On May 15, Seaway Canal officially opened in 1885 celebrated its 135th anniversary. It was built for shifting the main port of the country from Kronshtadt to the Gutuyevsky Island, where Sea Port of Saint-Petersburg JSC currently keeps the torch of Leningrad Commercial Seaport burning.
It was Peter the Great who first saw the need to build a canal. The French Ambassador wrote in 1724 that two thousand of soldiers were constructing a channel between Kronshtadt and Saint-Petersburg “so that the latter could welcome large ships”. However, Peter’s death postponed the idea implementation. Ships continued to call Revel and Narva for unloading and the cargo was then transported by the Baltic Railway to the hinterland. The proposals to move the port to the Gutuyevsky Island became more and more frequent with time.
By the middle of ХIХ, there were a number of projects on the transfer. For example, it was proposed to demolish the Novaya Gollandiya, to use the buildings of the University and the Academy of Science as storage facilities and to build huge pools at the asilyevsky Island for loading/unloading of vessels. There was also a project on construction of a railway overpass within the city area. Some were looking into building a dam at the place of today’s channel, up to Kronshtadt for construction of a railway line along it.
Many years of discussions and reviews resulted in approval of the Gutuyevsky project proposed by Nikolay Putilov, engineer and entrepreneur. His main idea was to integrate three trade routes: sea, river and railway ones. That plan was approved in 1874 by Alexander II with the construction commenced in 1877.
To build the channel, Putilov created a fleet of 59 units including steam vessels, flat-bottomed ships, self-propelled barges and ferries. With the assistance of six dredges, they could simultaneously lift, transship and transport over a thousand of cubic meters of material. About ten thousand of piles were driven into the bottom. The rows of piles were covered with boards and filled with crushed stone and soil. The surface slopes of the dam were covered with large cobblestones placed onto crushed stones.
The artificial channel across the bay provided a reliable link between the city and the World Ocean. The regulations of 1887 allowed ships with draft of up to 20.5 foot pass the channel while earlier Saint-Petersburg could not welcome vessels with draft exceeding 7-8 foot.
Thus, Saint-Petersburg turned into a key transport hub of the country linking sea and railway routes. A commemorative medal was issued to mark the event and an obelisk was erected at the edge of the dam between the Gutuyevsky pool and the Neva river.