HISTORY OF PORT JERVIS
Orange County, New York
Port Jervis was originally part of the Town of Deerpark.
As you pass along East Main Street you are traveling along what many believe is the Old Mine Road, the first 100 mile road in American history. It was said to have been constructed by Dutch explorers as a way to get copper from mines near Pahaquarry, New Jersey to Kingston, or Esopus as it was then known, and back to Holland. In New York state, the road essentially follows State Route 209. In New Jersey, it follows County Route 517. Other historians believe the road was originally a series of Indian trails that were enhanced by continual use. The original center of town was at the location of the junction of Kingston Avenue and East Main Street.
c. 1698 -- early Protestant refugees of France settled the area known as Peenpack (derived from the refugees).
1737 -- the Deerpark Reformed Church established. (One of its ministers was the Rev. Elias VanBunschoten, who helped to establish Queens College, which later became Rutgers University.)
1755 -- Fort Gumaer build during the French and Indian War. (It stood not far from the 1780 Peter E. Gumaer house, between Huguenot and Godeffroy.)
1764 -- lumber was transported downstream on the Delaware River to Philadelphia via the process of rafting.
prior to 1760 -- the Decker House (the future Fort Decker) built. It served as military post, trading store and headquarters of D&H Canal chief engineer John B. Jervis's headquarters.
1775-1783 -- Revolutionary War. The old Decker House was known as Fort Decker.
1779 -- Chief Joseph Brant and his Indian raiders burned Fort Decker during a Revolutionary War raid leading to the Battle of Minisink. (It is now the museum of the Minisink Valley Historical Society.)
c. 1780-1810 -- the stone house of early settler Peter E. Gumaer built on Guymard Road, Deerpark.
1793 -- Martinus Decker rebuilt the Fort Decker house. It served as a hotel and tavern during the years when the Delaware and Hudson Canal was being built.
1825 -- construction of the Delaware and Hudson Canal began.
1826 -- Cuddebackville (named after Colonel William Cuddeback) established on the D&H Canal.
early 19th century -- the D & H Canal Company donated Orange Square (corner of Broome and Pike Street).
early 1800s -- H. L. Sparrow rafted timber down the Delaware River to the Philadelphia shipyards. Sparrowbush is named for him.
War of 1812 -- William Cuddeback served as a colonel in the War.
1820's -- John B. Jervis, one of the canal's chief engineers and the man for whom Port Jervis is named, stayed at the Fort Decker hotel and tavern.
1828 -- opening of the Delaware and Hudson Canal running 110 miles from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, to Kingston, New York. The canal transported anthracite coal from the Moosic Mountains in Pennsylvania to New York City and New England. (In the Port Jervis area, the the canal went through Sparrowbush, Port Jervis, Cuddebackville, Huguenot, and Westbrookville.)
c. 1830-1965 -- Fort Decker served as a private residence.
1836-1868 -- the third Deerpark Reformed Church (East Main Street). .
1838 -- Baptist congregation organized.
1847 -- arrival of the first Erie train.
1847 -- the Delaware House (corner of Railroad Avenue and Pike Street) was one of the most exclusive hotels in Port Jervis.
1848 -- construction of the Baptist Church (Hudson Street).
1850s to 1929 -- a period of great economic growth in Port Jervis.
1850s -- estate of Col. Samuel Fowler, Glennette, built. (Fowler was a key actor in the development of Port Jervis.) His wife was Glennette Fowler.
1851 -- organization of the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church.
1852 -- the First Presbyterian Church built. (Located on the corner of Sussex Street opposite Orange Square.)
1852 -- the congregation of St. Mary's Church established.
1853 -- the Grace Episcopal Church organized.
1853 -- the village of Port Jervis was incorporated.
1855 -- Col. Samuel Fowler built the Fowler House (corner of Fowler Street and Jersey Avenue) that became one of the leading hotels in the area. (Later named the Mitchell Inn.)
1856 -- opening of Laurel Grove Cemetery (designed by New York architect Howard Daniels).
late 1850s -- Samuel Farnum homestead (end of Ulster Place) built; donated to the city of Port Jervis in 1936 as a park. (Mr. Farnum was active in the D&H Canal.)
1861-1865 -- the American Civil War.
1863 -- gaslights installed.
1865 -- a second Baptist church (Pike Street) erected.
1865 -- a Cuddeback family member purchased a stately home on West Main Street. (It still stands just below Point Peter.)
1866 -- the original Drew Methodist Church (corner of Broome and Sussex Streets, opposite the Orange Square) built.
1868 -- a wood and iron suspension bridge constructed over the Neversink River. (Destroyed in 1904.)
1868 -- the Grace Episcopal Church (East Main Street) built.
1868 -- the fourth Deerpark Reformed Church (East Main Street) constructed.
1871 -- the Eddy Farm resort hotel in Sparrowbush established along the banks of the Delaware River. (It still thrives.)
1873 -- law office of Cuddeback and Onofry established on East Main Street near Sussex Street.
1875 -- ice jams destroyed the bridge crossing the Delaware River between Matamoras and Port Jervis.
1878-1880 -- Jonathan Townley Crane (father of writer Stephen Crane) moved to Port Jervis in 1878 and was the minister of the Drew Methodist Church.
"The town, and its occupants, served as models for several of Crane's works, such as The Black Riders, The Monster, The Lynx Hunting, The Third Violet, Whilomville Stories, and The Red Badge Of Courage." (Mrs. Killeen M. Quick.)
1878 -- first telephone used in town.
1879 -- St. Mary's Church (Ball Street) built.
1880-1920 -- it was during the Gilded Age that the entire nation began to yearn for open space. Port Jervis has long associated itself with the Catskill and Shawangunk mountains. Its proximity to the forested wild areas was cause for great self promotion. In one brochure, it was called the "Scenic Queen of the Shawangunk Range." It was also during the Gilded Age that the largest park in the city was developed, the Elks-Charles Brox Memorial Park, located on what was then called the Twin Mountain Tract, or Point Peter and Mount William.
1882 -- the Masonic Farnum Building constructed. It housed the post office until 1914.
1885 -- a bad storm sent the canal waters emptying into the Delaware River. (A photo shows the Simpson Hotel in Sparrowbush, one of the areas where repairs had to be made.)
1886 -- the estate of Diana Farnum paid for the 45 feet tall Civil War Monument dedicated in Orange Square. (Stephen Crane interviewed Civil War veterans here for what became his masterpiece The Red Badge of Courage.)
1887 -- the gaslights replaced by electric lights.
1888 -- the Main Street Academy built.
1889 -- the second Erie Railroad Station (Jersey Avenue) opened.
1889 -- a brick chapel added to the First Presbyterian Church.
1889 -- the Minisink Valley Historical Society began.
1889 -- Dr. J. H. Hunt opened the first hospital in Port Jervis.
1890 -- the second Erie Railroad Station destroyed by fire.
1890 -- Carpenter's Point (now the Tri-States area) became part of Port Jervis. Here the Old Mine Road entered Port Jervis.
1890-1901 -- the home of Judge William Crane (brother of author Stephen Crane) was located on East Main Street.
1891-1996 -- author Stephen Crane visited his brother Judge William Crane during this period.
1891 -- the current Episcopal church (corner of East Main Street and Seward Avenue) built.
1892 -- the Erie Depot (Jersey Avenue) opened for service. (It still exists.)
1892 -- Drs. W. L. Cuddeback and Henry B. Swartout took over the Hunt Memorial Hospital, renaming it the Port Jervis Hospital. (It no longer stands.)
1893 -- a tornado destroyed Drew Methodist Church.
1894 -- a new Drew Methodist Church built. (It stood until the lat 20th century.)
1894 -- the second Baptist church partially burned. (A new church building constructed on East Main Street. It later became the Deerpark Club.)
1890s -- a photo shows a large Sunday school class on a boat in the canal on an outing in Cuddebackville. (One of the luxurious packet boats was the Fashion with a saloon, dining room and carpeting and accommodating up to 100 passengers.)
1890s -- the Erie Hotel built. Today it is a popular restaurant.
1895 -- Baptist church (corner of Ferguson Avenue and East Main Street) constructed.
by 1898 -- the canal ceased all operations.
1898 -- dedication of the Sacred Heart Church (West Main Street in the West End area).
1898 -- beginning of trolley service.
c. 1900 postcard -- the Riverside Hotel (West Main Street) thrived on the banks of the Delaware River.
early 1900s -- the old home of Col. Samuel Fowler demolished. The Port Jervis School District purchased the land for future school buildings.
1901 -- the second Barrett Bridge across the Delaware River begun service as a toll bridge.
1901 -- official start of the Port Jervis Elks.
1902 -- the Delaware House burned.
1902 -- Andrew Carnegie and local Peter Farnum made donations to build the Carnegie Library on Pike Street.
1903 -- the "Pumpkin Flood" destroyed bridges between Matamoras and Port Jervis. Ferry service across the river had to be brought back for a while.
1904 -- an ice gorge wrecked the Tri-States Bridge over the Neversink River.
1904 -- a replacement Tri-States bridge over the Neversink River constructed.
1907 -- Port Jervis becomes a city.
1908 photo -- Wood Lake Skating Rink (near the canal where Elwagners is today) was popular.
c. 1910 photo -- the most popular spot in the area was the privately-operated McCathey's Beach (Joyland Beach) on the Neversink River. It had picnic grounds, auto camping, dancing, 200 bathhouses and a large pavilion. (It was previously known as the Neversink Bathing Beach.)
c. 1910 photo -- Front Street bustling with customers.
1910 photo --- shows the elegant houses of Ferguson Street.
As early as 1911 -- (Elks-Brox Memorial Park); local citizens became concerned with the future of the property that overlooked the city and had an important view of the Shawangunk and Kittatinny mountains, along with the Delaware and Neversink river valleys. At that time, the owner, Almira St. John Mills, had just died, and the property was about to be disposed of by her estate.
Port Jervis residents turned down a proposal to buy it, by a vote of 191-123, but immediately after the vote, Port Jervis Lodge No. 645 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks began discussions to purchase the property.
c. 1911 -- director D. W. Griffith made the movie The Squaw's Love in Cuddebackville.
1914 -- (Elks-Brox Memorial Park); seeing the possibilities of the development of the area as a public park, raised the necessary funds to purchase the tract under the leadership of the Rev. William J. Donohue, then pastor of the Most Sacred Heart Church. The property was named Elks Park.
In the years that followed, Skyline Drive, a four-mile road that ran along the crest of the two mountains, was built and other improvements to the park were made.
1914 -- the new and current post office built.
1915 -- a parochial school established.
1918 -- the Main Street Academy burned.
c. 1918 -- a photo shows the members of the Erie Employees Band which often performed at the Orange Square Park.
1920 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, running for vice president with James M. Cox, visited Port Jervis.
by the 1920s -- trolley service ceased.
1922 -- every day 20 passenger trains passed through Port Jervis. The railroad employed 2,500 employees.
1922 -- a section of Kingston Avenue in the Clark Motors area washed out following a cloudburst.
1922 -- all tolls on the second Barrett Bridge discontinued.
1922 -- a new high school erected on East Main Street (site of Glennette, former homestead of Col. Samuel Fowler).
1923 -- the Sisters of St. Francis bought the Howell estate (East Main Street) and had a hospital erected.
1924 -- Port Jervis businessmen erected the modern Hotel Minisink (Pike Street).
1928 -- in memory of his parents, Alfred Clark Carpenter donated a set of carillon bells to the Deerpark Dutch Reformed Church.
1929 -- a new Tri-States bridge over the Neversink River built.
1929 -- sisters Florence K. and Jean Dalrymple established the Flo-Jean Restaurant with spectacular views of the Delaware River. (It is still a popular restaurant to this day.)
1930s -- the Route 97 observatory erected on Park Avenue. (Visitors have a scenic view of Port Jervis from it northernmost point.)
1932 -- (Elks-Brox Memorial Park); Sarah Belle Thorne made a substantial donation in memory of her brother-in-law, Charles Brox, and the property was conveyed from the Elks to the city and became known as the Elks-Brox Memorial Park. In later years, part of it was used as a Girl Scout Camp.
mid-1930s -- the present bridge between Port Jervis and Matamoras constructed.
1936 -- the old Samuel Farnum homestead donated to the city of Port Jervis as a park.
1936-1937 -- construction finished on the underpass on Pike Street.
1940s -- the Mitchell Inn (a.k.a., the Fowler House) demolished.
1949 -- a fleet of diesel engines replaced the old coal-fired steam engines of the Erie Railroad.
1950s -- St. Peter's Lutheran Church (corner of West Main and Hudson Streets) built.
1956 -- the Sisters of of Mercy took over the management of the hospital on East Main Street from the Sisters of St. Francis. (Mercy Hospital is currently owned by the Bon Secours organization.)
1959 -- dedication of the Jewish Temple (88 East Main Street).
1965 -- the Minisink Valley Historical Society bought the Fort Decker house and developed it as a museum and center for its activities.
1970s -- Spring House (a.k.a., Hotel Huguenot) on Route 209 burned.
as late as the 1980s -- Elks-Brox Memorial Park was being used as a public campground.
1990s -- the Drew Methodist Church burned. A new church was built.
1990s -- Riverside Hotel burned.
1990s -- the Strand Theater (Pike Street) demolished.
1993 -- Delaware River Heritage Trail built.
1996 -- the Elks-Brox Memorial Park was reopened and new picnic areas, trails, and bathrooms were constructed. Of all city's parks, none is as beautiful or serves as such a focal point of interest as the Elks-Brox Park with its panoramic vistas of the Neversink Valley.
1996 -- a Community Investment grant from Orange and Rockland Utilities allowed the Minisink Valley Historical Society to double the length of the Delaware River Heritage Trail.
Matthew M. Osterberg. 2001. Images of America: Port Jervis. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.
City of Port Jervis website.
Mrs. Killeen M. Quick. Stephen Crane's Roots in Port Jervis, New York. http://www.frugalfun.com/portjervis.html