Press Release: Life Size Champlain Canal Tow Path Mule Sculpture on Display in Fort Ann

A locally made life sized sculpture of a Champlain Canal Town Mule made from bits and pieces of scrap iron will be presented for temporary display by sculptor Jenny Horstman in the Town of Fort Ann’s Pocket Park on July 21st at 2 p.m. The pocket park is located just past Halfway Brook Bridge, north of the Village limits on Route 4.

Jenny Horstman, has done similar pieces in the past, one of which, “The Headless Horseman”, can be seen on display in front of Go Slo Harley Davidson on Rt. 149 near the Warren Washington County line. Some of the scrap material for the Canal Mule project was donated by residents of Washington County.

The tow path mule depicts an important part of Fort Ann’s rich canal history as mules in harness pulled boats along the Champlain Canal. Three generations of Champlain Canal locks can be observed in the Village of Fort Ann and there is a unique opportunity to walk inside two of the original locks, just east of the intersections of Route 4 & 149 on Clay Hill Bridge Road, where informational signage can help visitors and residents better understand canal history. The towpath can still be seen there today.

This project was made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program and the Rivendell Foundation, administered locally by the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council.

Additional information about the sculptor, tow path mules and Champlain Canal history follows:

Champlain Canal:

Construction of the Champlain Canal began in 1817, and 12 miles were completed by 1818. In 1819, the portion of the canal between Fort Edward and Whitehall was completed and opened for navigation. The entire canal from Troy to Whitehall was opened in 1823.

Tow Path Mules
Beginning in 1903 on the old canal, canal boats and later small tugboats, were towed by mules or horses. Typical towing teams consisted of three or four mules traveling in single file, or two horses traveling side-by-side. They traveled along a towpath that ran along one side of the canal. At points where the tow path switched from one side of the canal to the other, a “change bridge” allowed the team of mules or horses to cross over without being unhitched. On the Erie Canal, canal boats were equipped with stables in their bows, which allowed the towing team to be transported on the canal boat. However, Champlain canal boats were not so equipped. The Lake Champlain Transportation Company, aka The Line, was headquartered in Whitehall and, in addition to operating a fleet of tugboats and owning and leasing canal boats, provided teams of mules for towing canal boats on the Champlain Canal. They also provided Line barns along the canal route where canal boat operators would have a driver and team of mules assigned to tow their boats. The team would tow the boat to the next Line barn (approximately 12 miles from Whitehall to Fort Ann) where eight teams were kept on hand for changes and a fresh team would be assigned. The drivers of these teams received wages of $18 a month.
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