The Middlesex Canal Association, which is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the historic Middlesex Canal, is constructing a new home for their museum and visitor’s center. The new museum, located at 2 Elm Street in Billerica, MA is located across the street from the current museum at Faulkner Mill and is expected to open in August 2022. The current museum and visitor’s guide, in operation for the past 10 years, holds a trove of artifacts and information about the construction and operation of the historic canal, which was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1967.
Replica of canal locks in the museum.
Artwork in the museum
The canal, constructed between 1793 and 1803, was an engineering marvel of its time and connected the City of Boston with the Merrimack River, allowing the transportation of natural resources and goods between central New England and the Port of Boston. The route of the canal was over 27 miles long and had a cross section 30 feet wide by 3.5 feet deep. The canal featured locks, aqueducts, and a floating towpath to move people and goods. Constructing the canal required one of the earliest uses of eminent domain by a private corporation in the United States. Several construction techniques were noteworthy for this era, including the use of hydraulic cement to make the masonry locks watertight. While the canal provided several decades of convenient travel in the region, eventually, railroad transportation became more economic, and the canal ceased operations in 1851.
Future Middlesex Canal Museum opening in 2022
Interpretive sign at the new museum location
Today, the Middlesex Canal Association is working towards saving the historic remnants of the canal, developing parks along the canal route, and serving as docents at the museum and visitors center. If you’ve ever been interested in learning more about the construction and operation of the Middlesex Canal, a visit to the museum is a must, especially for civil engineers. The museum features a working model of the locks system in use at the canal, several artifacts, and artistic renderings of the canal. The museum is located adjacent to the original canal route, near where ground was ceremoniously broken back in 1793. A short walk from the museum are remains of the anchorage used for the floating towpath and remnants of steel brackets used to house the timber piles used to control the timber locks.
Remnants of steel housing for timber lock
Remnants of anchorage used in floating towpath
The Middlesex Canal Association is looking for a civil engineer from BSCES to serve as an appointment by the Mayor of Boston to the Middlesex Canal Commission. There are plans to construct a development at 1 Mystic Avenue in Sullivan Square. The Association is looking for a civil engineer to serve on the commission to advocate for recognition of the canal during construction. They are also looking to establish a cenotaph in Sullivan Square to recognize James Sullivan, who served as president of the Middlesex Canal Company and Governor of Massachusetts. If you’re interested in serving in this role, please reach out to Michael Sullivan at email@example.com.
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Supported by the staff of The Engineering Center Education Trust