Along the Hudson River in New York City

Our historic journey fittingly begins at Desbrosses Street, for here, near the old River-front, extending from Desbrosses along Greenwich, stood the Revolutionary line of breastworks reaching south to the Grenadier Battery at Franklin Street. Below this were “Jersey,” “McDougall” and “Oyster” batteries and intervening earthworks to Port George, on the Battery, which stood on the site of old Fort Amsterdam, carrying us back to Knickerbocker memories of Peter Stuyvesant and Wowter Van Twiller. The view from the after-deck, before the steamer leaves the pier, gives scope for the imagination to re-picture the far-away primitive and heroic days of early New York.

Desbrosses Street Pier to Forty-Second Street

On leaving the lower landing a charming view is obtained of New York Harbor, the Narrows, Staten Island, the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty, and, in clear weather, far away to the South, the Highlands of Nevisink, the first land to greet the eye of the ocean voyager. As the steamer swings out into the stream the tourist is at once face to face with a rapidly changing panorama. Steamers arriving, with happy faces on their decks, from southern ports or distant lands; others with waving handkerchiefs bidding good-bye to friends on crowded docks; swift-shuttled ferry-boats, with hurrying passengers, supplying their homespun woof to the great warp of foreign or coastwise commerce; noisy tug-boats, somber as dray horses, drawing long lines of canal boats, or proud in the convoy of some Atlantic greyhound that has not yet slipped its leash; dignified “Men of War” at anchor, flying the flags of many nations, happy excursion boats en route to sea-side resorts, scows, picturesque in their very clumsiness and uncouthness—all unite in a living kaleidoscope of beauty.

Historic River Front

Across the river on the Jersey Shore are seen extensive docks of great railways, with elevators and stations that seem like “knotted ends” of vast railway lines, lest they might forsooth, untwist and become irrecoverably tangled in approaching the Metropolis. Prominent among these are the Pennsylvania Railroad for the South and West; the Erie Railway, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, and to the North above Hoboken the West Shore, serving also as starting point for the New York, Ontario and Western. Again the eye returns to the crowded wharves and warehouses of New York, reaching from Castle Garden beyond 30th Street, with forest-like masts and funnels of ocean steamships, and then to prominent buildings mounting higher and higher year by year along the city horizon, marking the course of Broadway from the Battery, literally fulfilling the humor of Knickerbocker in not leaving space for a breath of air for the top of old Trinity Church spire.

Stevens’ Castle

About midway between Desbrosses Street and 42d Street Pier will be seen on the Jersey Shore a wooded point with sightly building, known as Stevens’ Castle, home of the late Commodore Stevens, founder of the Stevens Institute of Technology. Above this are the Elysian Fields, near the river bank, known in early days as a quiet resort but now greatly changed in the character of its visitors. On the left will also be seen the dome and tower of St. Michael’s Monastery, and above this Union Hill.

The Trap Rock Ridge, which begins to show itself above the Elysian Fields, increases gradually in height to the brow of the Palisades. West of Bergen Heights and Union Hill flows the Hackensack River parallel to the Hudson, and at this point only about two miles distant.

Forty-Second Street to One Hundred and Twenty-Ninth

The 42d Street Pier is now at hand, convenient of access to travelers, as the 42d Street car line crosses Manhattan intersecting every “up and down” surface, subway or elevated road in the City, as does also the Grand, Vestry and Desbrosses Street at the lower landing. While passengers are coming aboard we take pleasure in quoting the following from Baedeker’s Guide to the United States: “The Photo-Panorama of the Hudson, published by the Bryant Union Publishing Co., New York City (price 50 cents), shows both sides of the river from New York to Albany, accurately represented from 800 consecutive photographs. This new and complete object-guide will be of service to the tourist, and can be had at the steamers’ news stands, head of grand stairway, or it will be sent by publishers, postpaid, on receipt of price.”

Weehawken, Hamilton and Burr

Weehawken with its sad story of the duel between Hamilton and Burr is soon seen upon the west bank. A monument once marked the spot, erected by the St. Andrews Society of New York City on the ledge of rock where Hamilton fell early in the morning of the eleventh of July, 1804. The quarrel between this great statesman and his malignant rival was, perhaps, more personal than political. It is said that Hamilton, in accordance with the old-time code of honor, accepted the challenge, but fired into the air, while Burr with fiendish cruelty took deliberate revenge. Burr was never forgiven by the citizens of New York and from that hour walked its streets shunned and despised. Among the many poetic tributes penned at the time to the memory of Hamilton, perhaps the best was by a poet whose name is now scarcely remembered, Mr. Robert C. Sands. A fine picture of Hamilton will be found in the New York Chamber of Commerce where the writer was recently shown the following concise paragraph from Talleyrand: “The three greatest men of my time, in my opinion, were Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles James Fox and Alexander Hamilton and the greatest of the three was Hamilton.”

The plain marble slab which stood in the face of the monument is still preserved by a member of the King family. It is thirty-six inches long by twenty-six and a half inches wide and bears the following inscription: “As an expression of their affectionate regard to his Memory and their deep regret for his loss, the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York have erected this Monument.”

Quite a history attaches to this stone (graphically condensed by an old gardener of the King estate): “It stood in the face of the monument for sixteen years, and was read by thousands, but by 1820 the pillar had become an eyesore to the enlightened public sentiment of the age, and an agitation was begun in the public prints for its removal. It was not, however, organized effort, but the order of one man, that at length demolished the pillar. This man was Captain Deas, a peace-loving gentleman, strongly opposed to dueling and brawls, and on seeing a party approaching the grounds often interposed and sometimes succeeded in effecting a reconciliation. He became tired of seeing the pillar in his daily walks, and, in 1820, ordered his men to remove it and deposit the slab containing the inscription in one of the outbuildings of the estate. This was done. But a few months afterward the slab was stolen, and nothing more was heard of it until thirteen years later, when Mr. Hugh Maxwell, president of the St. Andrew’s Society, discovered it in a junk shop in New York. He at once purchased it and presented it to Mr. James G. King, who about this time came into possession of the Deas property, where it has since been carefully preserved.”

This mansion of Captain Deas afterward known as the “King House on the Cliff” was a stately residence where Washington Irving used to come and dream of his fair Manhattan across the river. It was also the head-quarters of Lafayette, after the battle of Brandywine.

The gardener also said: “the river road beneath us is cut directly through the spot. Originally it was simply a narrow and grassy shelf close up under the cliffs, six feet wide and eleven paces long. A great cedar tree stood at one end, and this sandbowlder, which we have also preserved, was at the other. It was about twenty feet above the river and was reached by a steep rocky path leading up from the Hudson, and, as there was then no road or path even along the base of the cliffs, it could be reached only by boats.” The first duel at Weehawken of which there is any record was in 1799, between Aaron Burr and John B. Church (Hamilton’s brother-in-law). The parties met and exchanged shots; neither was wounded. The seconds then induced Church to offer an apology and the affair terminated. The last duel was fought there September 28, 1845, and ended in a farce, the pistols being loaded with cork—a fitting termination to a relic of barbarism.

Riverside Drive and Park

Riverside Drive, on the east bank starting at 72d Street, is pronounced the finest residential avenue in the world. Distinguished among many noble residences is the home of Charles M. Schwab at 73d Street, which cost two million dollars; built on the New York Orphan Asylum plot for which he paid $860,000.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, 89th Street, a memorial to the citizens of New York, who took part in the Civil War, a beautiful work of art, circular in form, with Corinthian columns, erected by the city at a cost of a quarter of million of dollars was dedicated May 30, 1902. The corner-stone was laid in 1900 by President Roosevelt, at that time Governor. The location was well selected, and it presents one of the most attractive features of the river front.

Columbia University

Columbia University, on Morningside Heights, has a fine outlook, crowning a noble site worthy of the old college, whose sons have been to the fore since the days of the Revolution in promoting the glory of the state and the nation. President Low has happily styled “Morningside,” which extends from 116th to 120th Streets, “The Acropolis of the new world.” The Library Building which he erected to his father’s memory, is of Greek architecture and cost $1,500,000. It contains 300,000 volumes and is open night and day to the public. It also marks the battle ground and American victory of Harlem Heights in 1776.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Protestant Episcopal), now in process of erection, occupies three blocks from 110th Street to 113th between Morningside Park and Amsterdam Avenue. The corner stone was laid in 1892 to be completed about 1940 at a cost of $6,000,000. The crypt quarried out of the solid rock has been completed and services are held in it every Sunday. Near at hand will be seen the beautiful dome of St. Luke’s Hospital.

Grant’s Tomb

Grant’s Tomb, Riverside Drive and 123d Street, has the most commanding site of the Hudson River front of New York. The bluff rises 130 feet and still retains the name of Claremont. The apex of the memorial is 280 feet above the river. Ninety thousand people contributed to the “Grant Monument Association fund” which, with interest, aggregated $600,000. The corner stone was laid by President Harrison in 1892 and dedicated April 27, 1897, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Grant’s birth, with a great military, naval and civil parade. The occasion was marked by an address of President McKinley and an oration of Gen. Horace Porter, president of the Grant Monument Association.

An attempt to remove Grant’s body to Washington was made in Congress but overwhelmingly defeated. The speech by Congressman Amos Cummings in the House of Representatives, was a happy condensation of the facts. He fittingly said: “New York was General Grant’s chosen home. He tried many other places but finally settled there. A house was given to him here in Washington, but he abandoned it in the most marked manner to buy one for himself in New York. He was a familiar form upon her streets. He presided at her public meetings and at all times took an active interest in her local affairs. He was perfectly at home there and was charmed with its associations. It was the spot on earth chosen by himself as the most agreeable to him; he meant to live and die there. It was his home when he died. He closed his career without ever once expressing a wish to leave it, but always to remain in it.

“Men are usually buried at their homes. Washington was buried there; Lincoln was buried there; Garibaldi was buried there; Gambetta was buried there, and Ericsson was buried, not at the Capital of Sweden, but at his own home. Those who say that New York is backward in giving for any commendable thing either do not know her or they belie her. Wherever in the civilized world there has been disaster by fire or flood, or from earthquake or pestilence, she has been among the foremost in the field of givers and has remained there when others have departed. It is a shame to speak of her as parsimonious or as failing in any benevolent duty. Those who charge her with being dilatory should remember that haste is not always speed. It took more than a quarter of a century to erect Bunker Hill Monument; the ladies of Boston completed it. It took nearly half a century to erect a monument to George Washington in the City founded by him, named for him, and by his act made the Capital of the Nation; the Government completed it. New York has already shown that she will do far better than this.”

The Thirteen Elm Trees

The Thirteen Elm Trees, about ten or fifteen minutes’ walk from General Grant’s Tomb, were planted by Alexander Hamilton in his door-yard, a century ago, to commemorate the thirteen original States. This property was purchased by the late Hon. Orlando Potter, of New York, with the following touch of patriotic sentiment: “These famous trees are located in the northeast corner of One Hundred and Forty-third street and Convent Avenue; or, on lots fourteen and fifteen,” said the auctioneer to the crowd that gathered at the sale. “In order that the old property with the trees may be kept unbroken, should the purchaser desire, we will sell lots 8 to 21 inclusive in one batch! How much am I offered?” “One hundred thousand dollars,” quietly responded Mr. Potter. A ripple of excitement ran through the crowd, and the bid was quickly run up to $120,000 by speculators. “One hundred and twenty-five thousand,” said Mr. Potter. Then there were several thousand dollar bids, and the auctioneer said: “Do I hear one hundred and thirty?” Mr. Potter nodded. He nodded again at the “thirty-five” and “forty” and then some one raised him $250. “Five hundred,” remarked Mr. Potter, and the bidding was done. “Sold for $140,500!” cried the auctioneer. Mr. Potter smiled and drew his check for the amount. “I can’t say what I will do with the property,” said Mr. Potter. “You can rest assured, however, that the trees will not be cut down.”

Edgewater, opposite Grant’s Tomb on the west bank, lies between Undercliff on the north and Shadyside on the south. The latter place was made historic by Anthony Wayne’s capture of supplies for the American army in the summer of 1780 which formed the basis of a satirical poem by Major Andre, entitled “The Cow Chase.”

The steamer is now approaching 129th street, and we turn again with pride to the beautiful tomb of General Grant which fittingly marks one point of a great triangle of fame—the heroic struggle of the American soldiers in 1776, the home of Alexander Hamilton, and the burial place of the greatest soldier of the Civil War.


Bruce, Wallace. The Hudson; Three Centuries of History, Romance and Invention. New York: Bryant Union Company. 1907.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top