Lockport to celebrate completed Lock Tender tribute on Sept. 16

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 September 2023 at 11:05 am

14 bronze statues honor canal workers from late 1800s

Photos by Tom Rivers

LOCKPORT – The top photo from July 1, 2021 shows the first two phases of a bronze statue tribute to canal lock tenders from the late 1800s. The full tribute is now complete with 14 statues.

Susan Geissler, an artist from Youngstown, created the statues of the tenders. The final grouping includes five more of the lock workers as well as a statue of the girl who is the daughter of one of the tenders.

Lockport will celebrate the completion of the monument with a 10 a.m. ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 16 in the Lockport Locks.

By summer 2021 there were seven statues of the tenders and the photographer, Frank B. Clench.

The 14-piece monument is based off a photograph from 1897. That image depicts a dozen lock tenders, a young girl and a photographer.

The statues, except for the photographer, are installed on the stairs in the Lockport Locks where the tenders were photographed nearly 125 years ago.

The Lockport Locks Heritage District Corp. commissioned Geissler to create the bronze figures.

The group met its goal ahead of schedule. It wanted the 14-piece monument by 2025, which will be the bicentennial of the Erie Canal’s opening.

The tenders were part of a 20-person workforce at the locks in 1897. The lock tenders were picked in the 1890s from the eight wards in the City of Lockport. The ones in the photo are local residents who worked in the same spot on the steps where the bronze figures are located.

“It was difficult backbreaking work, with very few making it a career,” according to an interpretive panel at the site. “Those that did were tough as nails indeed.”

The lock tenders worked 12-hour days and were responsible for opening and closing the locks so boats could pass through safely. They also worked on maintenance at the site.