Depuy Canal House to operate as museum and headquarters for D&H Canal Society

The Depuy Canal House. (photo by Bill Merchant)

The Depuy Canal House. (photo by Bill Merchant)

The Delaware & Hudson Canal Society has finalized a deal to take ownership of the Depuy Canal House in High Falls. The landmark historic, stone structure will become the new home of the D&H Canal Society, which intends to relocate its existing museum to the Canal House. The new location will enrich the museum’s operations and storytelling capacity and further connect it to Ulster County’s developing identity as a cultural and recreational destination.

The Depuy Canal House, which operated as a top-tier dining and agribusiness destination for decades, sits at the center of the hamlet of High Falls and is a feature of its National Historic District, which also includes a preserved canal, historic locks and the remains of a significant historic aqueduct. The Canal House, first built in 1797, is among the most important and best preserved historic assets related to the 110-mile long Delaware & Hudson canal, which opened in 1825 and operated until 1899. The canal proved to be a significant driver of New York City’s era of industrialization.

Long-time owner, chef and agricultural entrepreneur John Novi, announced on November 20 that the restaurant would close its doors after Thanksgiving. Novi, who purchased the Canal House in 1965, ran a world-class restaurant at the site, pursued cutting-edge agritrourism programs and completed extensive updates and repairs to the building over the past five decades.

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Bill Merchant, president of the D&H Canal Historical Society explains the significance of the acquisition: “The trustees of the D&H Canal Historical Society are grateful to the Open Space Institute, New York State and John Novi for their assistance in our acquisition of the historic Depuy Canal House. One of the most important extant D&H buildings still in private hands will now be preserved for the public and saved from possible ruin. We are all very excited to go into our 50th year working on this worthy and historically important project to move our museum into a building that served as offices for the D&H Canal Company from 1830 until the Canal’s abandonment. Thus we will be fulfilling our mission to protect and celebrate the history of the canal, moving to the center of High Falls adjacent to our National Historic Landmark Five Lock Walk.”

The Society’s $675,000 purchase of the Canal House property was made possible through a combination of grants and loans, including a $500,000 New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant, awarded by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and a $650,000 loan from the Open Space Institute. With the property secured, the Society will engage in a multi-year, community-wide campaign to raise additional funds for the historic preservation and adaptive reuse of the Canal House to a museum and visitor center dedicated to the history of the D&H Canal and the region’s heritage.

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