program; such as watching this batteauman from Virginia preparing his evening meal using only equipment available in the 1790s.

 


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