Haverstraw - A Brief History


   
 
 
From The Beginning - Early Settlers
 

In the early 1600’s,  while sailing his ship, the Half Moon, up and down the river that would eventually bear his name, Henry Hudson, was an early visitor to the Haverstraw area.   His ship was anchored in Haverstraw Bay after returning from points further north.

 

Then, in 1666, local Native Americans sold a track of land along the river to a New York merchant of Dutch origin.

 

It was then incorporated, some years later, to a village;   known as the Village of Warren, named after General Joseph Warren, who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill (outside of Boston, MA).

 

The name Warren was never popular and was eventually changed to Haverstraw in 1874.  The word Haverstraw is one of the oldest in the geography of North America.  It is derived from the Dutch language and means ‘oat straw’, descriptive of the waving straw of the river meadows.   It was originally pronounced ‘Haverstroo.”

 

The Dutch were the first to settle in Haverstraw.   These settlers were primarily farmers, raising fruits, vegetables, and grains.  Any surplus harvests were shipped down the river, some 25-30 miles, to be sold in the New York City Markets.


Building A Metropolis – Brickmaking

 

In 1771, Jacob Van Dyke began the brickmaking industry by making bricks by hand.  He discovered that the Hudson River shore, in this area, contained huge deposits of yellow and blue clay.  Immense clay beds along the Hudson’s shore and beneath the surface formed the raw materials needed for the industry to grow.

 

For it is here that the melting glaciers of the ice age bequeathed a fabulous deposit of rich clay in the quiet coves and bays of the Hudson River.

 

The brick industry grew immensely, and brickyards appeared along the Hudson River as far as the eye can see.   Schooners and barges on the Hudson River were used in the transportation of bricks to New York City.   A remarkable coincidence of geology, geography and economics occurred on the watery doorstep of what was to become the greatest city in the world, New York City. 

 

Here the imagination, skill, daring and backbreaking labor of many thousands of people combined raw clay and sand to make buildings that to this day, dot the Hudson Valley.  But, even on a larger scale, Haverstraw furnished building material that transformed the island of Manhattan, and surrounding areas, into the sprawling metropolis that it is today.

By the 1880’s there were over 40 brickyards in the Haverstraw area.   In a single year over 300 million bricks were being shipped out of Haverstraw Bay to the New York metropolitan market, which at the time was using more that one billion bricks annually.


Not Without A Cost – The Landslide

 

On January 8, 1906 the worst disaster, to date, to befall the vicinity occurred; a landslide.

The excavation of clay used in the manufacturing of bricks, pushed closer to the residential and business sections of the village.   The Earth finally gave way causing a landslide.  The destruction of many homes and the tragic loss of 19 lives was the end result.

 

Unfortunately, by the 1920’s, much of the clay deposits had been stripped from the area.

A combination of the Great Depression, competition and new building materials (concrete and steel were replacing bricks) brought Haverstraw’s brick making industry to a close. 

 

In 1941, when the last yard closed, (Rockland County Brick Company);   Haverstraw once the world’s leading center of brick production, said goodbye to an era.


Sixty years after the last yard closed, the Haverstraw Brick Museum opened.  Come visit the museum and relive the impressive, important history of this fascinating time in our history.   


The Malley brickyard in 1912 along the Haverstraw shoreline. A mixture of races and nationalities of hard-working men can be seen.