Letter: High Falls green gone?

Canal house painting winter 1990 by John Novi.

The photo accompanying this letter is of a painting I did in 1990 of the High Falls village green with the Depuy Tavern in the background. At the time I painted it, I proposed that the Canal Society excavate the portion of the canal in front of the Depuy Tavern and expose approximately 100 feet of the canal’s large stone wall that had been buried over time. Such a project would have enhanced the society’s proposed museum while maintaining the beautiful central village green for the local community as well as underscoring the important role of the canal in High Falls history.

When title to the canal house was passed to the Canal Society in 2015, I had been led to believe that the society would work with the community and raise funds to revitalize the village green and create a wonderful park and town center. My painting depicts a December holiday celebration focused on the existing tree in its present location, with the canal sufficiently excavated as it once was, with enough water to allow residents of Marbletown to skate in the winter.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the village green will be destroyed and the tree removed for the sake of a visitors’ center, with, as described by one of your readers in the June 5 letters, “a facsimile of a canal barge, a paean to the abuse of orphaned children used to operate the barges.” This is what people will see as they drive through High Falls. The tree, always so invitingly decorated during the holiday season, will be shunted to one side of the road and likely hidden by the remaining trees in Grady Park. It will no longer be a focal point of the town.


It seems to me that if the Canal Society wants to erect a canal-related sculpture, that sculpture should be located in Grady Park, as that is where the first canal route was located in High Falls in 1823. Remains of the lock are still there and could be incorporated into the sculpture. It also seems to me that the hamlet and the town should be invited by the Canal Society to provide their input on the immense impact that the destruction of the village green and the installation of a sculpture in the center of High Falls that depicts “the oppressed and marginalized people who were instrumental in building the canal” will have. 

I would also encourage the High Falls Civic Association to spearhead a discussion of what members of our community wish to see or not see take place and invite community members to participate vigorously.

John N. Novi
High Falls

Read more letters from the June 24, 2020 edition.

There are 3 comments

  1. Cynthia Russak

    I only just heard about this recently. It is very hard to find out what is going on in the town….. and the way it’s going I rather regret moving back here after having to work in NYC for many years. The restoration done on the roof of the Canal House looks shoddy too…it sags in the middle I’ve noticed. I agree, John, that it would be a serious mistake to do what is proposed. Of course, we have a huge problem, as usual, with the Falls, where out-of- towners go to party and dump garbage. They come here because they know they can get away with things here they couldn’t elsewhere. Just this week someone drowned. A canal barge in front of the memorial? How about a garbage scow? The town will be sinking like the Titanic soon.
    Your painting is lovely, John. The barge idea is very negative, and there’s no need to emphasize a past history that will not give much incentive for future improvement. It belongs in the museum, not where a Christmas tree was. It would be like an insult to a town which has always struggled, and will only encourage a further downswing.

  2. Bob M

    John Novi’s idea to excavate the canal in front of the Inn and have water in it like the old days is a wonderful idea. Hopefully he will be listened to.

  3. Jane

    I think High Falls should secede and name John Novi its governor, given that he is an individual of enormous talent and wisdom. (I did not know that Novi painted that picture, a copy of it having travelled with me over many thousands of miles), nor that he made the proposal regarding the canal and park.

    Just who is this asinine Canal Society anyway? When I lived in High Falls in the 1990s, they were jackasses then. Seems to have gotten much worse. But who is giving them all this power.

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