Hudson River
Hudson River

Hudson River History: A Rich Heritage

From a 500-acre estate to a rustic cabin in the woods,
from the Hudson River School to the American Revolution:
These are the events, people and places that make our Hudson River Heritage so rich.

The above print, "View from West Point" is from a steel engraving by W. H. Bartlett, c. 1850
(from the author's collection).
The background for this page is from bricks found in the Hudson River area of New York State
where hundreds of brick-making factories existed from the late 1700s into the 1940s. See the entire collection HERE.

The Perkins Effect

A History of Palisades Interstate Park
prepared by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission

Since its founding over a century ago, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission has depended on donations as well as public funds for financial support to meet its mission to promote and expand the preservation of natural, historical and cultural resources. These donations enable them to conserve and protect open space and wildlife habitats, improve facilities and enhance programs and services for visitors. Today, the need is greater than ever.

The Catskill Mountain House and The World Around

This new documentary tells the early history of the Catskill Mountains, the railroad and steamboat empires, the Hudson River School of Art and poetry and literature that helped create America's first vacation land. The film documents the rise of competing hotels like the massive Hotel Kaaterskill, the beautiful Laurel House, the Grand Hotel and Woodstock Overlook Mountain House. It features world-famous landmarks like Kaaterskill Falls, and Otis Elevated Railway.
Produced by Willow Mixed Media, a not for profit arts group specializing in arts projects and documentary production on topics of social interest. See also: Deep Water: The Building of the Catskill Water System

A History of Hudson River Towns
from the perspective of
the great Hudson River Brick Industry

(a work in progress)


Brockway (Beacon)



Danskammer Point

Dennings Point (Beacon)

Dutchess Junction (Beacon)

East Kingston (Whiskey Point)

Fishkill Landing (Beacon)


Kingston Point


New Paltz

Poughkeepsie (incl. Arlington)



Saugerties (Glasco)

Ulster County
"The Gentleman from Ulster," a history of the MAYONE Brick Co. in Athens and Glasco, NY

Verplanck (incl. Montrose and Crugers)

Hudson River Events, People and Places from A to Z

America's First River: Bill Moyers on the Hudson "It's quite a river, the Hudson, flowing from near the Canadian border down past New York harbor to the Atlantic... And it's quite a story we report in AMERICA'S FIRST RIVER, from the American Revolution to the epic battle between Jack Welch, former Chairman of General Electric, and people up and down the Hudson who fought him tooth and toenail over PCBs dumped in the river by GE."

Bannerman Castle
Bannerman Castle Trust "Pollepel: An Island Steeped in History"

Bannerman's Island Arsenal From the acclaimed Hudson Valley Ruins web site.

Boscobel The house was completed in 1808 for the States Dyckman family and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Federal architecture in the country.

Clermont Established in 1728, this 500 acre historic site is the former estate of Robert Livingston, Jr.

Thomas Cole National Historic Site Cole was a major player in the Hudson River School. Visit his home in Catskill, NY.

Croton Point Tales of life at "Interwasser" woven with world-famous wine, brickmaking and War of 1812 watermelons.

Danskammer Point Here was the Edward Armstrong mansion where a Cuban sugar broker, Juan Jacinto Jova, built a brickmaking empire.

Historic Hudson Valley Visit manors, mansions and a church in a network of historic sites in Sleepy Hollow Country.

Hudson River Chains to block the British at Ft. Washington, Ft. Montgomery and West Point.

Hudson River Heritage Committed to preserving the unique character of the Mid-Hudson Valley's historic architecture, rural landscapes and scenic viewsheds, HRH acts as steward for the Hudson River National Historic Landmark District, a 32-square-mile area stretching from Staatsburg, in Dutchess County to Clermont, in Columbia County. This area is rich with country estates, small hamlets, and breathtaking landscapes.

Tarrytown Light
Hudson River Lights Information, pictures and histories of all the Hudson River lighthouses. Includes some virtual tours.

A Hudson River Portfolio Prints, maps, photographs, guidebooks, histories and literature from the 19th century have been scanned and organized for the student, scholar and general audiences. Material is from the collections of the New York Public Library.

Thomas Cole
The Hudson River School: Views of Natural Wonder.

Hudson River School Art Trail Walk in the footsteps of Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, Sanford Gifford and other pioneering American artists, and see the landscapes that launched the Hudson River School of Art.

Hudson River Valley Heritage One of the best Hudson Valley history sites on the Web. Provides online access to historical materials such as atlases, newspapers and photos.

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area This is one of 49 Congressionally designated National Heritage Areas in the United States. The website promotes a network of designated Heritage Sites, classified by theme and amenities. Videos, blogs and other resources help all to "Explore the Heritage!"

Hudson Valley Ruins Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape. Includes the Hudson Valley Demolition Alert.

Olana Visit the estate of famed Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church.

The Century House Historical Society presents and preserves information about the Rosendale Cement industry, the D&H Canal & railroads and local history. Rosendale Natural Cement was used in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the wings of the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, Grand Central Terminal and the Croton Aqueduct.

Scenic Hudson: protecting the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley and the unique character of the Hudson River towns.

Slabsides Learn about the rustic cabin where John Burroughs wrote some of the essays that made him America's foremost nature writer of his time.

Stony Point: Read about the Battlefield and Lighthouse. This is a NY State Historic Site.

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt Read about his famous trip from the source of the Hudson (Lake Tear of the Clouds) to the White House.

Historic Hudson River Towns A consortium of riverfront municipalities (villages, towns and cities) that was formed in 1994 to work together on issues of common concern.

West Point Foundry The site was chosen as one of four federally-subsidized foundry sites by President Madison in 1812. The "Parrot Gun" was made here in the 1860s and shot farther and more accurately than any other weapon at the time. It is credited for helping the Union Army win the Civil War.

The Great Hudson River Brick Industry

At its height, the brick industry along the Hudson River comprised over 130 brick yards in the cities and towns of Croton, Verplanck, Crugers, George's Island, Peekskill, Haverstraw, West Haverstraw, Grassy Point, Garnerville, Stony Point, Tomkins Cove, Jones Point, Tappan, Thiells, Roseton, Newburgh, Beacon (Dennings Point), Cornwall, Dutchess Junction, Fishkill, Chelsea, Brockway, Kingston, East Kingston, Steep Rocks, Saugerties, Ulster Park, Malden, Athens, Glasco, Ulster Landing, Stockport, Catskill, Hudson, Coeymans, Schedack Landing, Stuyvesant and Mechanicsville in New York plus Hackensack and Little Ferry in New Jersey.

Catskill Brickyard
Ferrier & Golden and C.C. Abeel Brickyards, Catskill, NY
(From a drawing by L.R. Burleigh, Troy, NY 1889)

On the Eastern shore of the Hudson in Westchester County, one of the areas brickmaking took place was Croton-on-Hudson where William A. Underhill established a brick works in 1837. We have created a special page on this historic site with notes from Sarah Gibbs Underhill called "Tales From Croton Point."

Business was booming. The New York metropolitan area was experiencing a building craze. In 1923, the price of brick commanded $20 per 1000.

Richard VerValen, James Wood,
David Strickland

Brickmakers were confounded by the problems they encountered with the oftentimes irregular shape of the building blocks, which at that time were made almost entirely by hand. A few rudimentary tools had been introduced to help streamline production and in 1830, Nathaniel Adams of Newburgh and Cornwall, NY, invented a moulding machine. However this required human or animal labor to operate.

The real break-through came in 1852, when Richard VerValen developed his brickmaking machine. This connected to a steam-powered drive shaft called a "power-line."

VerValen Machine

VerValen, who knew the industry and had "an inventive mind," pondered the dilemma for a time, according to the late historian, author and area resident, Daniel deNoyelles, in his book, "Within These Gates."

Before VerValen invented his machine in 1852, the clay was forced into the moulds by hand, and therefore had to be rather soft - and when the bricks were dumped out of the moulds, many became misshapen. VerValen's machine made it possible to use stiffer clay. Quoting from deNoyelles:

"..the VerValen machine forced the raw clay into the moulds with a machined packer. The moulds held six brick paralleling each other. Under this newer method a stiffer clay could be used, which made a brick more square. The moulds were drawn by hand from a revolving sander where the iron oxide was added to the flour-like moulding sand. This dusted the insides of the moulds and allowed the soft brick to slip easily to the surface on the drying yards. Of course the filled mould were first 'struck off' by a two-handed knife about two feet long. This made the brick smooth on the exposed plane. This knife was called the moulder's strike'."

"The tempering of the mixture was effected back of the press by a steel shaft pinned with steel knives which extended into the raw clay, sand, and coal dust which had been conveyed above the press by a chain and bucket elevator."

"Red coloring was added to the outside of the newly-moulded brick by adding iron oxide to the moulding sand in the patent sander ca. 1885. Before that time, brick had been burned in their raw state, resulting in a light pink color with a yellowish tint at times. With the use of red ochre, as some oldtimers called it, the hard-burned brick had a deep red, and in some places, a rich purple hue."
Another machine was invented in 1874 to automatically 'sand' the moulds, so that it could keep up with the VerValen moulding machine.

A Closter, NJ native, VerValen lived in Rockland County, NY as a child. He then left for upstate New York before returning to Rockland (Haverstraw) in 1848, where he worked manufacturing stoves and plows in his foundry.

According to legend, it was in the middle of a Sunday church sermon that VerValen had a breakthrough and came up with the machine design. He patented his machine in 1852 and, its principles were "so workable and so novel to brickmaking" that they were used until a more advanced machine, incorporating some of his original ideas, was developed in the 1920s.

In 1828 brickmaker James Wood discovered that 'culm' - fine coal dust - added to the mixture reduced burning time for a kiln by one-half, from FOURTEEN DAYS to SEVEN. He patented it in 1836:

'Be it known that I, the said James Wood, have invented a new and useful improvement in the art of manufacturing bricks and tiles. The process is as follows: Take of common anthracite coal, unburnt, such quantity as will best suit the kind of clay to be made into brick or tile, and mix the same, when well pulverized, with the clay before [it] is moulded; that clay which requires the most burning will require the greatest proportion of coal-dust; the exact proportion, therefore, cannot be specified; but, in general, three fourths of a bushel of coal-dust to one thousand brick will be correct. Some clay may require one eighth more, and some not exceeding a half-bushel.

The benefits resulting from this composition are the saving of fuel, and the more general diffusion of heat through the kiln, by which the whole contents are more equally burned. If the heat is raised too high, the brick will swell, and be injured in their form. If the heat is too moderate, the coal- dust will be consumed before the desired effect is produced. Extremes are therefore to be avoided. I claim as my invention the using of fine anthracite coal, or coal-dust, with clay, for the purpose of making brick and tile as aforesaid, and for that only claim letters patent from the United States.


Dated 9th November, 1836.

Wood, an Englishman, came to Ossining, NY in 1814 but found little clay there so he leased a yard across the river (from Daniel deNoyelles) in Haverstraw and established his first brickyard in 1815. Later he invented a machine for tempering clay.

Strickland Patent

David J. Strickland of Cleveland, OH, the Bronx and Beacon, NY, patented numerous brick-making inventions. In 1911 he came out with Improved Brickmaking Machinery. In 1920 he created the Strickland Automatic Brick-making Machine. In 1925, a low-pressure steam brick dryer. Strickland is also credited with creating oven-sized brick and introducing the coloring of common brick in the New York market.


Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, things began to change. Cheaper European bricks flooded the market, and the focus shifted to lighter building materials such as glass, aluminum and steel. Veneers over poured concrete foundations were used instead of brick for building. The Great Depression sounded the industry's death knell, by 1933 the price for 1000 bricks fell from $20 to $9.50. World War II delivered the final blow.

When the last yard, Rockland Brick Co., dismantled its only remaining kiln shed in 1941, part of the shed was delivered to a World War II munitions plant for scrap.

Hudson River Bricks were the subject of a book,"The Great Hudson River Brick Industry" (Purple Mountain Press, 2003), by George V. Hutton, whose family owned a factory in Kingston, N.Y., from 1865 to 1980. To obtain this landmark book at a Special Price Click Here.

Another fine book "Within These Gates" (©1982) by Daniel deNoyelles is available at the Haverstraw Brick Museum. At the turn of the century, the deNoyelles Brickyard was a major player in the North Rockland brickmaking industry.

Sources Consulted:

"The Gentleman from Ulster" by Mike Mayone (whose great grandfather Joseph founded the MAYONE brickyard in Athens, NY)
"Haverstraw's place in history assured by machine," Suzan Clarke, The Journal News, March 28, 2003
"A Brief History of Rockland County," Thomas F. X. Casey, Rockland County Historian
"Brickmaking Along the Hudson River," Regina M. Haring
The Journal
Quotations from Daniel deNoyelles Within These Gates, ©1982
Photos from
Burleigh drawing from Library of Congress

Today In History!

from The Library of Congress


A compilation of resources on the history of New York's Hudson Valley and a unique history of Hudson River towns created by researching bricks found in the region.