Sunday, October 9, 2016

The High Bridge and the Park

High Bridge, New York c. 1880
Tinted Stereoview by the New York Stereoscopic Co.

Welcome to The High Bridge -- Its Past, Present & Future website.  This site connects all interested parties on exciting developments associated with The High Bridge, Highbridge Park, and the immediately surrounding area.

We are in the process of sprucing up our site and making it more presentable.  As most of you already know, the High Bridge was reopened on June 9, 2015 after about 45 years of having been closed and years of planning and reconstruction.  The adjacent Highbridge Park is also undergoing extensive refurbishment as part of the NYCPlan 2030, and the immediate neighborhood near the Park, particularly along Amsterdam and Edgecombe avenues is starting to experience a renaissance with building renovations and new commercial ventures.
With this in mind, we are now shifting gears away from the reconstruction of The High Bridge to the other improvements that will be forthcoming.  We also recognize that there will be more visitors to the bridge, the Highbridge Park, and the surrounding areas, so we will be providing more information for those who do not have familiarity with the area and its attractions. 
At present the public funding for the improvements and redevelopment effort for the Bridge and the Park have exceeded $130 Million. On Jan. 11, 2013 Mayor Michael Bloomberg broke ground on the construction phase of the plan for the redevelopment of the High Bridge and the cost of reopening the bridge has been publicized at $61.8 Million. Just in 2016, $30 Million of additional funds have been allocated to Highbridge Park by Mayor De Blasio as part of the Anchor Park initiative.

On June 9, 2015, the official reopening ceremony of the High Bridge occurred. (Please see the specific posts for this event).  On July 25, 2015 the High Bridge Festival celebrating the reopening of the High Bridge occurred.

There are many other activities progressing simultaneously with the redevelopment of the High Bridge. This web site focuses on the developments in and immediately adjacent to The High Bridge and Highbridge Park.  Please make sure to scroll down to see previous posts on new and exciting developments.

It is our belief that with this site we can foster an appreciation of the past, an understanding of the present and a catalyst for the development of the future needs of this immediate area.

Hopefully, we will find common ground to dramatically improve the buildings, the retail establishments and the quality of life in such a way as to compliment the redevelopment effort associated with the High Bridge and High Bridge Park and make this area a destination for more of the millions of residents of New York City and some of the more than tens of millions of visitors who come to New York City each year.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Sept 6, 1879

Please contact us and let us know if you have any interests in participating as a contributor, volunteer, or merely to coordinate with your community organization, or even if you are just an interested neighborhood resident. If you want to contribute to the site with any comments please feel free to do so.

Organizationally, we have been adding information to each page as it is appropriate.  You should return to pages on a regular and frequent basis to catch up on latest developments on each topic.  We have also provided for reader feedback at the bottom of each topic.

There are almost 200 posts with information and pictures on all sorts of topics. Information about the history of the High Bridge and the building of the aqueduct, articles about what is going on right now, and articles about the future changes that we all hope will come to the High Bridge, the park, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Please click on the Area of Interest on the right and a whole host of topics will present themselves. Or, you may scroll through the archive of articles on the right to find and article of interest to you. Or, you may also search by keyword in the box provided at the right above the archive listings. Or, you may just scroll down and look at the articles in chronological order going backward in time.

 If you are experiencing any difficulty using our site please let us know.

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last modified 7/28/2015

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Another Life in a Bottle -- Dorman L Ormsby Soda Water Bottler, 168th St. & Amsterdam Ave.

We reported earlier this year the finding of an old bottle (c. 1900) that was associated with a pharmacy located near Highbridge Park at Amsterdam Ave. and 167th St. (Adolph Joseph Linser).  We now have another bottle.  This one is dated 1896, and was produced for a local business establishment near Highbridge Park about a block away from the Adolph Linser Pharmacy.  There is every reason to believe that the proprietors of these two establishments knew each other.

This latest bottle is embossed with the following information: "DORMAN L ORMSBY, A.B. CO, 168TH ST. EAST OF AMSTERDAM AVE, NEW YORK" (see image above}.  The back is embossed: "Established 1835, A.B.C Beverages, DLO, Registered"  The bottom is embossed: "1896".  It stands approximately 7 1/2" tall and 2 1/2" wide.

The information we have uncovered about the people involved here reads like a novel with many of the wondrous elements of the history of this country and this City, the realization of the American dreams, combined with the disastrous consequences of divorce, and murder, death and tragedy.

In 1995 the City of New York Department of General Services commissioned an "Archaeological Assessment of a 33rd Precinct  Project, Site  Block 2112, Lots 10-42, Manhattan".  (Dorman Ormsby site -- Jumel Place).  See

In the image below the reader can clearly see the outline of the Project Site.  [Ed: For clarity, what appears to be 178th St. is really 170th St.] The Project Site extends on its northern end to 170th St ; on its western side to Amsterdam Ave., on its southern side to 168th St. and on its eastern side to Jumel Place.

For comparison to the current topography, this site is currently occupied by the 33rd Precinct Police Precinct Headquarters Building and a vacant lot immediately to the south of the police precinct building.

The found bottle, which came from a mineral water manufacturing site located within the Archeological Project Site, allows us to explore the lives of yet other individuals at various times during the history of this city, and especially near Highbridge Park.

[To avoid any confusion in identifying different people with the same name in this post, for example, to distinguish the elder Leonard from his grandson of the same name we will always include their year of birth immediately following their name.  The same naming convention will be used with the various Dormans and Watermans and other names where multiple generations in the family have the same first name. --Ed.]   

Leonard Ormsby (b. 1783)

In order to put this story into perspective we need to start our description with Leonard Ormsby (b. 1783, Windham County, CT) who, in about 1806, married Elizabeth Ashely (b. 1785, Hampton, CT). The original Ormsby family in Colonial America had emigrated from Ireland a number of generations before Leonard's (b. 1783) birth.  Leonard (b. 1783) and Elizabeth settled near Elizabeth's family in Hampton, CT where their children, Dorman Leonard Ormsby(b. 1807), Waterman Lily Ormsby(b. 1809), and Jane Eliza Ormsby (Smith) were born. Eventually, Leonard (b. 1783) and Elizabeth were divorced sometime around 1821. We will not go into the details of their divorce here, however, we do note that Elizabeth and their three children moved to New York City. The reason for her choice of New York City has not been determined as of this writing.

Dorman L. Ormsby (b. 1807)

The first of Leonard and Elizabeth's sons, Dorman L. Ormsby (b. Jan. 2, 1807, Hampton, CT -- d. after 1873) married Gertrude J. Roberts (b.1809, NJ -- d. after 1870, NJ) in 1834.  By 1835 it was reported that Dorman L (b. 1807) was operating as a grocer with his business location at 347 Bleecker St. on the corner with Perry St.  Longworth's American Almanac, New York Register, and City Directory for 1837, also reports Dorman L Ormsby (b. 1807) at the same location.  

The 1840 Census shows Dorman L Ormsby (b. 1807) as head of household with ten members in his extended household living in New York City. No details other than the count of male and female members appears in the 1840 Census.  Dorman (b. 1807) and Gertrude already had three children: Leonard H. Dorman (b. 1836, New York), whose biographical and genealogical information we report in some detail below;  Sarah Jane,  who eventually married James Flanagan, a well known brewer of New York; and Josephine, who eventually married J. H. V.  Arnold, a surrogate. Dorman (b. 1807) was only 33 years of age at the time of the 1840 Census and the other members of his household, other than his wife and three children, were extended family members. We highly suspect that these extended members included his mother, Elizabeth, and his siblings, Waterman (b. 1809) and Jane.   We also know that Waterman (b. 1809) was already married by this time to Julia and they had a son, Waterman (b. 1834).  This extended family would account for all ten members of the family that were reported for the 1840 Census.

We also have information from around this time that Dorman (b. 1807)  who, as we indicated above, had been a grocer, registered, in 1835, a brewing company, "Dorman L. Ormsby  A B Co". The manufacturing operations of 'root brewers,' as they were frequently called in those days, was a cottage industry and could have been easily operated out of his grocery store.  It has been noted that he brewed mead, root and ginger beers, which, at that time, were put up and sold in stone jars (see images below). He was one of the pioneers in this line of business.

You may have noted above that Dorman's (b. 1807) daughter, Sara Jane, who was only born about the time that he started the brewing business, married into the well known brewing family, the Flanagans, some twenty years or so later.  We believe that the brewing operations were successful and attracted the attention of others in the New York brewing industry.

Early D L Ormsby Stoneware Ginger Jar, 1848
 In 1844, Dorman (b. 1807) shows up in the Doggett's New York City Directory as being a "manufacturer of root beer" with operations at 255 16th St. and a home residence at 251 16th St. By the 1860 Census Dorman L. (b. 1809) shows up as a "soda water manufacturer," with wife Gertrude and two children, Gertrude I., and Julia. His son Leonard H. (b. 1836, New York), then age 24, was old enough not to have his primary household with his parents.  Trow's New York Business Directory in 1860 lists "Dorman L Ormsby & Son Mineral Waters" with a business location of 423 W 16th St. and 288 W 17th St.  Of course, the "Son" is Leonard H. (b. 1836).

In 1861 the New York Times reported that Dorman (b. 1807) and Leonard (b. 1836) were being sued for running over and killing a child with their brewery delivery wagon.  

Dorman (b. 1807) retired from the active management in 1873.

Leonard H. Dorman (b. 1836)

Leonard H. (b. 1836 - d. after 1902), Dorman (b. 1807) and Gertrude's eldest son, was educated in the public schools of New York City, and upon the completion of his education began his business career as assistant to his father, Dorman L. (b. 1807) in the root brewing and mineral water business. Learning every detail of the business, as he did, thoroughly, under the practiced eye of his father, he was well fitted to take full charge of affairs when Dorman (b. 1807) retired from the active management in 1873. Leonard (b. 1836) personally supervised the manufacturing interests until 1902, when he retired in favor of his son, Dormon (b. 1867) and retired to Keyport, New Jersey.

Leonard (b. 1836) married Kate Dall (b c.1837, New York) in c. 1856.  Leonard (b. 1836) and Kate had six children: Gertrude (b. 1858), Lilly (b. 1860),  Rubina (b. 1862), Kate (b. 1865), Dorman L  (b. 1867, New York,- d. Sept. 8,1945,Yonkers, NY), and Josephine (b. after 1870).  Gertrude eventually married James Dennelly. Lillie married William Boyd, Robina married William A. Ewing, Katie married William Walling, and Josephine married Harry Winterton. Dorman L. (b. 1867) biographical sketch and genealogy are elaborated upon below.

The 1870 Census shows Leonard H. (b. 1836) as a "manufacturer of root beer" with Kate and the five oldest children.  The 1880 Census shows Leonard (b. 1836)  married to Kate Dall (bc.1837) living at "Walton Ave. North between 149th St. and end, NYC."  They then had all six children.  Leonard (b. 1836) is listed as a "wheelwright."  Dorman (b. 1807). changed the name of his company from "Dorman L. Ormsby A B Co" to "Dorman L. Ormsby & Son A B Co".  We do not know the year that Leonard (b. 1836) actually joined his father in the operation of the brewery, Dorman L. (b. 1807) retired in 1873 leaving the operation of the brewery to his son Leonard (b. 1836). We also have information that the brewery was moved from lower Manhattan to 132nd Street and Eighth Ave. This might explain why Leonard (b. 1836) had moved his family to near 149th St.

Waterman L. Ormsby (b. 1809)

While Dorman (b. 1807) was developing his brewery business, it is worth noting that his younger brother (by two years), Waterman Lily (b. 1809), who grew up as a member of Dorman's (b.1807) extended household also became a person of some distinction. Noted enough so as to mention some of his accomplishments here, also. much of the information on Waterman that appears here has been acquired from Wikipedia.

Waterman Lily Ormsby (b. Sept 9, 1809, Hampton, CT – d. Nov. 1, 1883, New York, NY) became an apprentice in an engraving shop at a young age.  In 1829, he attended the National Academy of Design right here in New York City. Upon graduating he moved to Albany, NY where he engraved using his own name for a few years.  Then he went to Lancaster, MA, where he worked for the firm of Carter, Andrews & Co.  Eventually, he settled in New York City where he founded the New York Bank Note Company and became one of the founders of the Continental Bank Note Company.

He married Julia Ann Brainard in 1830 and they divorced in 1846.  Waterman (b. 1809) and Julia Ann had one son.  Waterman L. (b. 1809) subsequently married Amelia (date unknown).  His son from his first marriage, Waterman L. Ormsby (b. Dec. 8, 1834, New York City -- d. May 1, 1908, Brooklyn, NY) married Elizabeth Ormsby.  They, in turn, had a son Waterman L. Ormsby, Jr. (b. 1857 Brooklyn, NY - d. ? ). Waterman, Jr. (b. 1857) married Carrie Laura Bertram Hamilton (b. ?) on Dec. 4,1895 in Manhattan, NY.

Trow’s Business Directory for 1860 shows Waterman L. (b. 1809) as an engraver at 50 Wall St. in New York City.

Waterman (b. 1809) was an excellent line engraver and was called upon for a great deal of work engraving plates for bank notes. These were in wide use by the Government at around the time of the Civil War. He designed the five-dollar note, intended to prevent counterfeiting and was the author of several pamphlets, including, "Cycloidal Configurations" or the Harvest of Counterfeiture, and a volume on paper-money engraving entitled, "A description of the Present System of Bank Note Engraving" that was published in 1852.
Waterman (b. 1809) provided engraving plates and is noted for illustrations for The Columbian Magazine, a journal known for printing the stories of Edgar Allan Poe along with political and technological stories, from its first issue. He purchased controlling interest in the magazine in 1847, but readership declined and the magazine eventually failed. The failure of the magazine might be attributed to the untimely death of Edgar Allan Poe in 1849.

Waterman (b. 1809) is probably best known for his engraving of "The Declaration of Independence" painted by John Trumbull (see illustration below).

The Declaration of Independence. lithograph by Waterman Lily Ormsby.

Dedicated to stopping counterfeiters, he invented the “grammagraph", a machine used to copy medals and medallions onto bank note dies in order to give the illusion of a bas-relief. The device was later used as a pantographic engraving machine to produce "roll-die" engraving on metal. The machine automated an existing engraving technique that varied spaces between parallel contour lines to give the impression of depth to a print.  This was most famously used on the cylinders of revolvers made by Samuel Colt of Colt Firearms. Waterman Ormsby (b. 1809) produced half a dozen engraving scenes for Colt as early as 1839
Other inventions by Waterman Ormsby (b. 1809) included a refined transfer press, medal-ruling machines and geometric lathes that took engraving from human hands to machinery. This was because, for the majority of his career, he worked alone or with one assistant.
Waterman Ormsby (b. 1809)  is said to have helped Samuel Morse in the creation of the Morse alphabet.

Waterman L. Ormsby (b. 1834)  

Waterman L. Ormsby (b. 1834)
Waterman L. Ormsby (b. Dec. 8, 1834, New York City - d. May 1, 1908, Brooklyn, NY), the son of Waterman L. Ormsby (b. 1809), who was also a member of the extended family of Dorman L Ormsby (b. 1807) worked as a reporter for a number of newspapers in New York City. Most importantly, he became a reporter for the New York Herald.  Waterman (b. 1834) was the first and only through passenger on the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage from St. Louis to San Francisco in 1858 and wrote about it in an acclaimed series of six articles that appeared in the New York Herald. His account of the trip was republished in 1942 and is still in print today.

[Ed: see Ormsby, Waterman L., The Butterfield Overland Mail - Only Through Passenger on the First Westbound Stage, (Edited by Lyle H. Wright and Josephine M. Bynum, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA 1942].

Waterman L Ormsby (b. 1834) married Eliza Beth Crawley(?).  Waterman (b. 1834) and Eliza Beth, in turn, had a son Waterman L. Ormsby, Jr. (b. 1857, Brooklyn, NY - d. ?  ), Sydney C., and Senter H. (twins) the latter died in his youth.  He then married Carrie L. Hamilton, widow of the late William Hamilton.

Waterman L Ormsby III (b. 1857)

Waterman Lily Ormsby III (b. Dec. 5, 1857) was the son of Waterman L Ormsby (b. 1834). His career was similar to his father's.  Following graduation from the College of the City of New York in 1876, he was a newspaper reporter, private secretary, and amanuensis, and, in 1882, was appointed secretary to the senate of the State of Pennsylvania.  Two years later he became official stenographer to the supreme court in Brooklyn, NY.  He was twice married and the father of one son and two daughters.  His first marriage was to Carrie Laura Bertram Hamilton on Dec. 4, 1895, in Manhattan.

Dorman L. Ormsby (b. 1867)

Now, switching back to Dorman's (b. 1807) side of the family and closer to Highbridge Park  Dorman L. (b. 1867), the grandson of Dorman L (b. 1807), and the only son of Leonard (b. 1836) and Kate,  Dorman L. (b. 1867) attended the public schools of New York City, and at a very early age he entered the business of his father, Leonard (b. 1836), and became practically acquainted with all the details. He kept well abreast of the times in his special line of manufacture, and was always ready to adopt the newest methods, whether of advertising, machinery or other improvements, as soon as the practical advantages became apparent to him. His business was one of the most extensive of its kind in New York, and was constantly growing.  He is the only manufacturer of ginger ale in this country that would guarantee that it will keep in any climate for one year. Dorman L (b. 1867) spent years experimenting to get this article perfected. He was a member of the Junior Order of American Mechanics, the Hudson Boat Club, the  Foresters, and the Eagles.

Dorman L. (b. 1867) married Susie Ferris (b. New York, 1869) on June 26, 1889.  They had two children: Leonard (b. 1889), and Adelaide (b. c. 1890, New York -- d. 1982).  Land records show that land was purchased for the new manufacturing site at Jumel Place at Amsterdam Ave. and 168th St. in 1895.  The 1900 Census shows the family and children lived on Jumel Place near 168th St. He is listed as  "manufacturing soda." The US Patent & Copyright Office shows that in 1901 Dorman L. (b. 1867) registered a copyright for his products under the name "White Fawn Natural Sparkling Mineral Water". The 1910 Census shows Susie, still listed as Dorman's (b. 1867) wife with children at 463 Convent Ave. near 151st St. Dorman (b. 1867) is shown as "garage proprietor", Leonard (b. 1889) is listed as an "auto mechanic", Adelaide is listed as an "electrical billing clerk".

It appears that Dorman (b. 1867) sold the soda manufacturing business which had been in his family for three generations in 1905, three years after his father retired from the business.   Frederick Wehmann, a german born immigrant to New York City purchased the company.  However, a 1907 article in the American Bottler tells best the story of what happened after the sale:

"On October 23d [1907] occurred the sad and tragic death of Mr. Frederick Wehmann. Mr. Wehmann was engaged in the soda water business at 39 Jumel Place, New York City which he purchased from Dorman L Ormsby [b. 1867] about two years ago. A long series of disputes as to whether Mr. Ormsby [b. 1867] had the right to keep his automobile in the cellar of the house in which both families lived, and where Mr Wehmann carried on his manufacturing business following the sale and purchase of the business and culminated in the final quarrel in which Mr Wehmann was shot by Mr. Ormsby. [b. 1867] A physician was immediately summoned and the injured man was hurried to the hospital where he lived for only a few minutes.

Mr. Ormsby [b. 1867] testified at the trial that he had fired his pistol at random and that he had drawn it only when forced to do so to save his life. After some deliberation he was acquitted. Frederick Wehmann was born in Germany about 34 years ago When about 15 years of age he came to America and for a short time was employed in a grocery store A position was offered him with the Moran Bottling Co New York where he remained for nine years.  Later he was employed as a driver by Bruckner Bros. which position he resigned to go into business for himself. Mr. Wehmann is survived by his widow who will continue the bottling business."

Dorman (b. 1867) either divorced Susie or Susie died and then Dorman (b. 1867) married Effie Dover (b. Dallas, TX) in 1913. The 1920 Census shows wife Effie Dover with Dorman (b. 1867) living at 24 Grand Ave, Yonkers. with occupation listed as "president automobile," which seems to indicate that he is the president of the corporation that ran a garage and auto supply business in Yonkers.   A 1945 obituary in the Herald Statesman in Yonkers, NY stated that Dorman L Ormsby (b. 1867) died Sept. 8, 1945.

Leonard D. Ormsby (b. 1889, New York)

In the 1940 Census, Leonard (b. 1889) was living in Texas.     

revised 10/15/2016