Holyoke Thought Turns to Future of Canal System

by Laurel | December 23rd, 2013

22 Dec 1929

Holyoke Canal System

Holyoke Canal System
First Level Canal
Front St., Holyoke, MA
From the MACRIS photo archive

Possibility of Filling-in Admitted by President of the Water Power Company
Section as Metal Trades Seen
Barrett Believes Large Supply of Skilled Labor in Valley Will Be Turned to That Industry

“We do not know but that in 50 years the canals will all be filled in,” said Atty. N. P. Avery, speaking at the Tuesday night Aldermanic session relative to the agreement drawn up giving permission for the city to run  its surface water into the canals. Who knows what will happen in 50 years? Robert K. Barrett, president of the Holyoke Water Power Company , was asked about the filling of the canals and admitted that the company had looked into the future as far as that but of course had made no very definite plans. “Will the canals ever be filled in?” he was asked.

Mr. Barrett was not so sure. “It is more likely if it comes to a time when the mill sites are exhausted — and that is a long way away — that we may build over the canals,” he said. “Today our idea is that the canals will not be filled in, but if manufacturing space is wanted we can build over the foundations resting perhaps on piles. The present tendency is to substitute electrical power for hydraulic power on account of its being easier to divide up into small units to operate desperate machines or groups of machines. If this should keep on, there would be less and less demand for the water power.”

The filling-in plan would reverse the construction of the canals. When they were built they were built southward a little at a time. At one time the second level, for instance, extended only as far as Dwight Street. The timbers of several dams hat extended only marked the end of canals can yet be seen in the canal beds when the water is drawn off.

Sees Metal Trades Coming

If the filling-in plan was resorted to it naturally would begin at the southernmost part of the canals and progress toward the dam. Mr. Barrett, however, is more sanguine as to the future of this section. He believes that it is likely to grow along metal trade lines, thus obviating filling in the canals. the canal matter belongs to a future generation. The development of the metal trades in Western Massachusetts and the Connecticut Valley he believes to be very near.

Charles S. Mellon when president of the New Haven railroad, once termed New England “a great terminal yard.” Mr. Barrett considers that western Massachusetts, particularly the valley, is to become a vast metal workshop. He is not as sanguine as to the “comeback” of the textile business. “There is so much skilled labor in this section that there is bound to be located here more and more of the metal trades requiring such skilled labor,” he said. From his point of view of Holyoke’s industrial depression will not last.

From The Springfield Republican

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