Enfield Canal

Along Connecticut River • Windsor Locks, CT • Hartford County

Historical Significance

The Enfield Canal was constructed from June 1827 to November 1829 under the supervision of Canvass White, engineer for the Connecticut River Company. Over four hundred Irish immigrant laborers, many with families, came to Windsor and Suffield, Connecticut to construct the canal. The work was done entirely by hand, using only pick and shovel, and the earth was carried off with wheelbarrows. The immigrant laborers were poorly paid. The arrival of the Irish canal workers marked the beginning of a substantial ethnic presence in Connecticut.

Photo: View southeast of machinery in the center of the Enfield Canal.

The canal was built to eliminate the main obstacle to traversing the Connecticut River; the falls at Enfield dropped a total of 30 feet. The Connecticut River in the 1820s was a major transportation facility for central New England. Merchants in Hartford, and other river ports did a substantial business exchanging dry goods and manufactures for agricultural and extractive products, such as tobacco and timber. The river also served industries in the Connecticut Valley, whose products were shipped downriver on barges.

For fifteen years the canal operated profitably, until the railroads became the dominant form of transportation. It was key to the commercial growth of the Connecticut Valley in the 19th century.

The Enfield Canal is still in use. As Connecticut's only extant canal, this property symbolizes the many social changes which occurred in the 1820s: the beginnings of the transportation revolution, commercial and industrial growth, technological innovation, and ethnic diversity.


"Enfield Canal," National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form


Designed to circumvent the Enfield Falls, the most serious obstacle to navigation in the Connecticut River, the Enfield Canal is 5.5 miles long and runs generally parallel to the western bank of the river in the towns of Suffield and Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

Additional Information

Date(s):  1827-1829

Exterior visible from public road.

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