On July 22 and 26, Down by the River did Paddle through the Past Kayak Tours as a fundraiser for the Historic Amsterdam League . For those of you who weren't lucky enough to be there, here's the info you need to go on your very own Paddle through the Past.
Huge thank you for Dan Weaver, President of the Historic Amsterdam League and owner of The Book Hound, for all of the research he did to make this a success.
Here's an overview of some of the historic spots in Downtown Amsterdam:
Amsterdam's Early Bridges
River is a road if you are going in the same direction. Otherwise it's a barrier.
1st bridge across Mohawk. Little Falls 1790. 1st bridge in Montgomery Co. Palatine Bridge-Canajoharie 1803.
1st bridge in Amsterdam. Dec. 1, 1822. Toll bridge.
Counting partially reconstructed bridges, there were 8 different bridges on this site including one covered bridge.
Floods destroyed parts or all of the first 7 bridges.
1916 bridge was first bridge made of steel. New dams on river in 1917 helped protect it from floods. Demolished in 1973.
All bridges except Route 30 were built where MVGO is now.
North Chuctanunda Creek
The Mohawk River was very important in history. It provided the only “easy” access into the interior. However, the creek, not the river, is what first attracted settlers to Amsterdam.
Albert Vedder built 1st mill about 600' up creek, where falls and Kirk Douglas Park is.
Creek became an open sewer for the mills that lined both sides of it.
Industrialists created Galway Lake to ensure there was always enough water for industry.
Creek gave rise to industry. River, railroads, canals and major highways made it possible to get raw goods to factories and finished goods to market.
The Hampshire Pearl Button Company
Opened in 1898 in abandoned textile mill near mouth of Chuctanunda Creek.
Started by Harvey Chalmers and his son Arthur.
New factory on west side of creek in 1903. Buildings were connected over the stream.
Peak output 25,000 gross a year. (A gross is 12 dozen or 144.)
Buttons used on clothing made by Chalmers Knitting on South Side.
Buttons cut from river clam shells from Mississippi region.
Leftovers dumped in river. Can still be found at times.
1000 people employed at peak. Some worked from home.
Original Train Station
Amsterdam became one of the first American cities with regular rail service when the Utica & Schenectady RR reached it on Aug. 1, 1836.
Used to be four tracks going through Amsterdam with 27 trains stopping here each day.
Many famous trains came through including Lincoln's funeral train.
First passenger station built in 1867 at foot of Railroad Street on north side of tracks (about underneath the Route 30 bridge ramp.)
Second passenger depot built in 1899 on South Side of tracks a little farther east. (Riverlink Park.)
Torn down in 1970s and new depot built on west end of city.
Freight depot still in use by Terlecky Tire Company.
Route 30 bridge and site of Ferry Crossing
Only bridge ever constructed on this site.
Before bridges this is where the ferry crossed from one side to the other.
On the south side, a cemetery and houses were removed to bring Route 30 down to the bridge site.
On the north side, Kresges and the buildings on Railroad Street including the old Amsterdam Recorder building were removed to make way for bridge ramp.
Groundbreaking 1969. Bridge completed in 1973.
Official name—New Amsterdam Bridge.
Chuctanunda Gas Light Company
Used coal to produce gas that was transported to businesses and houses for lighting and heating.
Organized in 1860. Round brick gas producing buildings called retorts built in 1867. Often were referred to as “the gas house.”
In 1897 Stephen Sanford was president of the company. Other prominent Amsterdamians like John Kellogg served as officers of the company.
In 1909 the company had 40 employees.
Purchased by NY Power and Light in 1929 which became Niagara-Mohawk (now National Grid).
Plant demolished in the 1960s.
Making gas created pollutants.
Site had to undergo remediation to remove and reduce contaminants in soil before Riverlink Park was created.
Pioneer Broom Company
Started on Washington Street near where Riverlink Park is.
Eventually built six story factory at West Main and Pine.
Largest of several broom companies in the city.
1894 was peak year for NYS broom industry although manufacturing continued to the mid-1900s.
Site of Indian Rock Painting
Pictographs are images and designs made by painting on rocks or in caves by Native-Americans. Colorful plants and minerals were ground up and mixed with protein based liquids such as egg, blood, or urine to make different colors of paint. The pigments were applied using sticks, brushes, fingers or hands. Petroglyphs were made by engraving, carving or scratching away the stone surfaces.
Painting disappeared in 1800s.
The Painted Rocks sculpture in Riverlink Park is a replica of artist Rufus Grider's drawings of them.
Grider's painting were based on interviews with people who remembered the rocks.
Can't be certain the original pictograph looked like this.
Site partially submerged now. Can be seen when the dams are up and river is low.
Davey Island and Broom Corn Agriculture
Broom corn grown on islands and river flats.
Broomcorn is a type of sorghum used for making brooms and whiskbrooms. It differs from other sorghums in that it produces heads with fibrous seed branches that may be as much as 36 in. long.
150-350 brooms per acre of broom corn.
Ben Franklin credited with introducing it in the US.
Amsterdam, with 9 broom companies, was #1 in producing brooms in the nation in early 1900s.
Oil Pumping Terminal
Used to be large round oil tanks on South Side.
Pipe came out to the concrete pier just below Route 30 Bridge.
Oil barges hooked up to pipe and oil was pumped to the tanks.
Before bridges, people crossed the river in ferries, canoes, etc or they forded the river in a shallow spot. In the Winter, they often walked across the ice (dangerous).
Nathan Stanton owned land on the South Side that had been Sir William Johnson's first trading post.
During the American Revolution, Major John Ross & Walter Butler crossed here with 700 Tories Indians and British October 24, 1781 during last great raid in county, after burning farms in the Town of Florida.
This was the farthest east the raiders came. After crossing the river here, they went onto Johnstown where they were met by Colonel Marinus Willett and his men and defeated in the Battle of Johnstown.
Chalmers Knitting Mill
Constructed in 1913 by David W. Chalmers.
Expanded in 1916.
The only large mill on the South Side.
Generated its own power in the early days.
Men wore one piece long underwear back in the old days which were called union suits. These were very uncomfortable especially in the summer. Chalmers' first innovation was Porosknit, a woven fabric which "let the body breathe". Chalmers' also separated the union suit into two pieces—top and bottom.
Closed in the late 50s. Other industries used the building including the last which was called Montco. Went out of business in the late 70s or early 80s.
Plans to turn it into high end apartments failed.
On the National Register of Historic Places.
Demolished in 2011.
South Side Floods and Flood Wall
Many floods including severe floods on the South Side in 1938 & 1955 leading to numerous lawsuits.
US Corps of Army Engineers built retaining wall along creek and river in 1962 to prevent further flooding. Also built a pumping station.
Flooding has not occurred since, except farther up the creek in 2011 where there is no wall.
The South Chuctanunda Creek
Outlet of Mariaville Lake.
Were some early mills up the creek near the city limits and in Town of Florida.
Not as useful as the North Chuctanunda to industry. Less water flow
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!