Posts Tagged ‘Corona Ash Dump’

Emptying the ash barrels on a tenement block

April 23, 2018

It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. Sidewalks in late 19th century New York were lined with ash barrels—where people dumped the ashes from their furnaces as well as rotting food and household refuse. (And very sadly, infants too.)

Similar to the sanitation workers of today who empty trash cans into hulking vehicles, the ash men came by to empty the barrel’s filthy contents into a horse-drawn cart. The ashes would then be transferred to a dump—like Queens’ infamous “Valley of Ashes” in Corona.

Louis Maurer’s painting shows what the job was like. In “View of Forty-Third Street West of Ninth Avenue,” you can practically hear the roar of rowdy kids and the Ninth Avenue El screeching overhead.

This was Longacre Square in 1883, the center of the city’s horse and carriage trade—an area that earned the nickname “Thieves Lair” for its sketchy reputation.

The “valley of ashes” in a 1920s Queens dump

November 15, 2010

The copious amount of ash produced by coal-burning furnaces throughout the city had to go somewhere, and one dumping ground was in Corona, Queens.

Called the Corona Ash Dump and nicknamed Mount Corona, it received daily ash deposits, rising like a mountain along the Flushing River.

The dump must have been an incredible sight. F. Scott Fitzgerald apparently thought so; he used it as a symbol of industrial society’s decay and the waste produced by the rich in The Great Gatsby:

“This is the valley of ashes, a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”

Fitzgerald may have been surprised to learn of the fate of his Valley of Ashes; in the late 1930s, it was cleared away so the city could build Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, site of the 1939 World’s Fair.