Work begins on Depuy Canal House historic restoration project

Historic photos of the Depuy Canal House (D & H Canal Historical Society)

If you’re a serious foodie, the old stone building on the High Falls village green will always be the Depuy Canal House to you – even though, three years ago, world-famed chef John Novi shut down the restaurant operation that he had launched in 1969 and handed the historic structure over to the not-for-profit Delaware & Hudson Canal Historical Society (DCCHS). “I knew 50 years ago what I am doing today,” Novi wrote at the time of the property transfer. “I have always believed that the Depuy House belongs to the community as a public museum securing the history of canal travel and telling the story of the locktenders that lived in the house.”

The main part of the stone structure that housed the four-star restaurant, originally an inn, was built by Simeon Depuy in 1797 and sold to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company during the 1830s for use as offices, a store and overnight accommodations for locktenders and passing canalboat operators. The wood-frame wing that housed the restaurant’s kitchen was added later.

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DCCHS’ acquisition of the building was funded by a $500,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in partnership with the Open Space Institute. But it has taken some time for the Historical Society to secure additional funding to renovate the building. This month, DCCHS issued a long-awaited announcement: Restoration work is finally underway. The organization has hired Yankee Construction to install a historically appropriate wood shingle roof, supported by a new framing system.

The roof work, which should be completed by autumn, represents the first step of an extensive project to preserve this historic structure and prepare it for use as a museum of the D & H Canal’s heyday. The one-story covered porch that parallels Route 213 will be restored to approximate its 19th-century appearance. “We are delighted work has begun on the Canal House, which signals not only the beginning of the new museum, but a new era for the Historical Society and High Falls, as well,” said DCCHS executive director Jack Braunlein.

In addition to interactive exhibits relating to the history of the Canal, the new museum will include a visitor center that will serve as a gateway to the area’s extensive trail systems and numerous tourist attractions. The Gateway Center will feature maps that include trails, historic houses and museums, and will be a source of information about the natural and cultural resources that hikers and area visitors can explore. The beginning of the National Historic Landmark Five Locks Walk, where visitors can view the extant remains of the Canal in High Falls, lies right outside the Canal House’s door.

For more information about this ongoing project, visit www.canalmuseum.org, call (845) 687-2000 or e-mail info@canalmuseum.org.