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Do You Remember?

"Powerhouse Site Steeped In History"

(Reprinted from the Bronx Times Reporter February 28, 1991)

Louis CollaziThe world of art has long been familiar with the work of Throggs Neck resident Louis Collazzi. One of his rarer paintings has recently adorned the wall in the reception area of the Bronx Times Reporter . It depicts the New York Central's old power house at Port Morris (149th Street and the East River). It was painted in watercolors circa 1940. I was showing the work to Bronx Historian John McNamara when I snapped this photo on March 3, 1990.

The site of the subject is of great historical interest as the British frigate, "Hussar," sank near here on November 23, 1780. The Revolutionary War had long been raging and this ship which sailed from England on September 13, 1780 was believed to carry a large hoard of silver and gold coins for payment of the army. One account indicated that the money was deposited at New York two days before sinking and the possibility also existed that as many as eighty American prisoners being transferred from New York were chained in the hold.

Another account states that the British were fearful that New York would fall and a payload from the "Mercury" was transferred to the "Hussar" at New York. No account has been proved beyond doubt and attempts at retrieval of the ship and its contents have been made from about 1818 as late as last year. Items recovered in 1819 included some mugs and a cannon that was given to the museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. So popular was the site that old maps list the "Hussar" in boundary proclamations; the name become synonymous with the neighborhood.

Gouverneur Morris came into possession of the land and sometime later hired workmen to fill in the inlet. It was his contribution to alleviate unemployment but he apparently gained something in the venture since he sold a portion of the land to the New York and Harlem Railroad in 1853.

The powerhouse pictured here was built on the site of the landfill for the railroad in the very early 1900's. About 1903 a wooden canteen was dug up by an Italian laborer during excavation and construction activity at 145th Street and the river. He cast it aside and a policeman picked it up and brushed off the dirt. He found that it was made of spruce and dated 1778. A relic from the "Hussar?" New interest was spawned and the fever still rages on.

When, this picture was painted, part of the property and powerhouse were under lease to Con Edison. Note the tracks that lead up to the side of the building pictured. The trains went up the track and the bottoms opened dropping the coal which was then pushed down through grills to a crusher. It was crushed and taken by chutes up to the boilers for burning. The ashes were taken out (bottom left) by tram and stored. They were then picked up and used for making cinder blocks. Amazing, the story one picture can tell!

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