Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1874 in Hudson

With O&G gravel trucks rattling through the streets, an application before the Greenport Planning Board to use the old rail bed from the quarry to Route 9G as a haul road, and a draft LWRP for Hudson purporting that "the City supports" using the old rail bed through the South Bay as the continuation of that road, 2010 in Hudson seems like 1874 all over again. In that year, two plans for getting wagons carrying heavy loads of stone off Hudson's streets were proposed. The streets affected were then Union, West Court, and Allen.

At the end of January 1874, an application for one of these plans, John Berridge's "horse railroad," was presented to the Common Council. At the same time, a bill supporting the project was introduced in the New York State Senate. Here's what the Hudson Gazette had to say about the horse railroad on February 12, a week after it won approval from the chair of the Senate Committee on Railroads. The article leaves no doubt about the position of the Gazette in this matter.
"The Question Before the Legislature, Before the Common Council, and Before the People--Last week Mr. Selkreg, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Railroads, reported a bill encouraging and facilitating the construction of a railroad from the town of Greenport, Columbia county, to the Hudson River. This is a measure with which our citizens are or should be familiar, and it is surprising that it should meet with opposition from any quarter. It is well known that there is a mine of undeveloped wealth concealed in the barren rocks of Becraft Mountain. A wealth which might be made to contribute to the benefit of our whole city. For nearly a quarter of a century Mr. John P. Berridge has labored diligently among those rocks, and yet the surface is barely scaled, but the value of the stone is appreciated abroad as well as at home. Even with the small facilities at his command and the disadvantages under which he has labored, he gives employment to a large force of workmen and distributes through our city not far from six hundred dollars every week, which benefits directly or indirectly, every branch of business.

"The lines of stone teams, which pass through our streets at all hours of the day, give an idea of the extent of his business, but with his present facilities the demand far exceeds the supply. We are told that for fluxing, no stone is superior, and that every iron furnace, which could obtain it, would use it. The demand is without limit and the deposit is inexhaustible.

"Many projects have been devised for a more easy and rapid transport of the stone from the quarry to tide water, all of which have been opposed by one class or another, and have been finally abandoned, to the great detriment not only of this branch of industry, but to our city generally. Mr. Berridge now proposes to construct a horse railroad from his quarry to Green street, through Green to State street, and thence to the river. He selects this route because the track would not interfere with the business portion of the city, and would benefit rather than injure the streets through which it passed. Those who have observed street railways in other cities, even through their busiest thoroughfares, will readily conceive that Mr. Berridge's hypothesis in this respect is correct.

"The proposition was laid before the Common Council at its last meeting, and referred to the Street Committee. What their action will be, we are not advised, but we trust it will be favorable. We hold that the construction of the proposed road would be of permanent benefit to the city in many respects.

"It would save the streets, which are now necessarily kept in wretched condition, not withstanding the large amount annually expended upon them, by reason of the heavy teams constantly passing over them. From this cause, Union, West Court and Allen streets are either beds of mud or clouds of dust almost throughout the year, presenting an appearance far from creditable to the city, and yet it is a necessary evil against which we have no right to complain.

"It would furnish an article of transportation, by water and rail, which would add greatly to our commercial importance.

"And finally, it would be of substantial benefit to the property along the line of the proposed road, in the improved condition of the streets through which it passed.

"But every enterprise must expect to encounter factious opposition. It always has been so everywhere, whether the project be great or little, and the 'Greenport and Hudson Horse Railroad' is by no means an exception. Determined perseverance, however, will overcome all this, and when the road is in operation its practical benefits will be so apparent that those who now most strongly oppose it will be the first to acknowledge its public value. Such has been the history of all similar schemes. Let the legislature promptly pass the bill now before it. Let the Street Committee of the Common Council report favorably on the matter referred to them and the work will be half accomplished."
The residents of Green Street--a tree-lined residential street that was suburbia in the latter part of the nineteenth-century--petitioned the Common Council to stop the horse railroad, and at its February meeting the Council rejected the application.

At its March meeting, the Council approved the second plan: Fred W. Jones's proposal for his "mountain railroad" from the quarry to the river through the South Bay. The groundbreaking for Jones's railroad took place on May 5, 1874, but it would be another fifteen years before the railroad was complete.

1 comment:

  1. "The Panic of 1873 or Depression of 1873 marked a severe international economic depression in Europe and United States that lasted until 1879, and even longer in some countries. It began with financial failures in Vienna ... that spread to most of Europe and overextended American banking in late 1873. ...

    "The American Civil War was followed by a boom in railroad construction. Fifty-six thousand miles (90,123 km) of new track was laid across the country between 1866 and 1873. Much of the craze in railroad investment was driven by government land grants and subsidies to the railroads. At that time, the railroad industry was the nation's largest employer outside of agriculture, and it involved large amounts of money and risk. A large infusion of cash from speculators caused abnormal growth in the industry as well as overbuilding of docks, factories and ancillary facilities. At the same time, too much capital was involved in projects offering no immediate or early returns. ..."