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A major center for the industry was Haverstraw (in Rockland County, NY) located at the widest point on the river, where prime raw material in the rich, blue clay, and a skilled local workforce combined to make the area "the Brickmaking Capital of the World," as it had been called.

Haverstraw Yards
(postcard source: New City, NY Library)

Starting in 1771 the area along the river was used for brick making by Jacob Van Dyke from Holland. He made bricks by hand which were used for fireplaces and chimneys. In 1815 James Wood, an Englishman, came to Haverstraw and established his first brickyard.

The industry grew quickly. In about 1850, James Eckerson constructed one of the largest brick plants along the Hudson River in Haverstraw.

Rockland County Messenger, Thursday, June 28, 1855
from the Rockland County Messenger, June 28, 1855

In 1853 there was a yard operated by George S. Wood in Grassy Point (just north of Haverstraw). In 1855, a yard in Haverstraw was operated by Peck & Briggs. (Source: Rockland County Messenger, New City Library Archives)

Rockland County Messenger, Thursday, April 26, 1860
from the Rockland County Messenger, April 26, 1860

In 1863, a schooner (sailboat, wind-driven) named E. Washburn was launched - it carried 60,000 bricks, which was enough for a moderate-sized house. Steam-powered vessels took over about 1880.

Haverstraw Bay
Haverstraw's brickyards in the Spring of 1905
SOURCE: Daniel deNoyelles "Within These Gates"

By 1883 there were 41 brickyards and over a century of manufacturing. 148 brands were moulded in the vicinity. In North Rockland alone, the business employed some 2500 men in the brick plants, and 10,000 men, women and children were supported by the industry. In a single year 300,000,000 bricks were shipped out of the Haverstraw Bay area for the NY metropolitan markets, which at times were using over a billion bricks annually.

Haverstraw's Place in History Assured by Machine

THE JOURNAL NEWS (Original publication: March 28, 2003)
(used with permission from the publisher)

At the height of its prosperity, Haverstraw village was part of a bustling region regarded worldwide as a premier brickmaking area. Ten thousand people in the area depended upon the bay-area industry for their livelihood. Outsiders flocked to the village, which was a thriving metropolis for more than 100 years. Though Haverstraw dates back to 1712, it gained prominence when its brickyards began operating in the late 1700s Brickmakers were confounded by the problems they encountered in 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, but it wasn't until 1852, when Richard VerValen developed his brickmaking machine, that the industry exploded. "It had a tremendous impact because prior to that everything was done by hand," said Haverstraw Village Mayor Francis "Bud" Wassmer. "This really increased productivity substantially." 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." A Closter, N.J., native, VerValen had lived in Rockland as a child, then left for upstate New York before returning to Haverstraw in 1848, where he worked manufacturing stoves and plows in his foundry, the book said. According to legend, deNoyelles wrote, it was in the middle of a Sunday church sermon that VerValen had a breakthrough. VerValen patented his machine in 1852 and, deNoyelles said, 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. So successful was his machine that patent holders of other models sued VerValen, who was awarded the right to call himself the machine's originator after carefully explaining his principles. The cases against him were dropped, deNoyelles wrote.

"That machine allowed them to increase the production, oh, I don't know, 10-fold, 20-fold," said Tom Sullivan, a local history buff. Demand had been on the upswing since a terrible fire in 1835 in New York City's financial district destroyed 13 acres of buildings.The tremendous need for materials to rebuild and to accommodate the city's growing immigrant population gave impetus to the growth of the north Rockland brickmaking industry. The VerValen machine revolutionized the way bricks were made. Rather than have workers pour the clay into molds by hand, the machine automated the molding process, allowing a stiffer clay mixture to be used. The result was a more uniformly shaped brick. VerValen's invention so improved the brickmaking process that he quickly got 150 orders from operators in the area. Wassmer said the machine changed the face of the industry, and of the area. It set Haverstraw on a path of prosperity that would last for 75 years. "Haverstraw made brick before that, but what the machine did was give the brick companies the ability to make millions of brick instead of tens of thousands," he said. Business flourished, and at one point 42 yards operated in the area, turning out 148 brands and supporting about 2,500 employees and their families. Those bricks were used to build a variety of structures, including most of the New York City tenements.

The bay areas of Haverstraw, Grassy Point, Garnerville, Stony Point, Tomkins Cove and Jones Point, as well as Tappan and Thiells, all had their own brickyards. But about one-third of production in the area came from Haverstraw, Sullivan said. Haverstraw's location at the widest point on the river, with prime raw material in the rich, blue clay, and the talent in the industry combined to make the area the brickmaking capital of the world, as it had been called.

But things gradually changed and the industry declined. Careless excavation of Haverstraw's clay deposits so weakened the soil that it gave way on Jan. 8, 1906, killing 19 as it buried five streets and 21 buildings. Some charged greedy brickmakers with undermining the land and ignoring signs of its instability.

Then, 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 aluminum and steel. The Great Depression sounded the industry's death knell, and 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. But Wassmer said the village's rich heritage would play a part in its economic rebirth. Pointing to the fact that heritage tourism is on the rise in New York state, he said Haverstraw's legacy would attract visitors who, interested in its past, would contribute to its renaissance.

Joan Talamini, who recently visited the Haverstraw Brick Museum in the village, said it was important to preserve aspects of the past before they were completely lost. She noted that historic homes in the area had been razed to make way for newer residential and commercial developments, but said progress must not come at the price of losing touch with one's heritage. "We have lost all those things, and now people would like to have it back," she said. "We lost a great deal of history." For her, the museum remains a tangible link to the past, which she visits again and again.

For more information on the Innovators and Inventors, visit
Hudson River Brickmaking.

Malley Yard
The Malley Brickyard in 1912
(Source: Town of Haverstraw web site)

Brickyard Owners & Operators:

(Compiled from: History of Rockland County, J.B. Beers & Co., 1884;
Within These Gates, Daniel de Noyelles, 1982; "Some of the Yards," Haverstraw Brick Museum)
(maps from F.W. Beers Rockland Cty Atlas, 1891, David Rumsey Collection, Cartography Associates)

Haverstraw Map Coffer Dam
Note the Coffer Dam in the river opposite the Fowler and DeNoyelles yards.

From bottom of map to top (from South to North)...
 1    Daniel DeNoyelles  James Wood	      1830s
 			 Thomas Malley	      1921

 2    Daniel DeNoyelles  DeBaun & Campelle    1854
			 Christie & McCabe    1884
			 Hewey Christie	      1887-1896
		 	 Matthew Gormley      1903

 3    Daniel DeNoyelles  Mackey & Lillis      1854
			 John Shankey & Co.   1884
			 T. Shankey & 
			 S.L. Carlisle	      1887

 4    Daniel DeNoyelles  J.J McMahon & Co.    1884
			 Patrick Lynch        1887-1896
			 Lynch Brothers	      1903
			 Daniel DeNoyelles    1931
			 DeNoyelles & Carroll 1940-1941

 5    Denton, Fowler &	 Denton Fowler        1887-1896	
      Son		 Denton Fowler & Son  1903

Haverstraw Map South

From bottom of map to top (from South to North)...
 6    John Ferndon	    John Ferndon	  1854
      John Derbyshire	    John Derbyshire       1884
      Excelsior Brick Co    Excelsior Brick Co.   1896-1935

 7    J.P. Hunter	    J.P. Hunter	          1854
      Theodore Frederick    Theodore Frederick	  1876
      Gillies & Frederick(s)Gillies & Frederick   1884
      			    A. Donnelly & Son     1896
			    Nicholson & Reilly    1903
      Estate of Wm. Bennett Estate of Wm. Bennett 1910

 8    James Eckerson	    Fowler		  1854
			    Patrick Buckley	  1883	
			    Andrew Donnelly	  1887
			    Nickerson & Reilly	  1896
 9    James Eckerson        J.G. Eckerson	  1887
			    Matthew Gormley       1897
			    G.S. Sherwood, Renn	  1896
			    Nicholson & Son	  1903
			    Thos. Tanney and
		  	    E.N. Renn	 	  1910

10    Estate of M.A. Archer M.A. Archer		  1887
			    Phillip Goldrick	  1896
			    C.D.& G. Archer	  1910

11    J.E. Eckerson	    J.E. Eckerson	  1884
			    P. Goldrick		  1896
			    O'Brien & Lynch	  1910

12    Mrs. E. Snedeker	    Snedeker		  1854
			    Snedeker Bros.	  1884-1920

13    Estate of John Peck   Gordon& Theodore Peck 1896
			    Shankey & Morrison    1910
			    Edward N. Renn	  1920

14    Estate of John Peck   Peck & Briggs	  1854
			    T.G. Peck & Co.	  1884
		 	    Theodore J. Peck & Co 1898
			    G. Peck	          1910

15    Estate of M.A. Archer M.A. Archer		  1887
			    Archer Bros.	  1896
			    Edward N. Renn	  1903
			    C.D.& G. Archer	  1910-1930

16    George S. Allison     Brewster J. Allison	  1884-1910
      B.J. Allison
      Morrisey & Co. 	    Morrisey & Co.	  1920-1930s


Haverstraw Map North

From bottom of map to top (from South to North)...

17    Haverstraw Brick	    John Oldfield 	  1884
      & Clay                Brockway & Smith	  1884
			    Rowan & Scott	  1896
		       	    Garner Brick Co.	  1903
			    Garner Brick Works	  1920-1920s

18    George S. Allison	    Wood & Keenan	  1884
	 	   	    Allison & Wood	  1896-1910
			    J.J. Byrnes & Sons	  1921

19    George S. Allison     Wood & Allison	  1898
			    Keenan		  1884
      			    Allison & Wood 	  1896-1910

20    Mrs. E.G. Reid and    Diamond Brick Co.	  1884
      Haverstraw Brick 	    Cahill & Carroll	  1896
      &	Clay		    Morrissey & Co. 	  1910-1920s
      Hudson River Brick Co Hudson River Brick Co 1930

21    Mrs. E.G. Reid and    Diamond Brick Co.	  1884
      Haverstraw Brick 	    Washburn & Fowler	  1896-1903
      &	Clay		    Denton Fowler Jr & Co 1910-1920
      Hudson River Brick Co Hudson River Brick Co 1930

22    Mrs. E.G. Reid and    Diamond Brick Co.	  1884
      Haverstraw Brick 	    Sliney & Heidlinger	  1896
      &	Clay		    Frank Grimes, 
      Hudson River Brick Co Heidlinger & Rose	  1903
			    Terrence McGuire      1898
			    Brophy & Morrissey
			    John Lynch		  1910
			    Pat McGuire
			    Ramapo Brick Co.	  1921

23    Fowler & Washburn     Fowler & Co.	  1884
 			    Washburn-Worral &
			    Worral & Byrnes	  1898
			    Richard Crowley	  1887
			    Washburn Brothers	  1896
			    Lucian H. Washburn	  1903

24    Fowler & Washburn     Uriah F. Washburn	  1910

Haverstraw Map Grassy Point

From bottom of map to top (from South to North)...

25    D. Tomkins & Sons     Reilly & Clark	  1884-1905

26    D. Tomkins & Sons	    Reilly & Clark	  1890-1910

27    D. Tomkins & Sons     Thos. Reilly & Marks  1910

28    D. Tomkins & Sons     Tomkins Bros.	  1884
 			    Reilly & Rose	  1884-1903
			    Reilly & Marks 	  1910

29    D. Tomkins & Sons     Acme Brick Co.	  1896
			    Watson Tomkins

30    Washburn, Worrall
      & Palmer		    Carr & Smith  	  1884

31    Adam Lillburn	    Adam Lillburn	  1887
			    Thos. Malley	  1896

32    Haverstraw Clay 	    George Knapp	  1851-1885
      & Brick		    Felter Brothers	  1880
			    Patrick Brophy	  1886
			    Brophy Brothers	  1910

33    Haverstraw Clay	    Garret Allison	  1884
      & Brick		    Reilly & Farley	  1887
      			    Patrick Brophy	  1903

34    F. & J. Felter        James Morrissey	  1884-1905

35  			    Thos. Shankey & Son	  1903

36    Fowler & Washburn     Washburn & Fowler	  1884

37    Adam Lillburn	    Adam Lillburn	  1880
			    Ohler & Brennan	  1887
			    Freeman & McGuire	  
			    McGowan & McGovern	  1894
			    Hurley & Brophy	  1896

38    Adam Lillburn	    Adam Lillburn	  1880
			    Malley & Goldrick	  1884
     			    Johnson & Meyers	  1887
			    Clark & Goldrick
			    Frank L. Dunnigan	  1921

39    Adam Lillburn	    Malley & Goldrick	  1884

40    Mrs. R.C. Lillburn    Burns-Goldsmith-Barns 1876

41    David Munn	    David Munn		  1838
			    Tomas Doyle	 	  1849

Haverstraw Brickmaking
(postcard source: New City, NY Library)

Brick Manufacturers
in the Haverstraw District in 1910:

Source: "Within These Gates" by Daniel deNoyelles

Name of Company                           Number of Machines

B. J. Allison & Co., Haverstraw, NY ...................... 7

Wood & Allison, Haverstraw, NY ........................... 4

U. F. Washburn & Co., Haverstraw, NY .................... 11

L. H. Washburn, Haverstraw, NY ........................... 2

Washburn & Fowler, Haverstraw, NY ........................ 3

Garner Brick Works, Haverstraw, NY ....................... 6

Malley Brick Co., Haverstraw, NY ......................... 7

Excelsior Brick Co., Haverstraw, NY ...................... 7

DeNoyelles Brick Co., Haverstraw, NY .................... 13

Everett Fowler, Haverstraw, NY ........................... 4

D. Fowler Jr. & Co., Haverstraw, NY ...................... 5

Peck Brick Co., Haverstraw, NY ........................... 6

C. & G. A. Archer, Haverstraw, NY ........................ 2

T. McGuire & Son, Haverstraw, NY ......................... 4

Lynch Bros., Haverstraw, NY .............................. 4

Lynch & O'Brien, Haverstraw, NY .......................... 2

E. N. Renn & Co., Haverstraw, NY ......................... 4

J. Nicholson, Haverstraw, NY ............................. 2

James Byrnes, Haverstraw, NY ............................. 2

Dunnigan, Mrs. F. L., Haverstraw, NY ..................... 3

Bennett, Mrs. William & Sons, Haverstraw, N.Y. ........... 4

T. Shankey & Son, Haverstraw, NY ......................... 4

Snedeker Bros., Haverstraw, NY ........................... 2

Reilly & Tanney, Haverstraw, NY .......................... 2

Tanney & Coyne, Haverstraw, NY ........................... 2

T. Tanney, Haverstraw, NY ................................ 4

Morrissey & Co., Haverstraw, NY .......................... 5

Fowler & Son, Haverstraw, NY ............................. 6

Shankey & Morrissey, Haverstraw, NY ...................... 4

Archer Yard No. 2, Haverstraw, NY ........................ 4

Brophy & Morrissey, Haverstraw, NY ....................... 4

Riley & Rose, Haverstraw, NY ............................. 3

Riley & Marks, Haverstraw, NY ............................ 4

F. Brophy & Brother, Haverstraw, NY ...................... 3

Haverstraw Yards 1
Haverstraw Yards 2
(Source: Haverstraw Brick Museum)


On January 8th, 1906 a landslide occurred in Haverstraw, NY when clay beneath a 100 foot embankment slipped away. This was caused by the gradual weakening of the earth as the excavation of clay deposits moved in from the river toward residential areas.

Landslide, the Day After
It is believed these images were taken the next day after the landslide, and the men are searching for survivors/victims.
(PHOTO SOURCE: The Historical Society of Rockland County)

It started when a crack on Rockland Street widened and the earth gave way. Fires from the stoves that heated the homes and the kerosene lamps that lit them were knocked over, setting buildings ablaze. Fire hydrants froze in the cold temperatures, and several water mains broke, lowering the pressure and making firefighting ineffective. A snowstorm had coated building roofs, and experts said that prevented the entire village from burning. The landslide left a gaping pit about 150 feet deep which claimed five streets and two avenues from Allison to Jefferson, about a third of the village at that time. A total of 21 buildings were lost as well as the lives of 4 firefighters and 15 residents. Some charged greedy brickmakers with undermining the land and ignoring signs of its instability.

Compare an 1891 map with a recent satellite view to see the areas and streets that were lost.

Special to The New York Times.
January 9, 1906, Wednesday

22 DIE IN LANDSLIDE; MORE HOUSES IN PERIL; Haverstraw Residences and Occupants Engulfed in Great Pit. BRICKMAKERS WILL PROFIT Disaster Laid to Their Encroachments and $200,000 Worth of Clay Dumped on Their Property.

Read the full article HERE

From "THE PICTURESQUE HUDSON" by Clifton Johnson,
The MacMillan Company, New York, 1915:

At the edge of the Haverstraw shore, for fully two miles, there is an almost continuous row of rough, wide-spreading sheds used by the brickmakers, and from many of them the smoke was lazily rising. On their landward side the clay sediment, which had been deposited in this nook in the bygone time when the stream was wider and deeper than now, has been removed leaving a vast hollow. The workers even build coffer dams out into the river to rescue the valuable brick clay. Much more than half of all the brick made along the whole course of the river comes from here. The clay has been excavated in places till the buildings of the town are close to the precipitous bank, and their situation seems in some instances decidedly perilous.

(PHOTO SOURCE: Haverstraw Brick Museum)

One autumn afternoon a few years ago a Haverstraw policeman noticed that the walls of a brick building near the edge of an excavation were cracking, and he saw a loosened brick fall out. He went to the owner of the property and told him there was going to be a landslide; and as the clay there had been taken out to a depth of one hundred and eighty feet the prospect was quite disturbing. Warning was given to the families that lived in the threatened neighborhood, but they had dwelt so long in the vicinity of the danger that they thought the alarm needless and went to bed as usual.


About midnight, however, the clay bank gave way carrying down houses and people into the frightful chasm. Rescuers were soon on hand, and they were busy amidst the debris when there was a second slide that overwhelmed everyone in its path. The wreckage caught on fire, and the scene of devastation was brightly lighted. About a dozen houses had gone down into the depths and a score of lives were lost. Among those who perished were a father and mother. When the first houses slid into the chasm theirs hung on the verge and they had time to take their children to a point of safety. That done they went back to get their bank book. They were never seen afterward and not even their bodies were recovered.

Landslide, the Day After
It is believed these images were taken the next day after the landslide, and the men are searching for survivors/victims.
(PHOTO SOURCE: The Historical Society of Rockland County)

The Journal News has a great article on the event in observance of the 100th anniversary. A plaque commemorating the event is located on Division Street and the Haverstraw Brick Museum is conducting a fundraising drive to build a new monument.

Landslide Area Today
Rockland St. landslide site today
(NY State historic marker sign is on left)
(Click pic for a larger view.)

Landslide Marker
Landslide Historic Marker Sign

The Haverstraw Brick Museum has a wonderful animated diorama that shows exactly how the Great Landslide took place.

haverstraw brick museum
N Y Times article on the Haverstraw Brick Museum

The Haverstraw Brickyards Today

Remnants of the great Haverstraw brickmaking industry are scattered among beautiful parkland all along the Hudson shore. At 21 Gagan Road is Haverstraw Bay Park featuring an open air pavilion, paved walking trails, 3 fishing piers, a boat launch, children's playground and Rockland County's September 11th Memorial and Patriot Garden. At 27 acres, it was Rockland County's first waterfront park.

In the park is the Haverstraw Trophy by artist Michael Morgan with columns made of carved kiln-dried red clay brick. There is also an antique Haverstraw brick path.

Here's a Virtual Tourof the park. Photos of the park can be seen at And here is a rail track left over from the brickyard days.

Bowline Park Today
Brickyard Ruins in Bowline Park

Other parks on former brickyard land include Bowline Park off Samsondale Ave. which has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, walking paths and a fishing pier with a spectacular river view.

Nearby is Haverstraw Beach, originally known as Snedeker's Landing, the oldest shipyard in Rockland County. It built barges to ferry brick from the nearby brickyards in Haverstraw to New York City. And here, in 1780, American General Benedict Arnold and the British spy John André exchanged the plans to West Point.

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