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Interpreting the Evidence

Powerhouse and Dam, New York State Barge Canal, Halfmoon, 1915

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Erie Canal

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Capital District
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Powerhouse and Dam, New York State Barge Canal, Halfmoon, 1915 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A powerhouse and dam on the New York State Barge Canal near Crescent in Halfmoon, 1915.
Historical Context
Powerhouses and dams were built between 1904 and 1918 during the construction of the Barge Canal system in New York State.  The Barge Canal system is 527 miles long and has fifty-seven locks made of concrete.  The locks are 328 feet long from gate to gate and forty-five feet wide.  The powerhouse is located next to a dam and generates the power to operate the locks.  The purpose of the forty dams along the canalized rivers is to control the water level.  In the winter, the dams allow the water to return to its normal level to prevent flooding.  During the shipping season, the purpose of the dams is to maintain a level pool of water for navigation along the canal system.
Essential Question
How does technology impact the geography and economy of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of the canals on the geography and economy of local communities.
Historical Challenges
Who invented the power dam? Was it being used in other ways prior to the building of the Barge Canal?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Research how the powerhouse and dam create enough energy to move the parts of the lock. Why are there 40 dams and 57 locks?
English Language Arts: Create an employment ad for a person to work the dam. What qualifications would the person need, and what would the job description be?