The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter V
Part III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


With the great growth of the trunkline railroads, most of which had terminals on the New Hersey shore, came the carfloat ligtherage system of freight transfer. All these various waterfront developments, which transformed the life of the harbor and added immense value to property, combined to produce the great shipping center known as the Port of New York Authority. The length of the waterfront is 578 miles, 131 miles of which are owned by the city. Over 100 of the city owned docks are used for wharfage purposes by the Dock Department, about 138 are leased by private interest, many of them railroads, and the remainder are occupied by other city departments, or held under permit. Waterfront developments, carried through by the Department of Docks since 1898, include the construction of seven recreation piers in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn; five piers, one 1,700 feet in length, known as the South Brooklyn Improvement; the Chelsea Pier Development of seven piers and two half piers, between West Fourteenth and Twenty-second Streets, on the Hudson River; the 1,00-foot pier development north of West Forty-fourth Street, on the Hudson: and the twelve-pier steamship freight terminal at Stapleton, Staten island. From the founding of the United States Government, in 1789, until 1918, Federal appropriations of $29,431.00 were made for the improvement and maintenance of the channels in New York Harbor. Since 1918 the United States Government has continued to make appropriations towards the completion of such of the projects as are still unfinished, but, in general, Federal appropriations have not been in due proportion to the traffic of the port.

There is a good deal of property in the Port Authority District owned directly by the United States Government. The most important of these are the Navy yard, Governor's Island, Bedloe's Island, Ellis Island and the various Federal buildings. The Unites States Navy Yard, called also the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is located at Wallabout Bay. It was established in 1801 and remains the chief naval station of the country. Its first dry dock was erected in 1851 and the "Maine," the first first-class battleship built in the American navy yard, was launched there in 1890. The yard contains ship-building shops, administrative offices and naval trophies. Governor's Island is the site of the headquarters of the Eastern division of the United States Army. Castle William, built in 1809-11, and used during the War of 1812, is now a military prison. Fort Jay, formerly called Fort Columbus, is used for administrative purposes. Bedloe's Island, called also Liberty Island, has a signal corps stationed on it. The star-shaped foundation of the Liberty statue was once a military post, Fort Wood. The Federal Government owns also the three islands joined by causeways which comprise Ellis Island. The site was purchased from the State in 1808, and was first used as magazine store-house. It became the landing station for immigrants in 1891, and the present buildings were erected in 1897. The Federal buildings of importance in Manhattan include the United State Custom House overlooking Bowling Green; the United States Sub-Treasury Building, the historic structure on Broad and Wall Streets; the United States Assay Office, in the east of the Sub-Treasury Building, reconstructed in 1819-21, as a remarkable building of nine stories, five of which are underground and occupied by vaults with a capacity of storing $20,000,000,000 worth of gold and silver bullion; the numerous postoffice buildings, the chief of which are in City Hall Park and on Eighth Avenue at Thirty-third Street; and the new Federal Reserve Bank Building on Nassau Street.

The transportation problem in New York is, from the nature of the case, a problem that never find a permanent solution. The development has to go on with the spread of the city, and the branches thrown out in recent decades have only kept it a leap or two ahead of the growth of the necessity. The ocean entrance to the city is one of the first things that have to be kept clear, and this has called for immense expenditure and great engineering skill. Vessels formerly left for the open sea by way of the Gedney and Main ship Channels, which, sweeping round Sandy Hook, described a horseshoe course. At low tide the depth of the water was thirty feet, ample for the vessels of the time. As the ocean liners grew in size the authorities in New York and Washington pooled their resources to deepen and widen the channel. A ditch 2,000 feet wide, 7 miles long, and 40 feet deep, at low tide, was cut in a straight line from the inner harbor to the ocean. Ambrose Channel shortens the distance from the ocean by five miles, expediting the handling of important mail by several hours. The work was competed in 1914 at a cost of $5,000,000. The building of the Panama Canal proved to be a considerable factor in easing the work of New York shipping. It shortened the route to the west coat of South America, to San Francisco, and the Far East by thousands of miles.

At the end of 1923 the commissioners of the Port authority reported to the governors of New York and New Jersey that, save for a few formalities, they were ready to proceed with the construction of two new tunnels, and a bridge across the North river, connecting Manhattan and New Jersey. The completion of such a work would, it is thought, do away with the ferry service and release new dock space, making Manhattan for all essential purposes a part of the American mainland All this work will tend to unify the congeries of subports and make New York one organized port. Railroad tunnels will end the separation of the port into two parts and the complicated floating movement of freight between the two sides of the harbor will stop, as has been noted. Such a project would do away with ice blockades and strike blockades. It has been said that the waters of New York Harbor are the most congested in the world, no small part of the congestion being due to the ferry passenger traffic. #3

The commissioner for Plant and Structures some time ago gave out suggestions for regulation of the water traffic, a provision forbidding any vessel to cross a ferry slip within 300 feet of the end of the racks and another productions instituting a patrol fleet such as the marine police have for the coast guard, but objection to policing the harbor shipping came from practically every interest in the bay. Some relief to the congestion is expected to come from the completion of the Spuyten Duyvil and Harlem river improvements in the summer of 1926. The development of a considerable area of waste land in and about Jamaica Bay is expected to provide a new arrangement of water, rail and truck connections through the elaboration of twenty miles of improved wharfage. In 1915 improvements were carried out at Jamaica Bay to admit large ocean liners. A project now in hand is the deepening of the Harlem Kills, a consequence of which would be that much of the East River traffic would be enabled to avoid the dangers of passing through Hell Gate, or be saved the trouble of making the long journey around Long Island. In march 1924, the old bed of Spuyten Duyvil Creek was offered to city of New York by the United States Government for $1, to use as an anchorage for the "Half Moon," the reproduction of Hendrick Hudson's ship, as a memorial to the great discoverer. The little vessel was anchored in a neglected cover neat Bear Mountains until it took part in celebrating the three hundred and fifteenth anniversary of Hudson's landing at Spuyten Duyvil Inlet, September 27, 1609, after which it departed for its final resting place at Cohoes, Hudson's most northerly port of call.

The Merchant Marine--New York has in recent years also played a considerable part in the effort to put the American flag again conspicuously in the Atlantic traffic. The International Mercantile Marine went into operation in 1920 as a contribution to rate control and economic management. A great effort was made to make the consolidation cover as much of the shipping of the great shipping as was possible, but the Cunard Line successfully resisted the merger and continued to go forward on its independent course. The United States Shipping Board was created by Congress in 1916 for the purpose of developing an effective American merchant marine and for regulating foreign and domestic shipping. During the year that followed the Shipping Board established the Emergency Fleet Corporation which, the executive order of President Wilson, was granted power to construct, purchase, and requisition vessels. Edward H. Hurley became chairman of the shipping Board in 1917. On July 1, 1919, the Shipping board was operating 178 shipyards, with 260,315 employees, not including the yards building naval vessels or small craft. There were then under construction a total of 2,506 vessels, each of 500 gross tons or more, in all more than 8,000,000 gross tons. In its shipbuilding program the board kept in mind the needs of the commercial future as well as the needs of the war period. Of the various types of vessels contracted for almost all were designed as cargo carriers. It aimed to have at least fifty per cent of American foreign commerce carried in American vessels.

Following the war questions arose respecting the disposition of the merchant marine that ha been so speedily got together. Plans were elaborated by the United States shipping Board to keep the emergency Fleet employed, but difficulties appeared in the way. Alternative measure were recommended by different people. After the armistice it was proposed that when the emergency fleet had accomplished the return of the American soldiers, equipment had supplies, the last efficient of the ships would be scrapped and the remainder offered for sail to private interests at prevailing market prices for used ships. It was proposed, moreover, that the United States Consular Service should be reorganized as a future unit of the Department of commerce, to take over and operate the most efficient of the emergency fleet's unsold ships. It was thought also that the operating personnel of the ships and the augmented consular service would be able to utilize a very considerable percentage of the returning soldiers, whose experience during the war would help to fit them for the international service. It was thought that a government generated service would help to dispose of the Emergency Fleet without injury to the iterates of the merchant marine, and would develop a congregation of educated seamen and increase American foreign trade. It was considered also that the new ships would be of great help in cooperating with the army and with the air service in giving accurate prognostications of the weather. With this end in view it was proposed that the area of Atlantic lanes be charted and a sufficient number of observation stations be fixed by international agreement to maintain a constant meteorological index covering the whole Atlantic area and to broadcast this information for the benefit of all. It was part of this scheme that the various interested countries should undertake to maintain observation ships at these stations, the number and location to be allocated upon a pro-rata basis according to the commercial importance of the respective countries.

But apart from the interests of the American merchant marine the traffic in the port of New York has not fluctuated, has had not ups and downs, but has had a consistent growth. Moe than 200 ocean steamship companies and agencies operate to foreign ports from New York. Thirty-four steamship lines traffic with the West Indies and Central America, ninety-seven with northern and Western Europe, sixty-eight with Mediterranean seaports, eight with the east and west coasts of Africa, twenty-nine with Asiatic, Australian and New Zealand ports, apart from scores of detached steamers which carry merchandise between New York and the rest of the world. Something like sixty regular lines are operated in the coastwise and river trade. Six coastwise lines operate to South Atlantic and Mexican Gulf ports, fourteen to New England Ports, two barge lines carry freight to Philadelphia and Baltimore, and there are eight boat lines to points up the Hudson River. Two regular canal lines are also operated, via Albany and the New York State Barge Canal and points on the Great Lakes.

Noted companies engaged in the towing of canal boats on the Hudson included the Schuyler towing Company, of Albany; the Austin Towing Company, the Roman Company, and the Swift-Sure Towing company, of New York. At the basin at Coenties slip, on the East river, where the boats generally halted in New York, up-river tows are still made up. In the early days it took nearly a week for one of these tows to from sixty to eighty boats to make the trip down the river. the record on the size of towing fleets seems to be that of 108 barges pulled by the "Connecticut."

In the City Directory of 1796 six men are listed as pilots for the Sound, with twelve branch and nine deputy pilots to and from Sandy Hook. Today New York Harbor has 1254 pilots operating on the pilot boats for New York and New Jersey and for Sandy Hook. Instead of the schooners of earlier days, when the fleet of pilot boats numbered thirty and often cruised 700 miles off port, there are now two speedy steam pilot boats stationed near the Ambrose Lightship.

New York and the Railroads--New York, as the chief railroad terminal in the world, has seen some marvelous transformation in that field also in recent years. Today both the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central lines are in possession of terminal stations which people are willing to cross half the world to see. Already in 1883 it was proposed to bring the Pennsylvania's trains into New York over a North River bridge, but the project was abandoned at that time, and again in 1893. It was then apart of the plan to have other New Jersey railroads join in the undertaking and it was, no doubt, their backwardness that led the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to abandon the idea of joint ownership and proceed with the construction of a Hudson river tunnel. #4 At the St. Louis World's Fair, in 1904, an actual section of the proposed tunnel, showing both cross and longitudinal sections, fitted with standard equipment, formed an imposing exhibit in the Transportation Section and the many universally enthusiastic in their admiration of the Pennsylvania's enterprise. The franchise for the combined tunnels and terminal was granted by the city of New York on October 9, 1902. Work was begun on the tunnels June 10, 1903, and on the terminal station May 1, 1904. Control of the Long Island Railroad had been acquired in 1900 by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the new terminal facilities were redesigned to include Long Island traffic. Art 12:01 A. M. November 27, 1910, the first Pennsylvania Railroad train started on its journey westward from the new terminal. Only a short time before that a Long island train had been despatched on its eastbound journey and the great terminal was then declared officially open. During the thirty-five years that had elapsed since the Pennsylvania Railroad had leased the Untied Railroads of New jersey, its passengers had detrained at the Jersey City terminal and completed their journey to Manhattan by ferry. That discomfort was to be henceforth avoided not only by passengers booked to uptown points, but, through traffic arrangements with the McAdoo Hudson Tubes, passengers for downtown New York and Brooklyn could change at Manhattan Transfer and be carried comfortable to the Hudson Terminal at Cortlandt Street.

the New York Connecting Railroad was developed as a cooperative interest of the Pennsylvania and the New York, New Haven and Hartford lines, for the betterment of their joint service between New England and the South and West. It was, in fact, a modernized and highly efficient substitute for the "Steamer Maryland Route" originally established in 1876 for handling the heavy traffic in connection with the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. In this service the "Maryland" was used for carrying the trains from the rail terminal at Mott haven around through the East River and the Upper Bay to a landing convenient to the Pennsylvania tracks in Jersey City. Service via the hell Gate Bridge Route was inaugurated in the new Federal Express April 1, 1917, this being followed by the Colonial Express on April 30, 1917, and through trains to various Western points. With the construction of the hell Gate Bridge and its connecting rail lines to join the tracks of the New Haven Railroad with those of the Long Island Railroad, and through the latter, the Pennsylvania lines, the time schedule between points on the New Haven and Philadelphia has been reduced approximately one hour.

Bridges and Subways--In 1910 there were between Manhattan and Long Island four bridges. Three of these bridges led to Brooklyn and one to Long Island city: The New York and Brooklyn Suspended Bridge; the Williamsburg Bridge (1897-1903), also a suspension bridge; the Manhattan Bridge (1901-09), a wire cable suspension bridge; and the Queensboro Bridge (1901-09), a cantilever from Second Avenue, between Fifty-ninth and sixtieth Streets, Manhattan, to Long Island City, with sustaining towers on Blackwell's Island. All these bridges are crossed by electric cars The bridges to Brooklyn carry both surface cars and elevated trains. The Ward's Island Bridge of the New York Connecting Railways across the East River joins the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in The Bronx with the Astoria Section of the Long Island Railroad. Its piers, 2,00 feet apart, rise to a height of 240 feet. the steel arches which support the deck of the bridge over Hell Gate Channel, are the largest in the world. They rise 300 feet above the water and clearance for vessels at mean high tide is 140 feet. the Harlem river is also spanned by a number of bridges, including the handsome Washington Bridge, and High Bridge, the latter a stone structure which carries the old Croton Aqueduct at an elevation of more then 100 feet.

Tunnels and bridges are merely different means to the same ends. When in 1898 New York City absorbed Staten island and Long Island as far as Rockaway, the added area and population intensified the transit problem and the first subway contract was given out in 1900, the road being completed from City Hall to One Hundred and Forty-seventh Street in the autumn of 1904. It was during the period between 1900 and 1910 that the tunnels of the Pennsylvania Railroad were constructed under Manhattan Island and the Hudson and East Rivers. The McAdoo Tubes, which provided rapid transit to the many cities and communities in the Metropolitan District on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, were also completed and put into operation during these years. the question of connecting Manhattan with New Jersey by a bridge or tunnel has been much discussed for a number of years. As a result of the local traffic congestion since the war the plan for a vehicular tunnel was urged. Ferry congestion was a factor; another was the fact that valuable waterfront space needed for terminals for ocean and inland waterway shipments is occupied in handling the traffic of ferry boats, car float lighters and other craft used in transporting freight between New York and New Jersey. The New York State Bridge and tunnel commission favored the passage by congress of bills providing for such construction. The necessary legislation was passed in 1918, and work was begun in 1922. The first of the twin tubes was cut through in October, 1924, and it is expect the competed tunnel will be opened with a year or so. The enterprise has been named the Holland Tunnel as a memorial to its designing engineer, Clifford M. Holland, who died in 1924. An act of the New York State legislature of 1921 authorized also the building of a tunnel to Staten Island, designed for both freight and passengers. The Board of Estimate is contracting for this work, estimated to cost $60,000,000, without the cooperation of the Port Authority or Transit Commission, which have put forth the contention that it would connect for freight purposes only with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that that it is otherwise a misfit.

In 1870, or thereabouts, Manhattan's first passenger subway was secretly built under Broadway by the Beach Pneumatic Railway Company. #5 it was only 200 or 300 feet in length, extending between Murray Street and Park Place, but all the same it was a real subway with real tracks and a real car which traveled back and forth by compress air. This miniature subway was not, however, sufficiently impressive to convince the authorities that that method of transportation was the thing for New York City, and it fell into disuse, was closed up, and ultimately forgotten until the excavators for the present Broadway line unearthed the crypt in 1912, with its rusted track and rotten remains of the old car. It was then found out that the only practical use that had been made of the miniature subway was as a wine cellar. With the evidence of the practicality of electric traction indicated by the successful operation of the Broadway surface cars, and the electrified sections of the various trunk line railroads, the promoters of subway transportation finally won their course in 1900 and construction was at once begun. The city of New York then built the first line, which was opened in October, 1904, by the Interboro Rapid Transit Company, from City Hall via Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, Forty-second Street and Broadway to One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street, a distance of 8.5 miles. The line became immediately popular and the city proceeded rapidly with the construction of additional subways. By august, 1908, the complete system as originally laid out was finished and there was then in operation 25.72 miles of subway and 6.16 miles of viaduct structures, for service in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Early in August, 1918, the so-called "H" system was opened. This consisted of the newly-constructed Lexington Avenue or East Side, trunk line, and the Seventh Avenue or West Side Line, with the Forty-second Street cross tie, between the Grand Central Station and Times Square, thereafter operated as a shuttle to permit passengers to exchange, west to east and vice-versa. The Queensboro line from the Grand Central Station via the East River Tunnel to Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, was opened in June, 1915, and extensions thereafter were made to it. These led to Hunters' Point Avenue; to Queensboro Plaza; Ditmars Avenue via Astoria Branch; and Alburtus Avenue on the Corona Branch. The Manhattan extension of this line, from the Grand Central Station to Sixth Avenue at Thirty-fourth Street, is at the present time in course of ding effected. The Seventh Avenue Line began by operating shuttle trains between Times Square and the Pennsylvania Terminal on June 3, 1917; and on July 1, 11918, trains began running regularly from Times Square to South Ferry and to Williams and Wall Street station via Park Place. The Clark Street tunnel service to Borough hall, Brooklyn, was opened in April, 1919. The Lexington Avenue Branch, from One Hundred and Forty-ninth Street, at Mott Avenue, to Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue, was opened June 2, 1917, and extended to Woodlawn, April 15, 1918. The Hunts; Point Avenue Extension was opened January 7, 1919, and the East One Hundred and Seventy-seventh Street, Westchester Square and Pelham Bay Park stations, May 30, October 24, and December 20, 1920. The West Farms Division of the White Plains Road Line began operations, first to Two Hundred and Nineteenth Street, on March 3, 1917, and then continued through to East two Hundred and Forty-first Streets, on December 13, 1920. In Brooklyn, the Interboro completed its Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue line first to Utica and Flatbush Avenue, in August, 1920, then to Junius Street, Pennsylvania Avenue and New Lots Avenue, the latter station being opened on October 16, 1922.

For many years the Brooklyn Rapid Transit cars operating over the surface and elevated lines on the Brooklyn Suspension Bridge met the demands of the traveling public, but as the Interboro communication extended, transfers at the bridge terminal became less acceptable. To meet the resultant demand the B. R. T. became the B. M. T. and contracts were entered into between the reorganized transit corporation and the city authorities for the operation of an extensive system of Manhattan subways. First, the Fourth Avenue and the Sea Beach lines commenced service between the City hall Terminal and Sixty-fourth Street in 1915, connection being made via these lines with the West End and Culver lines to Coney Island, in July, 1917, and in May, 1920, respectively. The Broadway line in Manhattan began service between Manhattan Bridge and Union Square, in September, 1917, and to Times Square, in January, 1918. In the latter month service was also opened from the Canal Street junction to Rector Street and continued onto Whitehall September 20, 1918. The northerly extension of this line was opened first to Fifty-seventh Street on July 10, 1919, and to Lexington Avenue on September 1, 1919. On August 1, 1920, B. M. T. service was opened through tunnels in Sixtieth Street, Manhattan, and Montague Street, Brooklyn, to Long Island City and south Brooklyn points. Progress is being made also in the underground extension of the Fourteenth Street-Eastern District Subway in Brooklyn. Already in Manhattan the stretch of elevated railway in Sixth Avenue, between Fifty-third and Fifty-ninth Street, has been removed, as well as the elevated spur in Forty-second Street, from Third Avenue to the Grand Central Station. viaducts have also been built for Dyckman Street, Riverside Drive and Broadway, at Two Hundred and Sixty-first Street, as well as a bridge over the Harlem.

Street Traffic--In recent years the taxicab and the private automobile have multiplied greatly in the streets of the city. The handsome cab twenty-five years ago was as much a necessity to the social whirl of New York as to that of Paris or London. they were almost as numerous, relatively, as the taxicab is today, some concerns owning over 100 of them; but their day has gone, and the only horse-drawn vehicle of the kind to be seen in Fifth Avenue is a lonely victoria, with its calash top and elevated jarvey in front. The automobile made its appearance in the streets on the late nineties, and in course of time, instead of the 600 produced here in 1899, they are being turned out by the thousand. Nearly half a million people come into the shopping districts of the city every day in motor cars. In 1922 about 300,000 cars were registered in the city, divided as follows: Pleasure cars, 204,304; trucks, 63,997; trailers, 972; taxicabs, 16,844; dealers' cars, 1,655; and motorcycles, 7,709. At the present time the streets of New York are the busiest in the world. Trafalgar Square, in London, long held the record as the busiest corner, with 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles passing every day. There are many points in New York registering a vehicular traffic of from 40,000 to 50,000 a day. In 1910, when a census was taken, there were 128,175 horses counted with the city limits. The figures for 1920 showed a decrease in the number of over fifty-four per cent, as the total counted was but 58,485. In 1915 there were 71,906 automobiles licensed in the city of New York. In 1920 the number had increased to 215,782. In 1922 the records for August showed 295,478 motor vehicle licenses, issued by the Automobile Bureau. An important aid regulating the traffic in the city is the traffic tower, the crystallization of a new idea, which has recently been installed along the principal traffic routes. The first five in use were erected on Fifth Avenue by Dr. John A. Harris, special deputy police commissioner, at his own expense, and they were originally in the nature of an experiment. They proved their worth and have been permanently retained. The design of the new bronze towers is the work of Joseph H. Freedlander, who won the prize offered by the Fifth Avenue Association for a more ornamental structure than the original towers. #6

The people of New York ride and travel more every year apparently. The increasing number of passengers carried each year on subway, elevated and surface cars is greater than the increase in population would seem to warrant. The figures for years back show a steady increase in the number of rides per capita. In 1921 every man, woman and child in the city patronized the transit system at least once every nineteen hours during the year. Adding to the 147,173,484 railroad commuters during 1923 the total of local transit passengers carried in and out of the city by the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Company and the local ferry traffic, there was a net grand total of railroad and ferry commuters of 238,225,318.

Express and Delivery Business--Closely allied to the work of transportation is the express and delivery business, and in this field as in the others, New York provides the headquarters for the largest organizations. Adams' Express, the American Express Company, the Wells, Fargo & Company, the Southern Express Company, the American Railways Express Company, and the others have all head offices in New York. Most of these companies are old concerns, starting in a modest way, and going back to their beginnings half a century and more. The United States Express company retired from business in 1914, following the instruction of the Parcel Post System. In 1918 eight express companies with New York offices were doing interstate business in the United States--the Adams, American, Canadian, Great Northern, Southern, Well Fargo, and Western. The transportation expense of these companies was $98,583,724. The means transportation were express cars, horse-drawn express delivery wagons, monitor express trucks, and express company horses. In 1918 a new express company, known as the American Railways Express Company, was organized by the Adams, American , Southern and Wells Fargo Companies.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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