National Geographic : 1948 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine Palisades. In this way it is hoped to preserve the scenic features, rather than detract from them, and to provide greater police protection, at the same time opening the park to many thousands of people. The Hudson River finally empties into New York Bay at the lower end of Manhattan Island. The short stretch near its mouth is known as the North River, an early Dutch designation to distinguish it from the Dela ware, or South River. The Port of New York The Port of New York is one of the largest in the world. It has eight major bays, 650 miles of water front, and 2,000 piers, wharves, and bulkheads serving vessels of many dif ferent nations. Before the war this port handled half the value of our foreign trade and nearly two-thirds of the passengers and mail entering and leaving this country (Plates II, III, and pages 8-9). It is true that the Hudson, as the chief cause of the greatness of the Port of New York, has in turn made the city great. But it has also prevented, partly because of its width and depth, the tracks of all but one of numerous railroads from entering the city from the New Jersey side, and those for pas sengers only. As a result, the movement of goods within the port, both for world-wide trade and to supply the vast city itself, is done by lighter age-that is, by tugboats, barges, lighters, car floats, and the like. A car float or a tugboat with barges in tow can tie up on either side of a pier, or berth alongside an ocean-going vessel at the pier, and still leave plenty of room in the broad Hudson. Thus the lower Hudson differs from any other port in the United States, if not in the world, in the great number of local harbor craft, several thousand in all, that daily ply its waters. The most picturesque of the local craft, however, are not the freight tows but the hundreds of ferryboats that shuttle passengers back and forth across the river. Stevens Institute of Technology, a leading engineering school, stands on Castle Point in Hoboken, directly across from lower Man hattan. It was founded by a son of John Stevens, brilliant inventor and pioneer of steam transportation. John Stevens bought Hoebuck, or Hoboken, in early days and, dissatisfied with the slow ness of rowboats and sailboats to Manhattan, built the first steam ferry in America, in Sep tember. 1811. Although he was thwarted by Robert Ful ton's Hudson River monopoly in his desire to operate a line of steamboats between New York and Albany, the rivalry between the two inventors resulted in great improvements. Some now taken for granted are thought to have originated in the fertile minds of either Fulton or Stevens. They include the double-end ferryboat, which obviates the necessity of turning about; and the floating bridge, which at each landing place is raised and lowered with the tide by means of weights and pulleys. To Colonel Stevens' second son, Robert Livingston Stevens, is credited the modern ferry slip. Modern Ferries Early ferries were owned and operated by individuals; today most are operated by the trunk-line railroads or the City of New York. The modern ferry is sturdy and powerful, to resist ice floes and occasional collisions. Although they pass one another hundreds of times a day, the ferries have only once in nearly 140 years so forgotten their dignity as to race. In 1909 two Hoboken boats took a day off and raced to Newburgh and back. Swift as modern ferries are, they are far too slow for many people, and thus tunnels under the river continue to increase. However, the ferries still carry enormous numbers of passengers. One company alone, in a comparatively recent year, handled more than 15,000,000 passengers; another conveyed 11,000,000. One of these companies operated 15 boats. From very earliest childhood I have crossed and recrossed the Hudson. The sharp tang of clean, salt air, a sudden dash of spray if one stands too close to the forward end, the loud clang of chains as the bridge is raised or lowered at the beginning and end of each trip, the screaming gulls, the plodding or scudding harbor craft, the vessels from every port, the gray men-of-war, an occasional glimpse of the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth, and the towering battlements of Manhattan-after many, many years such sights and sounds and smells still mean ro mance and adventure for me and for countless others.* * For related articles, see, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "New York-An Empire Within a Republic," by William Joseph Showalter, Novem ber, 1933; "This Giant That Is New York (City)," November, 1930, and "Spin Your Globe to Long Island," April, 1939, both by Frederick Simpich; "Shad in the Shadow of Skyscrapers." by Dudley B. Martin, March, 1947; and "Henry Hudson, Magnifi cent Failure," by Frederick G. Vosburgh, April, 1939.