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Oak Orchard

The Locktender's House

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 following year:

"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 done."15

Man cutting timber

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 Committee."16

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.

 

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