Rosendale cement molds history

Left, the foundation of the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883, used Rosendale cement; right, this Currier & Ives lithograph captures the vivid maritime life of the Hudson River. (All images from Library of Congress)

Rosendale cement, a natural cement with unique properties for construction, was discovered by engineer James McEntee in High Falls shortly after the construction of the D&H Canal began in 1825. Due to the large quantities mined in Rosendale, it was named for that town. The cement was used in many iconic structures including the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Kingston’s largest manufacturer in the late 19th century was the Newark Lime and Cement Company. It first purchased 40 acres in 1844 from the Abraham Hasbrouck family in the Ponckhockie section of Rondout, including a limestone quarry and waterfront property. The business thrived due to the abundant limestone and direct access to the Hudson River, and eventually occupied 250 acres in Rondout, including part of what is now Hasbrouck Park. 

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The company began excavating and exporting limestone in 1845. Six years later, it added a plant to the quarry to process cement, Output often exceeded 1000 barrels per day. Newark Lime and Cement closed in 1905.

At the height of the industry in 1899, almost ten million barrels of Rosendale cement were produced. Shortly thereafter, the faster-drying Portland cement began to take over the industry. It was named not for a U.S. city but for its resemblance to stone quarried on the Isle of Portland on the English coast. 

The D&H Canal was expanded and improved in the 1840s. Four aqueducts were added to reduce travel time and accidents at river crossings. Engineer John Roebling, a German immigrant, invented a cable suspension aqueduct, a method he would use when building the Brooklyn Bridge 20 years later. The only Roebling aqueduct that remains and is still in use between Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania and Minisink Ford in New York. 

Roebling had become involved with the canal previously. The wire rope he had invented was used on the Gravity Railroad to replace non-durable hemp, which had in turn replaced breakable iron chain.

The East River Bridge, the first to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, required 600 workers, $15 million, and 14 years to build. Its foundation, seen in the photo above left, and two suspension towers used Rosendale cement. It opened in 1883 and was renamed the Brooklyn Bridge in 1915. 

At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1595 feet. In 1884, P. T. Barnum marched 21 elephants across to assure the public of its strength.

The bridge brought about the decline of the Fulton Ferry Company, established in 1814. The ferry, which had revolutionized travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn, ceased operations in 1924. In recent years, ferry service has regained popularity. 

Roebling, the bridge’s engineer, was one of at least two dozen people who lost their lives working on the construction. His son Washington and daughter-in-law Emily completed the bridge after John’s death. 

In 1921, the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company built the Wurts Street Bridge in Kingston. 

The Currier & Ives lithograph, above right, depicts the maritime life of the river. The passenger steamships and cargo-laden sloops of the time traveled the Hudson River, often from Rondout.  

Liberty Enlightening the World, designed by French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was based on a proposal to design a statue for the U.S. symbolizing friendship and democracy. Gustave Eiffel oversaw construction of the innovative steel framework that held the statue’s copper sheets in place. 

The enormous base for the Statue of Liberty, completed in 1886, used Rosendale Cement.

The 154-foot, 27,000-ton base was built using Rosendale cement. The photograph below shows the enormous structure under construction on Liberty Island, later covered in granite.

The robed female representing the Roman goddess Libertas, more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, was completed in 1884. Before being shipped to New York in more than 200 crates, the statue’s parts were exhibited around Paris. The photograph above shows the hand holding the torch, completed earlier and shipped to the U.S. for display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and later in Madison Square Park in Manhattan. For 50 cents, people climbed to the balcony to help raise money for the pedestal, which the U.S. was responsible for building. After a decade of fundraising, the base was finally completed in 1886, thanks to the efforts of Hungarian-born newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer.

To see sample pages and information about supporting this 450-page book featuring 850 images that will be released in December 2021, please visit:  HudsonValleyHistoryAndArt.com.

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