Posts Tagged ‘North River’

The city park built to hide a sewage plant

June 14, 2012

Okay, so massive smokestacks loom on top of a platform surrounded by lush trees and flowers.

But other than that, you might never know that Riverbank State Park, along the Hudson River in Harlem, masks an industrial secret.

The park’s expansive lawn, pools, and ball fields were built in the late 1980s on top of the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which handles 125 million gallons of sewage daily.

With so much waste flowing around the park, does it reek? Some residents complained of a rotten-egg odor when it opened in 1993, but the stench seems to have gone away.

Of course, there are other environmental risks—like fire. In 2011, a four-alarm blaze that started in the treatment plant sent 30-foot plumes of smoke into the air and forced park-goers to evacuate.

Aside from that, it’s a lovely, clean park with a fantastic view of the Hudson—one that’s worth the trip to 145th Street to see.

[Bottom photo: the park from New Jersey, via Wikipedia]

When the Hudson was called the “North River”

May 10, 2012

Some Native Americans called it “Mahicannittuck,” or “place of the Mohicans.” Dutch explorers first named it Mauritius, in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau.

But the river we know today as the Hudson is labeled the “North River” on maps and in books from the 17th through 19th centuries, and in some cases well into the 20th century.

So who gave it the “North River” name, and why did it fall out of favor and become the Hudson?

A 1909 guidebook to the Hudson Fulton Celebration, honoring the anniversaries of the achievements of Henry Hudson and Robert Fulton, has this to say:

“The English more often gave it the name of the ‘North River,’ and by that name it is frequently called now. But the popular sense of justice came to call it ‘Hudson’s River,’ and that finally settled down to the ‘Hudson River.'”

However, other sources say it was the Dutch who called it the North River (the Delaware being the South River).

The name stuck well past the colonial era and was used interchangeably with Hudson River.

 By the 1900s, North River fell by the wayside, and if you call it that today in general conversation, most people will have no idea what body of water you’re talking about.

The North River name survives on a few contemporary maps though, like the Hagstrom street map, above, published in the 1990s. And of course, it lives on in vintage postcards.

Women’s Day at the Fifth Street swimming baths

August 5, 2009

In the 1920s and 1930s, the city began building neighborhood swimming pools for kids (and adults) to cool off in on steamy summer days. 

But back in the 1870s, residents flocked to the pools’ precursors: “swimming baths.” One stood at Fifth Street and the East River; another at Bethune Street and the Hudson (then North) River.

This sketch, from the New York Public Library’s picture collection, depicts “women’s day” at the baths in 1876.


I couldn’t find an account of women’s day, but this June 2, 1884 New York Times article reveals what a boys’ day must have been like—and why women and girls wanted their own time to swim without the distraction of rowdy boys:

“Hundreds of young Neptunes, with grimy faces, stood in crowds at the gang-planks of the free swimming baths before five o’clock yesterday morning, when the various natatorial institutions were thrown open to remain for use until noon.

“[At the Fifth Street Baths] about 800 boys plunged into this bath yesterday morning perhaps a shade less grimy and sundry shades redder.”