The culmination of a century-long dream to link the Great Lakes interior industrial hubs to the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project stands as one of the largest public works initiatives of the 20th century.
Between 1954-1959, the billion-dollar St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project was the largest waterway and hydro dam project ever jointly built by two nations. It comprised seven locks, the widening of various canals, the taming of rapids, and the erection of the 3,216-foot long, 195.5-foot high Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam. Through the decades the Seaway has seen the transport of 2.5 billion tons of cargo (equivalent to 87 million truckloads) valued in excess of $375 billion. It also produces hydroelectric power for both countries.
Now, as officials celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 265-mile-long waterway that separates America from Canada, a new book reveals the human side of the project in the words of 53 engineers, carpenters, laborers and their wives.
In The St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project: An Oral History of the Greatest Construction Show on Earth (ISBN: 978-0-8156-0913-1, $34.95; 328 pages; Syracuse University Press), Claire Puccia Parham exposes the dangerous and brutal working conditions, the larger-than-life equipment, and the construction dilemmas encountered.
"Up until now very little has been written about this phenomenal feat of engineering," said Puccia Parham, who gave two keynote presentations at the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation's 50th Anniversary Celebrations July 9-12 in Massena, N.Y.
"Fifty years have passed since the Queen Elizabeth II dedicated this project on June 26, 1959," continued Puccia Parham, a history instructor at Siena College in Loudonville, NY. "However, workers in both countries remain passionate about their achievement. This book is a fitting tribute to the hard work and dedication of the project's 22,000 workers."