The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

dreamless sleep

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another of the so called “Black Arts” of the 19th century, sugar refining was one of the great industries which distinguished New York City and its neighboring municipalities.

The sole survivor of this once omnipresent occupation is found in Yonkers. Raw sugar is barged to this facility for processing, which makes it a neat item to highlight for “Maritime Sunday” here at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Yonkers is the fourth most populous city in the state of New York (behind New York City, Buffalo and Rochester), and the most populous city in Westchester County, with a population of 195,976 (according to the 2010 Census). Yonkers borders the New York City borough of The Bronx and is 2 miles (3 km) north of Manhattan at the cities’ closest points.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots were captured in the November, while onboard a Riverkeeper vessel which was performing a regular survey of the downstate waterways, and the good folks at that estimable organization were gracious enough to let a humble narrator ride along.

The Sugar Refinery in Yonkers is relict, a late 19th century mill which is still engaged in its trade.

from wikipedia

The raw sugar is stored in large warehouses and then transported into the sugar refinery by means of transport belts. In the traditional refining process, the raw sugar is first mixed with heavy syrup and centrifuged to wash away the outer coating of the raw sugar crystals, which is less pure than the crystal interior. Many sugar refineries today buy high pol sugar and can do without the affination process.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

American Sugar Refining operates this factory, engaging in what seems to be a quite hazardous industrial process.

It seems that sugar dust can be highly explosive, requiring equipment that is “spark proof” to safeguard against detonation.

Who knew?

from wikipedia

American Sugar Refining Company (ASR). The ASR was incorporated in the state of New Jersey on January 10, 1891, with $50 million in capital. By 1907, it owned or controlled 98% of the sugar processing capacity in the United States and was known as the Sugar Trust. The United States Supreme Court declared in United States v. E. C. Knight Company that its purchase of the stock of competitors was not a combination in restraint of trade. By 1901, the company had $90 million in capital. The company became known as Domino Sugar in 1900.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug Heron was present, tending to a barge labeled “Sugar Express”. Heron is middle aged, like myself, and has gone by several different aliases during its long career- unlike myself.

A surprising observation for me was that the raw product was being unloaded from the barge in the same manner that one would unload rock or gravel.


Built in 1968, by McDermott Shipyard of Morgan City, Louisiana (hull #151) as the tug Progreso .

In 1972, the tug was acquired by Dixie Carriers where she was renamed as the Dixie Progress .

In 2002, she was acquired by Allied Transportation of Norfolk, Virginia where she was renamed as the Heron.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The industrial process of sugar refining uses powerful acids to purify and process the sweet stuff, and in 2005 the plant came under the scrutiny of regulators when it was revealed that they had released a large quantity of powerful acid into the water.

As with everything else in our world, it seems that nature must pay a price for our desires, even when it’s just a teaspoon of sugar to help the medicine go down.


In January 2005, American Sugar Refining Inc., a company that produces sugar for Domino Sugar and located on the Saw Mill River, pled guilty to a criminal pollution charge for spilling hydrochloric acid into the Hudson River in Yonkers in 2003.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm

One Response

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  1. great series. excellent fotos of tug heron.


    February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm

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