1901 Lockport and the World’s Fair

The hard work of setting up transmission poles, and stringing high voltage lines for sending electricity to Buffalo would soon be appreciated. The 1901 Pan-American Exposition was a World’s Fair, and was being held in Buffalo, NY. The fair occupied 350 acres of land on the western edge of what is now Delaware Park, and because it was an exposition, many of the world’s technological advancements were being showcased. Buffalo was chosen to hold this particular fair for a number of reasons, but the 6-month long event was “highlighted” by the fact that the fair grounds would be illuminated by Edison’s new incandescent bulbs.

Tragically, on September 6th, 1901, the day after a very hopeful address was given at the exposition, demented Leon Czolgosz, shot President William McKinley. The newly developed x-ray machine was being displayed at the fair, and even though it may have been enough to save McKinley’s life, doctors were reluctant to use it for fear that the x-rays would have damaging side effects. McKinley died 8 days later from gangrene as a result of the lodged bullet, and his post was taken over by his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt.

Heavy traffic continued to move back and forth along the Erie Canal.

In Lockport, every available building was being utilized for whatever was needed, from cold storage for the fruit industry, or for machine shops and wood mills, or mills for the nations flouring needs. The industries in our area were just plain booming.

The Benjamin Moore Grist Mill was purchased by the City of Lockport, in 1893, becoming the City of Lockport Water Works and the new Municipal Building. With Holly’s death in 1894, the city was now in control of the fantastic machinery that was pumping water throughout the heart of the city. Within the basement of the building were two of Holly’s pumps, one pushing 3 million gallons of water, and the other 5 million, each utilizing the waterpower from the Mill Race. To feed these massive pumps, city officials decided to build another tunnel on the south side of the Canal, siphoning waters from above the locks, and feeding the pumps underground. A gate system and a new turbine were installed within City Hall, and those artifacts still remain in place today. A new Pine Street Bridge was about to be built, and this new tunnel bypass created an additional source of waters for the Mill Race, providing the industries within the basin a steady flow of water.

The Lockport Gas & Electric Light Company, Station B on Race Street, received water through an arched door on the north side of the building.

The water was used to turn an electrical generating turbine, producing 250 Horsepower for the cities use. The excess waters passed through and out the southern side of the building, and into the Griggs Brothers Flour Mill, and from there, continued on to power other businesses along the race.

An article put together by Charles T. Raymond, listed the most prominent businesses in Lockport at the end of the 19th Century, and in particular, noted those that were closely associated with the waters of the Mill Race. Mr. Raymond had organized the Lockport Manufacturers Association in 1888, for the benefit of these industries, and together they were able to keep the water flowing their way.

Starting at the Pine Street Bridge, those industries included the following:

Griggs Brothers Flour Mill – which employed 10

Ward & Cobb Printing – which employed 34

Norman & Evans – which employed 35

There were 11 other Factories and Firms, not listed, utilizing power from Norman & Evans Cable system – which employed over 275

Niagara Cotton Batting Company – which employed 12

Thompson Milling Company – which employed 23

Trevor Manufacturing Company – which employed 41

Boston & Lockport Block Company – which employed 33

Western Block Company – which employed 38

Miller & Rogers – which employed 15

And the Franklin Milling Company – which employed 23.

These businesses were all utilizing the Mill Race waterpower before it tapped back into the Eighteen Mile Creek at Exchange Street. They employed a lot of local people, and it was imperative that their businesses continued to operate. Times were changing, and the State of New York was considering another canal enlargement, but this time, one of the “Twins” would be lost…