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A BRIEF HISTORY of ATHENS and GLASCO, NY

from the perspective of
the Great Hudson River Brick Industry




ATHENS, originally known as Canisikek, was purchased from Makicanni Indians in 1665 and eventually became three settlements: Loonenburg (1685), Esperanza (1794) and Athens (1800). The brick yards started up in the early 1800s. There were five in all. There was one on Third Street (sun dried brick), Whiteman's on Union Street, and Riders, Gladfelter, and Mayone in the Upper Village, the last closing in the 1940s. The Athens Pottery was started by N. Clark in 1800. After changing hands, it closed its doors 100 years later. 1803 saw the first post office in Loonenburg, changing its name to Athens in 1805.

Scroll down to read "The Gentleman from Ulster," namely Joseph Mayone who founded the Mayone Brick Works.


1891 Beers Map
showing Athens and surrounding brickyards


GLASCO is a community on the Hudson River in the town of Saugerties, NY. It got its name from a sign pointing to to a glass company several miles inland from which glass was carried by horse down the "Glasco Turnpike" to the banks of the Hudson where it was shipped on for ports of sale. Glasco was settled largely by brickyard workers, first from Ireland and then from Italy and Germany, who came to the area in great numbers in the late 19th century by ferry after landing in New York City. They tended to live in company housing on the banks of the river.

WASHBURN

The brick industry grew in the 1880s when Washburn Brothers and Empire State Brick Company opened their brickyards. At one point, the area boasted over six brick factories (see below), a ferry service, a school, churches and several saloons. Bricks were sent down the Hudson River by barge to furnish the construction of America's cities.

During the depression the brick business languished. One of the Washburn brothers committed suicide. All the workers were called in by the remaining brother and told, "Business is bad. If you stick with me you won't lose your job but your wages will be reduced until we can see this through. If you can't stick with the company you're free to go and find other work. Many left the brickyard and even Glasco to find other work. Many went to Athens and Hudson to work on other brickyards and in the cement plants.


1891 Beers Map
showing Glasco and surrounding brickyards including:

WASHBURN Brothers,
W. M. Maginnis,
Henry Corse Jr.,
Robert LENT (Mrs R. Lent),
F. VAN DEUSEN,
Porter (at Porterville) (later leased by MAYONE)

Sources:
http://italiangenealogy.tardio.com/Forums/viewtopic/p=52395.html
http://www.athensstreetfestival.com/history1.htm
saugerties.ny.us/history.htm




Excerpts from

"The Gentleman from Ulster"

by Cathy and Mike Mayone

The gentleman is Joseph Mayone, founder of the Mayone Brick Works

(Mike Mayone is Joseph's great-grandson)
 

"They told us that the streets in America were paved with gold.
When we got here, not only weren't the streets paved at all,
but they expected us to pave them."

- Old Italian Bricklayer's Saying

MAYONE


"The Gentleman from Ulster"

  Since moving to Glasco (New York), Joseph Mayone had his eyes on the brick manufacturers. After all, the Hudson River clay was plentiful, the waterway provided the route to deliver bricks to the fastest growing city and brick market in the world - New York City. And, if the Cordt's and the Hutton's could do it, why couldn't an Italian?

Joseph Mayone Joseph arrived home after a long but successful day to his Villa Regina. Yes, it really was his own Villa, built just as he had envisioned with the Italian architecture and style imitating and even named after the villa of his birthplace in Italy that he had admired so much. Every time he drove up the driveway, he couldn't help but smile at the sight of his beloved Villa.

  He pulled into the six car garage. While just one of many buildings built with Mayone bricks these days, this edifice was obviously more special to him than the others.

  His business plans were working out just as he had planned. He had entered the brick manufacturing business by leasing a brickyard in Portersville, just south of Glasco. His successful management of the business had earned him enough money to build a brickyard in Athens, in 1910.

  The business conditions were ripe for success. Waves of immigrants needed housing and the New Tenement Act of 1901 and other New York City building regulations had required the use of fire retardant brick materials. The 1906 tragic collapse of the downriver Haverstraw plant and its town due to a landslide caused by the clay pit excavation had created more demand for the upriver manufacturers and had provided excavation safety lessons for future manufacturers.

 Joseph had visited the Villa site just about every day during its construction in 1913 and 1914. He had a routine, whereby he would tend to the day's business in the brickyards, stop by his hotel in Catskill on the corner of Water and Church Streets, and visit the Villa, making sure that every brick was being placed exactly according to the architectural plans.

  "Joseph, why are you using Washburn bricks to build this house?" many asked. But those who knew him well understood his frugality. G. W. Washburn bricks were used for the main house instead of the Mayone brick because it was cheaper to transport the Washburn brick from Glasco than to use his own bricks produced in Athens.

  Joseph was generous, but he expected nothing less than hard work and dedication from those who worked or borrowed from him. He often extended credit to local workers at his store in Glasco, many of whom paid up their accounts by working on his new house.

  Immigrants themselves, Joseph's workers both admired and envied him. He was, on one hand, just like them having made his way in the New World. But, most of these laborers accepted that they would never own a villa like the one that they toiled on day after day. They couldn't understand why - they could only hope for future generations and sneak a couple of bricks in their lunch pails.

Mayone Villa

  "Giovanni, do you know why Signore Mayone has the biggest house?" one worker would ask another. "Because he has the biggest lunch pail," they would joke and rationalize Joseph's fortune.

  Lunch pail in hand, Joseph entered the house calling out, "Buona sera! We must celebrate!" They gathered around the dinner table. Roland, the latest addition to the family, squealed like only a three year old can. Charles and John were doing their best not to spoil their father's news, having been at the brickyard when it was announced.

  Raising his wine glass, Joseph declared, "I would like to make a toast to the Mayone Brick Company, officially incorporated in Glasco today!"

  At age 50, Joseph Mayone had it all. "The Mayone Brick Company took possession July 1, 1925, of the Freeman property, West Bridge street (Powder Spring Farm), formerly owned by Frederick Cooke. This company operates yards at Athens and Glasco," the local newspaper reported. Joseph put down the paper, knowing that it was only part of the story - he still had plans for expansion and would six years later own his Catskill brickyard.

  "Good day, Saverio," Joseph greeted Saverio Barone on the street on the way to the Athens National Bank, where he had recently been named a Director and was a principle shareholder. Joseph's son John was the bank president.

  "A good day to you, sir," Saverio returned the greeting with the utmost respect and admiration for this man who was a generation older than him and a figurehead in the community.

  The last few years had been good for Joseph's business and therefore his status within community. His businesses had managed to survive the brief but severe 1920-1921 depression brought on by World War I hyperinflation, a Federal reserve interest rate hike, and 12% unemployment that had caused a drop in brick prices and production. Now his business was booming. The New York metropolitan area was experiencing a building craze as people flocked to new neighborhoods in the outer boroughs and suburbs. In 1923, the price of brick commanded $20 per 1000.

  During these boom times, it was hard for Joseph Mayone or his fellow manufacturers to imagine that just 5 years later, the price per 1000 would drop to $12 and that by 1933 it would fall to $9.50. By 1927, almost fifty percent of the 130 Hudson brick yards that existed 20 years previously would be out of business.

  With his sons Eddie and Charles having re-located to Westchester County, and with all of the NY metropolitan business coming his way, Joseph made frequent trips and even kept a brickyard office in New York City on 125th Street, the Mayone name visible on the door.

  "Great news!" exclaimed Joseph to Charles Sr. "We've received a very large order!" "It's just what you need Papa," said Charles. He meant the comment not only because of his Father's state of his business, but after the passing of his Mother, he worried about his Father. Not to mention the recent crash of the stock market. These were dark days indeed.

  "But you know that I fear the future of brick manufacturing," Charles continued on. "You know that these concrete block manufacturers are not going away, not to mention these cheap Belgian bricks they are importing these days. And of course, someday the clay will be gone. But, tell me about the order."

  "These two crazy automotive guys, Walter Chrysler of Chrysler Corp. and John Jakob Raskob, who is the creator of General Motors, have entered a contest to see who can build the tallest building," Joseph explained. "We are going to be one of many Hudson River manufacturers to supply the 10 million bricks they need to build this new New York skyscraper."

  "Ah, yes, the Empire State Building project," acknowledged Charles. "Yeah, it seems crazy. They want to build 102 stories in just over a year. They say it will take 2,500 - 4,000 men at least seven million man-hours!" exclaimed Joseph. (Ed. Note: On January 22, 1930, excavation began on the Empire State Building.)

  Working in the Catskill plant one day, Joseph's attention quickly turned to some unwelcome visitors. A bunch of mob union goons had stormed the plant in an attempt to enlist new union members.

  "Get off my property or I will blow your heads off!" Joseph shouted with shotgun in hand, pointing it directly at the intruders. The mob never messed with Joseph again. Joseph earned a reputation of respect.

  Joseph often attended brick manufacturing association meetings in New York City. Joseph brought Charles Sr. to one particular meeting.

  "Good day gentlemen," Joseph confidently addressed his fellow Upriver manufactures and the larger Downriver manufacturers. Besides the fact that out of some 300 Hudson River Valley manufacturers he was the only Italian manufacturer, his presence, being over six feet tall and impeccably dressed in his black 3-piece suit, was duly noted.

  There had been a time when the Upriver manufacturers could and did undercut the Downriver manufacturers. But as an astute businessman, Joseph saw the power of a collective voice. In prior meetings he had agreed to abide by the price guidelines. And, he was a man of his word.

  As the meeting discussion progressed, Joseph became agitated. "Bang - Bang - Bang!" rang out Joseph's cane on the table as he rose. "You all have violated the price guidelines! I will do things my own way from now on!" With that, he stormed out to the embarrassment of his son, Charles.

  Charles Mayone Sr. had moved to Larchmont and was himself becoming a prominent businessman as the President of the Building National Supply Company. In addition to two Larchmont homes, Mayone bricks were used in many apartment buildings in the Bronx and Westchester. A particular notable apartment building at 30 Clinton Place in New Rochelle was considered modern in its day at six stories with balconies, sunken living rooms, an incinerator, and a spacious lobby. In addition, he built six stores in Greenwich, CT on the Boston Post Road., the same road where in Larchmont he would build his last structure, the Larchmont Motel, which he managed in his later years."

===

Athens, NY 1930 Tax Assessment:

Mayone, Joseph	brickyard & dock, Coxsackie road, 7 acres     20000	450.00
 
Mayone, Joseph	farm & buildings, Coxsackie road, 60 acres     2250	 50.63
 
Mayone, Joseph	farm & buildings, Coxsackie road  	    2000	 45.00
 
Mayone, Joseph	farm & buildings   			    1000	 22.50
 

===

From family correspondence and emails to the webmaster of this site:

  Joseph Mayone was born in Calabria, Italy. He was an orphan whose original birth name was something like Pignataro. He came to America when he was about 14, and worked first as a water boy for the railroad, probably along the Hudson. There is concensus in some family branches that as a boy, Joseph was a water carrier in Algiers for the French Government and came to the USA from Africa. He first encountered a family with a name similar to Mayone on the boat to America who had children near his age. This family supposedly took Joseph under their wing for some time but never adopted him but he choose to use their name.

  He retailed food at some point and had a tavern before he obtained the Glasco brick yard. Joseph was also a self-proclaimed banker. He had become somewhat literate in English and was able to write using phonetic english spellings. He purchased a steel safe he used to keep money given him by ignorant Italian laborers who were saving to go back to Italy or in many cases corresponded with families left behind in Italy who were sent money by those working in America. In 1925 he is listed as a Director for the Athens (NY) National Bank.

  In Saugerties, NY he built a splendid Italianate brick house overlooking the railroad station, and went on to build brick plants in Athens and Catskill. Joseph's first wife was Napolitana who died of diabetes. His second wife, Mary Bove, was the mother of his children, and she is buried in the cemetery next to him. She died in 1929. After her death he went to Foggia, Italy and chose a third wife, Ursalina.

  Joseph developed the plant in Catskill into an ultra-modern facility but it failed when, despite the efforts of brick technicians from afar, it could not produce a high quality brick. The five sons then took over and tried unsuccessfully to sell the plant. Eventually they sold it as scrap metal and the sons and two daughters went their respective ways.

===

From "Welcome to Athens"

(A booklet compiled and written as a combined effort of Patricia L. Martine and Bettyjean Poole, History Keepers, to help promote a book in 2005 on the 200th year of incorporation of the Village of Athens, the third oldest incorporated village in New York.)

"Remains of the plant in Athens, NY can be found. The Mayone (Diamond) Brick Yard, is one of five different brick yards in Athens. Go up Route 385 to the north near the boat launch and Joe's Bait Shop, look back to see a narrow bridge which was part of the road that ran through the brick yard. Many bricks can be found in Athens made by any one of the five brick yards. Then, you figured it would last forever but what ever does?"





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