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