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Canal Museum

The Canal Museum, Smith Park entrance, 1605 North Verity Parkway, Middletown, is between the route of the Miami-Erie Canal (1825-1929) and the Middletown Hydraulic Canal (1852), built to provide waterpower to Middletown's expanding industry. The museum, built in 1982 by the Middletown Historical Society in the style of a locktender's house, displays the story of the Miami-Erie Canal and Middletown's early industry. Near the museum is a bridge containing ironwork from one of several bridges built over the local canal.

"The first bridges built over the canal were called camel-back bridges, for their shape resembled that of the back of one of these animals, with the hump taking one over the canal with room for boats to pass under," explains the web site of the Middletown Historical Society. "Such bridges required a gradual approach from the road, leaving the property adjoining the canal with a road rising in front of houses or a store.

To provide a more normal approach, especially in the towns, the swing bridge was devised. They were pivoted on one bank where there was a circular track on which caster-like wheels moved in turning the bridge from one side to the other. On the track side the bridge was weighted down with heavy rocks to provide the proper pitch in swinging around. Most of these bridges were only 10 to 12 feet above the water, thus the oft-sounded warning to those on top the boat, 'Low bridge, everybody down.'

The last type of canal bridge was of the lift type [lift bridge] in which an elaborate mechanism lifted its roadbed vertically, permitting boats to pass under. With its pulley and chain mechanism the bridge was lifted into the air high enough for a boat to pass under. In its two towers were counterweights. Such was the bridge over the canal at Main and Tytus, in front of the present site of the Canal Museum. Part of the ironwork in this bridge was used in building the present one from Smith Park to the museum. It was constructed by the Stevens Sand and Gravel operation. (See Middletown, Middletown Hydraulic and Miami-Erie Canal.)