The Historical Association of Lewiston will present a program about the building of a replica of Dewitt Clinton's canal boat later this month.

John Montague will lead the presentation and discuss the Buffalo Maritime Center's ongoing effort to construct a full-sized, 73-foot replica of the canal boat "Seneca Chief," the boat that opened the Erie Canal in 1825. The replica is being constructed as part of the celebration of the Erie Canal bicentennial in 2025. 

Montague will discuss the origins of the ambitious project traced as well as the challenges and successes that have brought the vessel to its present stage.

When launched, the boat will lead a reenactment of the 1825 Wedding of the Waters. Afterward it will be a permanent attraction at Canalside in Buffalo, as well as a traveling “Buffalo Ambassador” across the state. The still-under-construction vessel has already attracted thousands of visitors and tourists to Canalside and engaged hundreds of community volunteers while at the same time helping to reconnect Buffalo to its Erie Canal origins.

Montague arrived in Buffalo in 1984 to set up SUNY College at Buffalo’s design history program, for which he is now a professor emeritus. With two colleagues in the design department, he founded the BSC Center for Watercraft Studies in 1993, an initiative that developed academic programs while also engaging in community outreach.

At the time of his retirement in 2006, Montague helped to form the Buffalo Maritime Center, which focuses on the collection, research, preservation, restoration and replication of historic watercraft of the Niagara Frontier. Using boatbuilding as a vehicle, the center engages in community outreach programs and STEM training for young people.

While formally trained as an art and architectural historian (Ph.D. Univ. Wisconsin 1974), Montague has worked as a designer, film animator, illustrator and boat builder. He has been active in architectural preservation and urban planning and heavily involved in Buffalo's waterfront redevelopment and revitalization. 

Montague's presentation will be at the Lutheran Church of the Messiah fellowship hall, 915 Oneida St., Lewiston, at 7 p.m. Oct. 27. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.

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