Foundry Artifacts and the View from a Canoe

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      This website has put me in contact with people I never expected to hear from.  Case in point–the president of the Ohio Tool Collectors Association reached out to me.  He came across a wrench and wanted more information about its origin:

      Now take a look at the head of the wrench:

      That is an I.G. Johnson Spuyten Duyvil wrench!  (I.G. Johnson was the owner of the Johnson Foundry and Rolling Mill on Spuyten Duyvil).  Cole Thompson has a great write-up on the history of the foundry here.  For a deep dive into its history, read the Reverend William Tieck’s “Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Spuyten Duyvil.”

      The Ohio tool collectors had a difficult time figuring out what was stamped on the wrench but they eventually figured it out.  They knew it was based on this design:

      The association president is writing a series of three articles on the history of the tool and the foundry for their newsletter.  Having a dad who is a tool collector, I am not surprised.  They are every bit as enthusiastic about tools as train enthusiasts are about trains or local historians are about local history!  So, there is no chance of getting him to sell you this wrench (I already asked).

      But speaking of collecting and the foundry, a couple of days ago I took a canoe into the Harlem River Ship Canal and I was surprised by the amount of debris that was still left from the foundry–particularly bricks.  The below photo is of the area just to the west of the “C” rock.

      Among the bricks were numerous “Henry Maurer No. 1 New York” bricks.  These were “fire bricks” that were used in furnaces and foundries:

      According to local brick archivist, Fordham Professor Allan Gilbert, those bricks were being manufactured in NJ as early as 1876.   Here is another brick type:

      No doubt a brick collector could have a fun outing down there.

      If you want to check it out, there are two canoe/kayak launches in the area.  One is at the western end of Dyckman Street (where I launched).  The other is at the Columbia Boat House.  Parking can be tricky at both places.

      People often ask if it is dangerous to kayak in this area and I would say it is important to have some experience on the water already and to do some research ahead of time-especially if you are going solo.  First, you want to make sure that the weather will be good–not just warm and dry but also not windy.  The less wind the calmer the water will be.

      As you can see the water was quite calm when I went (the wind speed was less than 5 mph):

      Second, you want to find out what the currents are doing before you go.  Both the Hudson and the Harlem can move quite swiftly and you don’t want to have to fight a strong current to get back to the launch.  Avoiding the strongest currents altogether is not a bad idea.  This website is extremely helpful to that end:

      The shifting tide affects the direction of the currents and, if you time your trip right, you can use the currents to push you in the direction you want to go and also have them push you back on your return.  This method took me to Highbridge on the Harlem River and back to Dyckman Street the other day.

      As I passed under the University Heights Bridge you can see that the water was like glass.  The Broadway Bridge is visible here too.

      It was cool to see a bunch of makeshift fishing spots along the river.  Some were rudimentary:

      Others featured plenty of lumbar support for when the fish were just not biting:

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