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Column for 10.12.11
At the start of the trail I stopped and tried to remember when I had last walked up to Trenton Falls. It was so long ago I couldn’t remember.
Timing, as they say, is everything and I picked last Sunday to go look at the falls for the first time in a long time. Sunday’s weather was perfect. The parking lot was packed.
For those unfamiliar with Trenton Falls, it is located in the Town of Trenton, a short drive from the Mapledale commercial district on Route 12. Go south on Route 28 and take your first left onto Trenton Falls Road.
It’s an easy walk from the parking lot to the viewing areas, a mile or so. The trail was busy with people, understandable given that day’s weather and that the trail is open to the public only a few times a year. Sunday was the last time this year.
There are picnic tables near the beginning of the trail. All were in use. A local church group was set up under a tent. They were doing a brisk business selling hot dogs and hamburgers.
At the start of the trail are informational signs. I started writing notes. I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“All of that is on the Town of Trenton website,” said a stranger.
I got on my smartphone. She was correct.
Here is some of the information on that site:
In 1805, John Sherman first viewed Trenton Falls during a visit from Connecticut. In 1806, Sherman moved to Trenton to be the pastor of the Reformed Christian Church. Sherman resigned as pastor in 1810 and established a teaching academy next to the low ground trail to Trenton Falls.
In 1808, with the help of money donated by Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, a path was blasted to Trenton Falls.
In 1822, John Sherman and partner Jarvis Phelps purchased 60 acres from the Holland Land Company (including Sherman Falls). Sherman bought out his partner in 1823, and built the Rural Resort, which opened to visitors that summer.
In 1825, Sherman expanded the Rural Resort to accommodate overnight guests. Trenton Falls became a “must see” destination between the East Coast and Niagara Falls.
In 1827, visitor Michael Moore severely injured his leg during a fall in the gorge; Sherman’s daughter Maria nursed Moore back to health. In 1831, Moore married Maria Sherman and assumed management of the resort.
In 1851, the Trenton Falls Hotel – known by the popular name Moore’s Hotel – was constructed, leading to a dramatic rise in tourism.
In 1863, United States Secretary of State William H. Seward hosted a meeting of diplomats at the Trenton Falls Hotel to emphasize the agricultural and industrial strength of the North, and to discourage support for the South during the Civil War.
(A boulder and inscribed tablet near the start of the trail commemorates that meeting.)
In 1897, the Utica Electric Light & Power Company acquired Moore’s Hotel and all its property on both sides of the gorge. Construction of the dam and hydroelectric powerhouse began in 1899. Electricity was delivered to the City of Utica from Trenton Falls in 1901.
Improvements to the Trenton Falls Hydroelectric facility were implemented from 1917 through 1922 with the addition of three hydroelectric turbines.
After a further decline in business, and the collapse of the Trenton Hotel’s roof, the entire structure was finally demolished in 1945.
Utica Electric Light & Power Company was acquired by Niagara Hudson, which became Niagara Mohawk in 1950. The hydropower plant was purchased by Niagara Mohawk Power Company in 1950. Rehabilitation of the hydro intake, pipeline and surge tank was completed in 1984. In 1999, Orion Power purchased Niagara Mohawk hydro facilities at Trenton Falls. In 2002, Reliant Energy merged with Orion Power, and in 2004, Brascan Power purchased Reliant Energy hydro facilities including Trenton Falls. Brascan Power is now known as Brookfield Power.