The Locktender's House
On August 11th, Schuyler issued orders to begin immediate construction of the
structures that would be needed to support the construction of the lock during the
"A lock keepers house is indispensable at the Oak Orchard, and must be
constructed before winter, that those who contract for the delivery of the timber
[for the proposed lock] may make it their residence during the Winter, as there are
no inhabitants in the vicinity, where they could be accommodated.
"A shed for the reception of the diggers must also be erected there, but
without a floor, that it may serve as a barn for the contractor during the winter.
"The house should be 20 feet by 36 feet, with a chimney in the middle. The
posts 12 feet long, which will afford a tolerable garret as a store room for the
company's effects required in the construction of the lock. The sills of the house
should be 2 1/2 feet above the surface of the earth and under one half of it a cellar,
the walls of which to be a frame of pitch pine with plank behind the posts to
support the earth. If you can procure any person to erect the house, by contract on
which you may deem reasonable terms, I wish you to do so - The house should be
erected on the south side of the creek as nearly opposite to the lock as
circumstances will permit."14
Within two weeks the contract for the house had been let:
"Mr.John Bernard has contracted to build the house for a lock keeper at
Oak Orchard immediately, at the dimensions ordered - the lower part to be
lathed, plastered & completely finished - a cellar dug & planked & a chimney
built of brick, for Four hundred & sixty five dollars - The house to be 36 by 20 feet
on the ground & 1 1/2 story high - This is thirty five dollars [more] than Mr.
Hammill's estimate; it was the best offer I could get & I think it as fair as it can be
Exactly two months later, the house was finished.
"I went to Oak Orchard Monday to examine the house built there & found
it completed. & on Wednesday I sent Ambrose Jones, one of our carpenters, with
his family to live there & take care of the house. He is to work one month felling
timber on the banks of the Creek & have wages as an axman - in case any work is
to be done [on the lock] this winter he will of course be employed. I thought this the
best method I could take to secure the house from injury until further orders from
The erection of this house is certainly of interest from the standpoint of the
history of the Navigation Company. It is a physical measure of the determination of
Schuyler to see Wood Creek thoroughly improved, thus benefiting commerce to the
interior, as well as the future of his own canals. It is also significant for the details of
construction which are recorded in the primary documents, being one of the first houses
built in Verona, and one of only a couple built along Wood Creek at that time.