Sunday, 16 July 2017 22:53

Aids-to-Navigation Along New York State Canal with Lighthouse Historian Ted Panayotoff

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Former Oswegonian, Ted Panayotoff presenting information to a group outside the Hunting Island Lighthouse, South Carolina. Former Oswegonian, Ted Panayotoff presenting information to a group outside the Hunting Island Lighthouse, South Carolina. Submitted Photo

The H. Lee White Maritime Museum at Oswego is pleased to announce the third installment of its 2017 History Lecture Series on Saturday, August 5th at 1:30 pm.

Lighthouse author Ted Panayotoff will be presenting “Aids to Navigation on the New York State Canal System” in celebration of the Canal’s bicentennial of construction. The talk will provide background on the Erie Canal, now the New York State Canal, which although now used primarily by recreational vessels, has seen a recovery of commercial traffic in the past 10 years. The post lights, lighthouses, and buoys will be discussed, as well as the State run system to operate and maintain those historic aids to navigation.

The New York State Canal System is the descendant of the Erie Canal that ran roughly 360 miles from Albany, NY on the Hudson River to Buffalo, NY on Lake Erie. Construction of the Canal, which required 35 locks to lift vessels 565 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, began in 1817 and was completed in 1825. It reduced transportation costs by 95%, and opened western New York and the interior of the country to settlement. Branch canals, including the Oswego Canal, connected the main canal to other lakes including Lake Ontario in Oswego.

Initially, unpowered canal barges were pulled by teams of horses or mules, but after the canal was enlarged to its final configuration in the early 1900's, powered vessels became the norm. They operated 24/7 and required lighted aids to navigation to facilitate that round-the-clock operation. New York State developed its own "Lighthouse Service" to install and maintain these aids which was unique among canals in the United States.

Panayotoff, a former resident of Oswego and member of the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, was actively involved with the ongoing efforts to restore the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse. “As the former chairman of the City of Oswego’s Lighthouse Development Committee, and long-time friend of the Museum, we couldn’t think of a better person to elaborate on the fascinating history of those navigational aids” noted Michael Pittavino, curator of the H. Lee White Maritime Museum. Along with his wife Jo, Ted has been a lighthouse researcher, historian and author for many years. They currently reside in South Carolina where they assist in the historic interpretation of the Hunting Island Lighthouse.

The Maritime Museum and Treasure Chest Gift Shop are open daily, 10-5 pm in July & August. For more information regarding this or other Museum programs, contact the Museum at (315) 342-0480, or visit:

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