The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

nemesis bearing

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

If only a tugboat was passing by…

The BW shot presented below was shot in 1921, and pictures the Phelps Dodge site which was still Nichols’ General Chemical at the time of the photo.

The color shot above was shot last Friday at Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint, standing on the concrete bulkhead of the long gone Penny Bridge.

- photo from The Newtown Creek industrial district of New York City By Merchants’ Association of New York. Industrial Bureau, 1921, courtesy Google Books

from queenslibrary.org

1901 On the plant grounds, General Chemical erected the tallest chimney in the United States to blow the smoke and gases from its furnace away from the neighborhood. For the past number of years neighbor surrounding the plant complained vociferously about the pollution from the factory. Only after a study found that nitric, muriatic, and sulphuric acids from the plant were destroying local cemeteries’ tombstones did the company try and alleviate the problem by building the chimney. This same year the company filed plans with the New York City’s Department of Buildings in Queens to build another 150 foot chimney, an ore breaker, a storage tank, a boiler house, and a stable.

1903 A fire, started in a building used to manufacture sulphite of copper, destroys this building and two others causing $250,000 worth of damage, to this date it was the most costly fire in Newtown.

1904 For $42,500 the company purchased from Alice H. Stebbins a major tract of land whose border was 200 feet on Locust Avenue (now 44th Street), 725 feet on River Avenue (47th Street if it extended to Newtown Creek), 825 feet on Clinton Avenue (now 56th Road), and 195 feet on Newtown Creek. That same year for $25,000 they purchased another tract from Alice H. Stebbins, Mary S. Dodge, Mary J. and William J. Schiefflin, and Eleanor J. Taft whose border was 828 feet on Clifton Avenue (46th Street if it extended to Newtown Creek), 200 feet on South Avenue (a street that was on the south side of the South Side Rail Road tracks), 755 feet on River Avenue (47th Street if it extended to Newtown Creek) and 195 feet on Newtown Creek.

1912 Another major fire occurred at the plant causing $100,000 worth of damage to a building 200 feet along Washington Avenue (now 43rd Street) and 200 feet along the Long Island Rail Road tracks.

1913 During this year the landscape of the neighborhood changed considerably with the removal of the streets, Washington, Clay, Hamilton, Fulton, Clifton, and River Avenues, on plant property between the railroad tracks and Newtown Creek. Also the railroad tracks were elevated and the remaining part of Washington Avenue was made a private road. This same year the company stated that they will be increasing their workforce from 1200 to 5000 people.1914 The plant received 150,000 tons of copper ore.

1916 The company received approval from the New York City Board of Estimates to build a boardwalk on the stretch of land on the north side of the railroad tracks, nicknamed “Death Avenue” for the many pedestrian fatalities involving trains.

1919 The company employees 1,750 people. Along with other companies along the creek they petition the city to close the streets that were not officially opened between the railroad tracks and Newtown Creek. The petition was denied by the city and the borough because it would eliminate miles of streets and cut off public access to the waterfront.

1920 Property is expanded when the company filled in some of Newtown Creek. That same year the company was expected to be tried for illegally building a freight shed on a portion of Creek Street (57th Avenue if it extended into the plant).

1920’s In exchange for stock in the company Phelps Dodge invested $3.5 million in Nichols Copper Company’s plant modernization projects. This increased the production of copper dramatically at the plant.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 7, 2011 at 1:25 am

One Response

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  1. [...] Chemical, from which the legendary Phelps Dodge Laurel Hill plant would someday sprout, would have been found along the Newtown Creek nearby the [...]


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