Federal, state and local officials on hand for unveiling of new Eisenhower Visitor Center in Massena

Posted 5/13/24

MASSENA -- After two years of construction the new Eisenhower Visitor Center at the Eisenhower Lock is ready to open to the public.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Monday, May 13 with many …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Federal, state and local officials on hand for unveiling of new Eisenhower Visitor Center in Massena


MASSENA -- After two years of construction the new Eisenhower Visitor Center at the Eisenhower Lock is ready to open to the public.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Monday, May 13 with many federal, state, county and municipal officials in attendance.

Adam Tindall-Schlicht, Administrator of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS), along with Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) both addressed the attendees, which likely numbered over 200.

In his address, Tindall-Schlicht praised the efforts of the many parties involved in bringing the vision of a new visitor center to life, from the federal officials that assisted, to the contractors who completed the work, to the staff who will operate the center and lead tours.

"The creation of this visitor center is a testament to the strong bipartisan support it has received since inception," he said.

In particular, Tindall-Schlicht praised Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and former US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for their bipartisan efforts to fast track the project.

First proposed in 2018 by Sen. Schumer, the visitor center saw officials on site in 2022 to break ground. Just two years, the public will be able to witness what it has to offer.

"The vision and the care and the investments made by the Biden-Harris administration are truly historic. The new visitor center at Eisenhower Locke and the future of shipping on the Great Lakes Seaway is secure because of once in a generation leadership that is exemplified by you, ma'am," Tindall-Schlicht said in reference to Trottenberg.

Tindall-Schlicht touched on the momentous occasion, saying it marked a great day for the seaway on what was also the 70th anniversary of the Wiley Dondero Act, legislation that was signed into law by then President Dwight D. Eisenhower, paving the way for the creation of the seaway.

Exhibits will honor both former Senator Alexander Wiley and former Congressman George Dondero for their efforts to bring the seaway to life.

"After much planning and much expectation, we are immensely proud to offer you all of our visitors this spectacular new experience, which will feature more than 38 interactive exhibits that rival the best maritime museums in the country," Tindall-Schlicht said.

Visitors will also be able to view ships traversing the locks from two viewing decks, with indoor and outdoor opportunities when weather does not cooperate.

According to Tindall-Schlicht, the facility will stand as a "testament to the enduring impact that the Seaway has had on the Great Lakes maritime economy supporting complex courts in the United States and Canada."

While acknowledging the past, Tindall-Schlicht said the seaway also had a great impact on the Mohawk people as well. He said it is important that their history be acknowledged in such conversations about the seaway.

"The development of the Seaway, while a marvel of engineering and economic progress, came at a cost to the Mohawk and Akwesasne people who have long called this land home and had their ways of life undoubtedly impacted. So, as we go through the visitor center, and we reflect on this element of our history, we must be resolved that this new visitor center is a place to always understand and always to acknowledge our shared histories, recognizing that challenges are faced today by indigenous communities within the north country and around the world," Tindall-Schlicht said.

Tindall-Schlicht said it was his hope, and that of GLS, that the new visitor center would "remain an important and welcoming space in which all voices and perspectives are heard and celebrated."

While the Base St. Paul sat in the locks on the momentous day, Deputy Secretary Trottenberg called the event and the center a "home run."

Trottenberg praised the many parties involved while acknowledging the sacrifices made to not only create the seaway as we know it today but to also praise those whose efforts include revitalizing the visitor center.

"I had the privilege of sitting down with a couple of groups of you (seaway workers) this morning and just hearing about the amazing work you're doing, thank you all for your public service. The work you do to keep the seaways operations efficient and safe, it's second to none," she said.

Trottenberg, who was in attendance two years ago for the groundbreaking ceremony, said the facility was completed in "record time" and was a testament to what teamwork can achieve.

"I couldn't be more impressed. The visitor center is world class and you should be very proud. The many exhibits are very educational, but actually are also a lot of fun, with interactive exhibits for all ages," she said.

Trottenberg joked that despite attempting to pilot a ship through the locks with one exhibit, she would "be sticking to her day job."

"A lot of people who come up here to the beautiful North Country are going to want to visit and bring their kids along and I know Ross (Lee) and Ben (Dixon) will make sure that happens. This Eisenhower Visitor Center is going to educate visitors, I think about the vital role of the Seaway and the role it plays in supporting the communities and residents living along the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes region," she said.

Trottenberg said the seaway plays a vital role not just in the shipping of goods, but also in promoting tourism along the Great Lakes and seaway system.

According to Trottenberg, the seawall supported over 350,000 jobs on both the American and Canadian side of the system, generating over $50 billion in economic activity between both nations.

"The Visitor Center celebrates that strong bi-national operating partnership with Canada and has lots of wonderful history, including pictures and letters from Queen Elizabeth during the Second Inaugural visit. It provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the wonderful history of friendship and partnership between Canada and the U.S.," she said.

Trottenberg said the visitor center, which will benefit the entire region, will help bring more jobs and add to the "beautiful, unique destination" that is the north country.

"This is a beautiful facility that will benefit this region for generations to come," she concluded.

The visitor center will officially open to the public on May 14 at 9 a.m.

Regular hours of operation will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.