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!