Growing up in Ogdensburg we were familiar with its neighborhoods like the one we lived in, Pious Hollow, as well as the Fourth Ward, Plover Hill, the Ferry Dock and the Shipyard, among others. We had a special interest in the Shipyard because it’s where our father was born and worked as a machinist for Diamond National.
It was aptly named. For some 125 years Ogdensburg was a major shipyard, building and repairing large vessels. It began with David Parish who emigrated to the U.S. in 1806 and acquired 200,000 acres of land in the St. Lawrence valley to sell to settlers, building the Parish Mansion, now the Remington Art Memorial, in 1810. In 1816 he returned to Europe and because of an Austrian bank fraud, lost his fortune and in 1826, drowned himself in the Danube.
In 1808 Parish decided to have two ships built to add to the large number of merchant vessels plying the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. His land agent, Joseph Rosseel, brought 40 carpenters to the city to build two schooners, the “Experiment” launched July 4, 1809, and the “Collector” that same summer. The next year the “Genesee Packet” was launched, all having a capacity of 50 tons. Ogdensburgh became an official U.S. Port of Entry with the creation of the Customs District of Oswegatchie by an Act of Congress March 2, 1811.
The “Caroline” was the firstside-wheeler steamer built at Ogdensburg. She was 71 feet long and launched in 1822 just five years after the city was incorporated. Then came the “United States” in 1831, known as one a first-rate vessel. She was twice as long as the Caroline and displaced 386 tons. In 1852 Henry Van Rensselaer formed the Ogdensburg Marine Railway which purchased 22 acres of land along the St. Lawrence and built tracks into the river to build and repair vessels. The first vessel the new business worked on was the steamer “British Queen.”
In 1865, the works were sold to the Northern Transportation Company which continued in business until a fire in 1883 heavily damaged the blacksmith shop, engine and boiler room. Next up was the St. Lawrence Marine Railway Company of Ogdensburg, owned by the George Hall Company which reorganized the facilities to accomodate larger vessels up to 3,000 tons. William L. Proctor, a partner in the Hall firm, was made president of the new company.
In 1929 Mrs. Frank Augsbury christened the vessel, “Empire State.” Next to launch was the “Buckeye State” in 1930. The “Badger State” was hauled in from the river in 1934 and 65 more men hired to make repairs to the steamer. The following year the steamship “Inca” was taken in for repairs followed by the steamer “Middlesex.” But then, in 1936, the Algonquin Paper Corp. owned by Frank Augsbury assumed control and worked stopped. The yard simply could not keep up with larger facilities handling larger ships.
In 1944 the shipyard and paper mill were sold to become a pulp mill which officially ended this part of the city’s history. Three years later the property became a subsidiary of the Diamond Match Company which expanded several times over the next 30 years. During its peak the plant employed nearly 500. But as the market for pulpwood food trays dwindled with introduction of plastic trays, the plant shut down in 1978.
I’ve seen references to another Ogdensburg neighborhood called “The Patch.” If you know where it was please advise. To see where the Shipyard was located Google the city’s name and open the map that appears and switch to satellite view. Follow Monroe Ave. northerly through Main Street and where it dead ends at Pearl Street, imagine it extending to the rivershore and you’ll the remains of two piers, connected at the end. They were part of the Shipyard.
- Ted Como is a member of the board of directors of the Fort La Presentation Association. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.