The Delaware And Hudson Canal’s Effect On Ellenville’s Growth

Prior to the development of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, the area of Ellenville was very sparsely inhabited as the only access was a rugged trail. The area was relatively untouched by settlers until the 1820s when Ellenville’s development was spurred by the Delaware and Hudson Canal. The canal was constructed by brothers William and Maurice Wurts as a way to ferry anthracite, discovered in Pennsylvania in the early 19th century, to New York. The canal followed the route of the already successful Old Mine Road winding the narrow valley of the Shawangunk Ridge. Success followed the canal’s opening in 1828. During operation, Ellenville bloomed from the financial traffic brought by the barges and the local economy diversified into many industries. Cheap coal prices also helped entice residential and commercial development of the area. The earliest buildings in the Historic District in Ellenville date from the canal days. The barge traffic declined starting around 1850s as railcar replaced the canal as the dominant method of transporting coal. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company drained the canal in 1898. A small wet section of the canal can still be observed in Ellenville as a reminder of the history of the town.

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