Explore Little Falls, NY. Explore Heritage and Historical Tourism Opportunities in Little Falls, New York

Explore Little Falls, New York

Discover the Rich History of a Well-Preserved Canal City

Come and explore the rich heritage of our past in Little Falls, New York, where you can walk among the buildings and monuments of the Revolutionary War, the Erie Canal, and the dawn of the industrial era.

Heritage tourism opportunities lie literally around every corner in Little Falls, an amazingly well-preserved city that showcases hundreds of historically-significant architectural treasures, a delightful historical museum, a popular New York State historical site, and both the oldest and the tallest canal locks in New York!

On this page we invite you to explore just several of the most prominent historical features of Little Falls, and read about a few of the many interesting people from Little Falls who have made a difference in the lives of all Americans.

Visit Little Falls, your year-round headquarters for heritage and historical tourism!

Explore Main Street in Little Falls, NY

Explore the National Historical District in Little Falls

When you visit Little Falls, be sure to enjoy the sights of the Little Falls National Historic District, which includes 347 buildings in Little Falls, starting on Main Street, and sprawling across the neighborhoods that lie to the north, east and west. Most of the buildings date from the mid-19th to the early-20th century, with a number of Italianate-style commercial buildings and notable residences in vernacular 19th century architectural styles including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival. Be sure to see our majestic City Hall and the spectacular Masonic Temple as you wander around!

Explore Main Street in Little Falls, NY
Canal Place in Little Falls, NY

Explore the Art Galleries and Antique Shops of Canal Place!

Canal Place, located in the South Ann Street - Mill Street Historic District of Little Falls, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was once a densely-developed manufacturing hub during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The nearby rapids and falls furnished cheap power to operate the numerous mills and manufacturing enterprises that lined the north bank of the Mohawk River in the area. Today, Canal Place contains a significant and representative sample of industrial and commercial architecture constructed during the period from 1827 to 1911.

The quaint shops, galleries, restaurants and inns situated in the old mill buildings and storefronts along the waterfront of Canal Place have become known as the happening place for the arts in the Mohawk Valley. Not so long ago, many of these buildings were working mills serving the garment industry. Even today, after conversion to serve as retail space, many of these rugged but lovely structures speak to our great regional manufacturing heritage. If you are looking for fine arts, entertainment or antiques, you simply must pay a visit to Canal Place!

Canal Place in Little Falls, NY
Explore the Little Falls Historical Society Museum in scenic Little Falls, NY

Keeping History Alive in Little Falls!

Located in the historic 1833 Herkimer County Trust bank building erected by noted builder Thomas Dale, the Little Falls Historical Society Museum works to preserve and interpret the rich past of Little Falls and the surrounding communities. Seasonal exhibits cover interesting and relevant themes such as immigrants in Little Falls, labor unrest in Little Falls, and winters in Little Falls. The museum also features memorabilia, documents, maps, photographs, and reference materials for genealogical research.

The Little Falls Historical Society Museum is located on the corner of South Ann Street and Albany Street. The museum is open from mid-May through September, with hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm, and Saturdays 10am-Noon. Call (315) 823-0643 for more information.

Explore Lock 17 in Historic Little Falls, NY

Explore the Tallest Lock in New York

Lock 17 on the New York State Canal System is the largest lock in New York, and one of the largest locks in the entire world. The lock lifts boats an astonishing 40 feet as the canal bypasses the whitewater rapids which made the Mohawk River unnavigable in the vicinity of Little Falls before the canals were built. Prior to the construction of Lock 17 in 1912, the canal required four separate locks within the space of three miles to enable boats to make this passage around the Little Falls rapids. Construction of Lock 17 was a feat of engineering genius, and included a 150 ton guillotine style lower gate and a concrete arch under which the boats must pass; this is the only implementation of such a design along the entire New York State Canal system.

In the immediate vicinity of Lock 17, you can also view the remains of the old Erie Canal Lock 36. Although the southern chamber of Lock 36 is all that remains of this once long lock, walking through the now high-and-dry ruins provides an interesting glimpse into the technologies and masonry skills that made the Erie Canal possible.

Explore Lock 36 in Historic Little Falls, NY
Ruins of the 1795 Western Inland Canal in Little Falls, NY

The Oldest Extant Canal Relics in America

After the Revolutionary War, politicians and businessmen alike recognized the need to make the Mohawk River more navigable, both as a route of commerce and to secure the military supply lines to the forts on the Great Lakes. New York State took action to end the need to portage boats around the rapids of Little Falls in 1792 with the award of a charter to the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company for the construction of a canal at Little Falls. After four years of construction, plagued by financial difficulties, several bad engineering decisions and a certain measure of political cronyism, a short canal of three-quarters of a mile long and twelve feet wide, and consisting of five locks that together hoisted boats nearly 45 vertical feet, managed to circumvent the rapids at Little Falls.

The Western Inland Canal continued in use for nearly thirty years, until it was rendered obsolete by the construction of the original Erie Canal. When the original locks, which were made of wooden timbers, rotted away, they were replaced by stone structures in 1802 and 1803. Today a fragment of a guard lock, built of Little Falls stone, and its iron mechanisms are all that remains of this ancient canal, making it the oldest extant bit of canal lock in the United States.

Remains of the 1795 Canal in Little Falls, NY

When the Erie Canal was opened, an aqueduct was constructed to carry boat traffic from the canal across the Mohawk River and into the Little Falls harbor, which connected to the Western Inland Canal. Remains of the aqueduct, which finally collapsed in the flood of 1993, may still be seen near Benton's Landing at Canal Place.

Remains of the Aqueduct in Little Falls, NY
Explore the Herkimer Home in Little Falls, NY

Explore Life in the Revolutionary War at the Herkimer Home

Visit the Georgian-style mansion that was the home to Revolutionary War hero, General Nicholas Herkimer. He completed construction of his mansion about 1764 in the Mohawk Valley frontier. General Herkimer's place in history was assured in 1777. Herkimer was en route to help defend Fort Stanwix when he and his men were ambushed by British-allied Loyalists and Iroquois at Oriskany. Although seriously wounded in the leg, Herkimer kept command during the fierce combat. After the battle, Herkimer was carried home and his leg was amputated 10 days later. Infection had already spread and hours later, when Herkimer died reading from his Bible, he was immediately regarded a martyr to the cause of American freedom, and his home became a shrine. Visitors to Herkimer Home today will marvel at the grandness of this Georgian-style mansion that once stood on the colonial frontier. The unspoiled landscape, including the Herkimer family burial ground, is remarkably unchanged from that of the 18th century.

For more information visit the Herkimer Home website.

Explore the Church Street Cemetery in Little Falls, NY

Living with the Dead in Little Falls

Located on a hill not far from the center of Little Falls, the Church Street Cemetery offers a rich and rewarding experience for those who are interested in either genealogy or the opulent gravestone art of the 19th century.

The Church Street cemetery dates to ca. 1837, when the village fathers sought a new burying ground after the traditional cemetery on Prospect Street was closed owing to concerns that the remains would pollute the water flowing through the newly installed wooden pipes that had been laid to supply the burgeoning community. A wealthy local businessman named Richard Ward sold the town a 15 acre parcel on the edge of the community for use as the new cemetery, with the stipulation that no Catholics could be buried there. The New Burying Ground opened in 1842.

Today, this attractive, well-maintained cemetery offers the taphophile a plethora of wonderful nineteenth and early-twentieth century gravestones and epitaphs to explore, with many of them featuring remarkable period art. The City Clerk's office can provide you with a list of graves, and the discerning visitor can locate a number of historically important people.

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