The Village of Haverstraw's History

150th ANNIVERSARY

A SALUTE TO THE VILLAGE OF HAVERSTRAW

 

Fast Facts:

*     The Town of Haverstraw was founded by Dutch settlers in 1666. The name is derived from the Dutch “haverstroo,” meaning “oat straw,” for oats that once grew in the area.

*      Haverstraw Bay is the widest point on the Hudson River, running 3 miles across and 6 miles lengthwise from Croton Point to Stony Point.

*     An important beacon was located on High Tor Mountain during the Revolutionary War, signaling the advancement of British ships up the Hudson River.

*      Benedict Arnold met with British Major John Andr? on the shores of Haverstraw to plan the capture of West Point in 1780.

*     The Village of Warren was incorporated in a 179-8 vote in the home of John Begg in 1854. Under an Act of the State Legislature, the name of the village was changed to “Haverstraw” in 1874.

*      Haverstraw was once the brickmaking capital of the world. Most late 19th-early 20th century buildings in New York City were built with Haverstraw brick, including the American Tract Society Building at 150 Nassau Street, completed in 1895 and designated a landmark in 1999.

*     Babe Ruth played baseball in Haverstraw on Sunday, August 22, 1920, during the filming of the movie Heading Home.

 

History

An abundance of straw and yellow and blue clay deposits led to Haverstraw’s becoming the “Brickmaking Capital of the World” from the 1850s until the last brickyard was closed in 1933 during the Depression. Cheap water transportation from Kiers’ Landing, the first dock built in Haverstraw (currently the site of trap rock facilities), to New York City aided the growth of the industry and much of NYC was built from Haverstraw brick. The brickyards extended from Short Clove in the South to the Stony Point Battlefield in the North, and 200’ offshore.

 The Village of Haverstraw was also a popular travel destination when the Hudson served as a main artery for travel in the early to mid 1800s. Three hotels (the United States Hotel, Eagle House and American House) were located at the foot of Main Street, where the post office and library now stand.

 In 1883, 41 brickyards produced over 300 million bricks per year. As many as 8,000 workers were employed locally at one time, with immigrants arriving from all over to work in the brickyards. (In June of 1919, the average pay of a brickyard laborer was $4 per day.)

In 1906, the over-excavated land gave way in a landslide that left in its wake a gaping hole from Allison to Jefferson Streets, taking an entire block of Division Street and two blocks of Rockland Street. Nineteen lives were lost and twenty-one homes destroyed. A plaque currently stands at the foot of Division Street marking the site (see location 29 on inside map).

 The brickmaking industry declined in the early 20th century as concrete and steel became the preferred building materials, but many of the original brick buildings still stand. Remnants of this once vital industry and reminders of a bygone era can be found at the Brick Museum, where the landslide of 1906 is immortalized in a mechanical diorama.

 The abandoned brickyards left clay excavation pits throughout the area which filled with rain and groundwater to form such watering holes as the Company Pond, once the clay bank of the Hudson River Brick Co. In 1951, Company Pond was closed off from the river and pumped out, and three concrete caissons - two of them 33 ft. deep and one 26 ft. deep - were built in place for the New York City Department of Marine and Aviation. Upon completion, the earthen wall was broken down and the caissons were floated downriver to New York City to become the foundations for Pier 57, which is now eligible for inclusion in the State Register of Historic Places. Later, the same technique was employed to construct footings for the Tappan Zee Bridge. Haverstraw Marina, the largest marina in the Northeast, now occupies the site. Bull Line (or Bowline, as it’s known today) Pond is also a former clay pit.

 The Village has undergone many other changes in its 150 years, and is currently experiencing another transformation. In 1999, Mayor Francis “Bud” Wassmer, Jr. instituted a “Façade Program” with help and funding from the Rockland County Office of Community Development to spark the Village’s revitalization. Numerous buildings have already received facelifts through the program, and many new businesses have moved in. Homeowners of restored homes on First Street received the Rockland County Executive’s Preservation Award in 2002.