Thursday, April 25, 2013

Legal Committee Takes Up the Issue of Standard Oil

At the Common Council Legal Committee meeting on Wednesday night, the question of the location of Standard Oil was taken up again, with assistant city attorney Carl Whitbeck providing evidence that nothing ever existed on the Hudson waterfront west of the railroad tracks and south of the port. He began by displaying a colorized print of this image, which depicts the Hudson waterfront in 1824 from across the river.

Whitbeck talked about the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad built in 1838, the New York Central Railroad built in 1849, and mentioned Fred Jones's railroad through South Bay, begun in 1874 but not completed until 1889. He talked about the Hudson Gasification Works (located next to the building now known as the Dunn warehouse) and the cleanup undertaken there by Niagara Mohawk in the early years of the 21st century. He read aloud most of the passage reproduced below from Stephen B. Miller's book Historic Sketches of Hudson, published in 1862, and made the point that nowhere does Miller mention oil tanks.

When it was pointed out that all of the evidence predated the period (1888 to 1917 or 1918) when Standard Oil was believed to own the land, Whitbeck produced atlas maps from 1873 and 1888. Standard Oil appeared on neither one. Not surprising, since Standard Oil acquired the property sometime in 1888, and it is not likely that the buildings constructed there subsequent to the acquisition would be in place in time to be included in an 1888 map, but they do appear on the 1889 Sanborn map.

At some point, city attorney Cheryl Roberts questioned whether there were such things as oil tanks in 1888, and Whitbeck suggested that the use of oil hadn't started until 1885. Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who was in the audience, made the point that there was a tremendous demand for oil at the turn of the century, although it was utilized for different purposes than it is today. 

After the fact, Gossips discovered this timeline, which reveals that Standard Oil was organized in 1868, and was reminded of this little news article, shared on April 1, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for January 7, 1888.

During the discussion, the images from the Gossips post "Stalking Standard Oil" were brought up by members of the Legal Committeefirst by Alderman David Marston (First Ward) on his iPhone, then by Council president Don Moore on his iPad. Where, they wanted to know, was this cluster of industrial-looking structures that appears in two different photographs and is outlined on the 1889 Sanborn map?

"I'd like to know what those buildings are," said Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee. "We found a hole in [Crawford's] work, and they need to plug it." 

It was decided that Crawford & Associates should take the deed discovered by Timothy O'Connor and the historic pictures and "try to find out where exactly that parcel is."

As one more bit of evidence of the location of Standard Oil, Gossips offers this map, recently received, from 1932, which shows--on the riverfront, close to the border with Greenport, and directly across from the Hudson-Athens lighthouse--a two-story brick building whose footprint is remarkably like that of one of the structures outlined on the 1889 Sanborn map of the Standard Oil facility.



  1. Any educated American knows about the development and rise of the oil industry and when it took place. For God's sake, the John D. Rockefeller, who started Standard Oil, was from Palatine stock and was born into chaotic poverty in upstate NY.

    Any member of the NY Bar should be able to easily follow a chronology and bring to that chronology his or her knowledge of history.

    Roberts should know better, as should Whitbeck.

  2. It's almost unbelievable.

    First there was the heavy lifting of getting the attention of a group of aldermen (winning over one doesn't do it), and now there's THEIR heavy lifting of winning over our single, unelected "corporate counsel."

    Can it be made any plainer that the City of Hudson is in thrall to a quasi-despot named Cheryl Roberts?

    Why do any of our legislators first have to ask her to agree to ANYTHING? She must be returned to the level of our representatives' legal janitor, and be no more than that.

    Even better: how about no more of her services altogether.

    Someone must try to knock her off that all-powerful perch.

  3. Interesting; with Giffy as most likely to be a member of Riverloft LLC, which profited from the sale to Parachute. Hmm...Mighty tight Corporation, Hudson.
    1 Riparian

  4. It is important to remember that the "Corporate Counsel" works directly for the mayor, not the Common Council and therefore can't be fired by the Council. A question might therefore be addressed to the mayor: "why do you employ people who have been shown to mislead and lie to the Aldermen and the public?".

    1. These guys are selling inner city river access "down the river".