The rise of Harrisburg's importance and distinction as one of the major transportation centers in the eastern United States was launched on March 14, 1827, by the laying of the cornerstone at the eastern end of Walnut Street downtown for the construction of Lock #6 of the Pennsylvania Canal. The completion of New York State's Erie Canal in 1824 prompted the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to explore the development of a transportation system to open up the interior of the state by linking Harrisburg with Pittsburgh. The completion of the Union Canal in 1827 from the Schuylkill River to Middletown had provided a means of travel in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. The Eastern Division of the Pennsylvania Canal, completed by 1831, however is what made Harrisburg the true dispatch point for the westward transport of goods and passengers through Pennsylvania's canal system, as Philadelphia by this time could be reached by rail via Columbia. Thus the groundwork was laid for the railroad routes that later evolved as tracks that first paralleled and later replaced the canal beds. The Eastern Division canal would follow the course of the Juniata River and move onward to the Allegheny Mountains, involving a series of aqueducts and portage railroads en route to Pittsburgh. While the canal system was relatively short-lived for passenger travel, with railroads entering upon the scene by the mid 19th Century, they remained primarily for the transport of freight until the system was entirely abandoned in 1901. Portions of the old canal bed are still visible along Industrial Road in northern Harrisburg adjacent to Wildwood Park.
Canal basin between State and North streets in 1895.
Canal lock just south of State Street in 1900.
Late 1800's view of the steam-driven canal boat named "Montour" moving out of Harrisburg.