Monday, October 24, 2011

New Lighthouse for Rondout Creek, NY or Inside the Congressional Sausage Factory

Rondout Creek Light by Diana Hertz, from U.S. Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide. Available as a giclée print; contact Bella Terra to order.

Below are excerpts from Feb. 1910 proceedings of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the 61st Congress, chaired by Illinois Republican James R. Mann, author of the (in)famous Mann Act. Congressman George W. Fairchild (R, NY) had introduced a bill for the lighthouse two years previously, requesting $20,000 less (see Feb. 1908 Kingston Daily Freeman clipping here).

Maybe we've been reading too many old documents, but we were amused by the exchange between Frederick Clement Stevens (R-MN), William Henry Stafford (R, WI), Admiral Marix (photo) and Colonel William E. Craighill (Army Corps of Engineers) at the end.

NB: Kingston is across the Hudson River from Bella Terra World HQ.

February 1, 1910.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that a light-house and fog-signal station be established at the mouth of Rondout Creek, Hudson River, State of New York, together with a suitable building, under the direction of the Light-House Board, and that the sum of fifty thousand dollars, or so much thereof as maybe necessary, be, and the same is hereby, appropriated therefor out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.

Statement of Hon. George W. Fairchild, A Representative From The State of New York.
I desire to present to the committee the matter of the proposed light-house at the mouth of Rondout Creek, in the Hudson River, and I should like to have Captain Van Keuren. who is present with me, make a statement relative to the same...

Statement Of Capt. W. S. Van Keuren
...A good many years ago they built a light-house at Rondout Creek, which is now maintained by the Government, but which has...become absolutely obsolete....

...the channel of the creek has been changed by a government survey and diked, so that as the present light-house stands it is absolutely of no use; nobody pays any attention to it; the only protection we have there to get in and out of that creek is a stake light on the upper side, which is some 1,200 or 1,300 feet from the present light-house, which stands in only about 4 feet of water, and if a boat attempted to be guided by it, it would be sure to go aground....

The volume of business in a day at Rondout immense. The largest steamboat ownership on the Hudson River has its headquarters in Rondout Creek. We have all sorts of interests there that produce marine commerce—coal, bluestone, cement, and various other things.... And to get into the creek, at the town of Kingston, they have to go at least three-quarters of a mile after they leave the river proper, and in getting into this creek they are guided by this stake light...which is but a small lantern....

Mr. Stevens. Is there any navigation at night?

Captain Van Keuren. Yes, a great deal; we have boats coming in and out at all times.... We now want a light-house there with a fog bell and a flash light, in order that people will not have to lie outside, whether it be a tow, a passenger vessel, or the ferry. A ferry runs there after dark. And for three months in the year the light is not available at all, for the reason that they can not get to the light-house to light that light, and can not get to this stake light unless some different means are provided on account of the ice.

The Chairman. Just where is Rondout Creek?

Captain Van Keuren. It is 16 miles north of Poughkeepsie... It is the water front of the city of Kingston...

The Chairman. Mr. Fairchild, may I ask you a question? You introduced the bill originally for $40,000 and subsequently introduced one for $50,000?

Mr. Fairchild. Yes, sir.

The Chairman. Was there any examination made, so far as you know, as to the cost, except this report of the Light-House Board or their statement?

Mr. Fairchild. That is the only statement so far as I know. I took the matter up with them and they told me that $30,000 would be insufficient, and therefore I reintroduced the bill and called for $50,000.

Mr. Stevens. Now, we have a bill to erect a light-house and fog-signal station at Rondout Creek, Hudson River, New York. Have you given any consideration to that bill?

Admiral Marix. I think we made a report on that.

Mr. Stevens. I can not find any report on that.

Admiral Marix. On February 12 the Assistant Secretary addressed a letter to Representative Mann in regard to this bill, and stated that the proposed light and fog signal would be a good adjunct to the navigation of the Hudson River. It is apparent from the locality that the construction of the dike at Rondout, extending about a quarter of a mile toward deep water, has diminished the usefulness of the main light at this point, and in fact the light will not now serve to mark the entrance, to indicate the channel. He then went on to state that the increasing importance of Rondout and the growing river trade have rendered it necessary, and recommends that an appropriation be made for the establishment of the main light to be established on Boon Point, immediately outside of the end of the present dike, and that it be provided with a fog bell. It is estimated that $50,000 mentioned in the bill will cover such a structure rather than $30,000.

Mr. Stafford. Why was $30,000 mentioned in that connection?

Admiral Marix. They thought they could build it where the present dike was, but these dikes extend out into the river and make a more expensive structure necessary.

Mr. Stafford. What is the reason for putting a fog bell there rather than a fog horn?

Colonel Craighill. The bell is sufficient up there. The river is narrow, you know; and the bell is cheaper, and it does not disturb the neighbors as much, either.

Mr. Stafford. I was thinking that it was more a convenience to the dwellers rather than an aid to navigation.

Admiral Marix. It is a secondary bell. A fog signal is much better, of course, but it is more expensive.

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