Winning Photograph of Erie Canal’s Abandoned Poorhouse Lock (Lock 56) by Iraq War Veteran Inspires New Mural of Past and Present
PBS to air Veteran Cory Reynolds painting the mural as he explains how art helps him cope with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The photograph of Poorhouse Lock (Lock 56) ruins by Cory Reynolds, artist and Iraq War Army veteran, was awarded 2nd place by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. The angle of the photograph inspired the view of Lock 56 portrayed in the soon-to-be released mural in Lyons. Reynolds was interviewed while painting his vision of the lock by PBS personality Darely Newman of Travels with Darley.
Several past and former Erie Canal history makers are represented on the mural including father and son Canal engineers, Jacob Leach and Augustus M. Leach, portrayed chatting on the bulkhead of Lock 56, also called Poorhouse Lock, on the Enlarged Erie Canal. Jacob Leach, a miller and distillery operator, was one of the first merchants in Lyons and instrumental in the construction of the first Erie Canal (Clinton’s Ditch) and the Enlarged Erie Canal. His son, Augustus, was educated at Geneva Academy (now Hobart College), and in the 1850s was hired by the corps of civil engineers and oversaw the enlarged section from Buffalo to Syracuse. Augustus “also invented and drafted plans for the drop gate for locks that were accepted by the state and have continued in use to the present time.” (Democrat and Chronicle,1901).
Other faces on the mural include a self-portrait of Cory Reynolds in addition to Erie Canal Historian, Cori Wilson, portrayed fishing on the Allyn Perry named after Allyn Perry who lives in the historic Poorhouse “Canal Store” beside the lock.
Mark De Cracker of Mural Mania said, “The mural is especially meaningful to me as former president of E.R.I.E. (Erie’s Restoration Interest Everyone). The Poorhouse Lock or Lock 56 was a center piece of this 501-c-3 restoration efforts during the 90’s. The mural honors those who helped our efforts for many years in this restoration. It also features mule drivers Richard Garrity and Glen Salisbury who traveled through this lock on many occasions with their families. I had the opportunity to reunite these childhood friends in 1990 after 70 years. Glen sent me a card in 1991 and wrote, “To dedicate a painting to Mr. Garrity and myself is a great honor and it will be cherished forever.”
Painting sponsors include great-grandmother Mary Ann (McDowell) Avazian, a descendant of the Leach engineers and former Lyon’s resident. Avazian was recently featured completing a one-mile Canalway Challenge in her wheelchair. Her daughter, Lisa Saunders, one of several volunteer mural painters, is currently walking the 360-mile Canalway Challenge with husband Jim Saunders to raise awareness of how to prevent the leading viral cause of birth defects, congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV). A bill named “Elizabeth’s Law” in memory of their daughter, was passed by the NY Senate in 2021.
Construction of Lock 56 began in 1842 and was completed in 1849. The ruins of Lock 56 can be found off Dry Dock Road behind the old red brick building that once served as a grocery store for canallers. This is about a ½ mile west of present-day Lock 28-A in Lyons.