American History and Genealogy Project


Hospital Opens - McKinley Passes - Reports

1895 - 1904.

Seymour Elected Mayor - Trouble With Water Company - Hudson Boulevard Completed - Extensive School Improvements - St. Luke's Hospital Opened - Standard Oil Fire - President McKinley's Death - Small-pox Epidemic - The Meeker Act - Street Improvements - St. Luke's Hospital Burned - Avenue C Asphalted - Andrew Came Gives City Library - Work Begun on Public Park - New School No. 8 - Fire Destroys Tenements - Reports, Statistics, Etc., at Close of 1903.

At the mayoralty election in the spring of 1895, Egbert Seymour, on the Democratic ticket, was elected Mayor. Several of the Councilmen who were elected at this election, and two or three city officials, were opposed to the new water contract, and at-tempted a "hold-up." The trouble reached its height one day during the first year of Seymour's administration. While employees of the water company were tapping the old mains to make the necessary water connection, some city officials arrived on the scene.

Immediately there was trouble. The Fire Department was called out and played the hose on the poor employees of the water company until they quit work. For a time, a small sized riot was in progress. The matter was taken before the Supreme Court of the United States by the water company, and an injunction was obtained against the city. United States marshals were stationed at the scene until the work was completed, to arrest any city official who interfered.

In May, 1895, the Bayonne section of the Hudson County Boulevard was completed. The city did not have any share in the expense of its construction, and abutting property owners paid a portion of the cost for flagging. In the spring of this year, electric arc lights were placed on every corner along Avenue D, illuminating that thoroughfare from one end to the other.

For the first time in the world, a telephone and telegraph message was sent through a wire suspended by kites five hundred feet in mid-air on December 5, 1895, at Bergen Point. "Kite" William A. Eddy was making the experiment.

For this year the actual dwellings numbered 2,915, with 6.8 persons estimated to each.

The overcrowding of the schools necessitated the enlarging of several school buildings. Old No. 3, in Pamrapo, having long been condemned and out of use, warranted the erection of a new school in that section. On June 18, 1895, contract was awarded for an addition of four rooms to School No. 2, at a cost of $7,784 (opened for use January 23, 1896). On July 14, the following year, contracts were awarded for the following: No. 3 School, new. Avenue D between Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Streets, sixteen rooms; cost, land $6,400, building $44,888 (opened for use April 28, 1897). No. 1 School, addition of four rooms; contract price $9,975 (opened for use April 6, 1897). No. 5 School, addition of four rooms; contract price $10,975 (opened for use about April 6, 1897).

There were remarkably few fires during the year 1896. The report of Hymen Lazarus, Chief Engineer of the Fire Department for the year ending January 6, 1897, showed a total of nineteen alarms in the whole year.
Improvements were still on the increase, so that on May 15, 1897, there were forty-one miles of opened streets and fourteen miles of sewers.

At this time the High School had outgrown its quarters in the old church building on Avenue D and Twenty-ninth Street. On this account the school was transferred on December 6, 1897, to Schuyler Hall, at Bergen Point, its present location.

On April 5, 1898, a contract was awarded for the erection of a new twenty-room school, No. 7, on property between Seventeenth and Andrew Streets; price of land, $12400; building, $71,300 (opened for use September 5, 1899). On April 19, 1898, contracts were again awarded for the enlargement of school buildings, this time: No. 4 School, addition of four rooms; contract price $13,216 (opened for use October 10, 1898); No. 6 School, addition of four rooms; contract price, $10,897 (opened for use about November 1, 1898).

On December 3, 1898, St. Luke's Hospital on East Twenty-second Street was opened.

During the summer of 1897-8 several balloon ascensions were made at "Salter's," in Pamrapo, to which thousands would flock to witness these daring feats. At one occasion the parachute failed to open in its descent, and the horrified spectators saw the aeronaut fall to the earth and killed.

The increase in population for the ten years ending 1900 was 13,689, making the total in that year 32,722 souls.

On the night of July 4, 1901, a number of oil tanks belonging to the Standard Oil Company at the Hook exploded. A terrible fire raged for five days, consuming millions of gallons of oil. Houses close by were threatened by the blaze, and the tenants, who were mostly poor, were compelled to remove their household belongings and camp out on the salt meadows. The local Fire Department fought splendidly night and day, and much property was saved by the heroic efforts of the men, who were assisted by fire tugs from New York. This fire proved to be one of the largest in the United States.

When, in September, 1901, President McKinley was lingering between life and death, the result of an assassin's bullet wound, public feeling here was at its height. Upon his death, the city went into mourning; sorrow was manifest everywhere. Memorial services were held in most of the churches, and several fraternal organizations expressed their sympathy in writing to Mrs. McKinley.

The city was visited by small-pox in November, 1901. Over seventy cases were reported, of which twelve were fatal. School No. 5, on East Twenty-second Street, and the annex on the Hook Road, were both closed by order of the Board of Health. Every effort was made to check the spread of this dreaded disease. Dr. Forman, the city physician, and other doctors were kept busy night and day in vaccinating people. It is said some 7,000 persons were treated.

In this year, by an act of Legislature, the commencement of the Councilmanic terms were changed from the last Monday in April, as prescribed by the charter, to the first day of January at 12 o'clock, noon. This was called the "Meeker Act." Owing to this. Mayor Seymour entered his fourth term on January 1, 1902, being the first to do so.

Building Inspector Thomas Herbert reported that during 1901 more than a million dollars were invested in the erection of new dwellings and places of industry, together with improvements. The valuation of real estate amounted to over $15,-000,000.

Great activity was evident in street improvements during this administration. From April, 1901, to April, 1902, there were added 3,608 linear feet of curbstone, 5,506 linear feet of flag-stone, 4"673 linear feet of macadam pavement, 5,800 feet of sewers.

About April 1, 1902, the old Masonic building on Eighth Street and Avenue C, (formerly Schuyler Hall), which was being used as a High School, was purchased by the city at a cost of $14,500. (Alterations cost $11,661. School opened for use January 26, 1903.)

In September, 1902, St Luke's Hospital, on East Twenty-second Street, was totally destroyed by fire.

Up to this period, Avenue C from Fifty-fourth Street to Twenty-fifth Street was a dirt road, with the exception of the stone blocks laid by the traction company between its tracks. It was thought advisable by the majority of the property owners to have this section asphalted, and the contract was awarded. This improvement was finished in the winter of 1902-3, at a total cost of $88,661.65.

In April, 1903, Andrew Carnegie presented the city with $50,000 for a Public Library. A site had been previously selected on the northwest corner of Avenue C and Thirty-first Street, costing $8,500, and work was begun on the building in the fall.

In August, 1903, work was commenced for the laying out of a public park on grounds owned by the city, bounded by the Boulevard and Newark Bay, from Sixteenth to Nineteenth Streets.

In the same year contract was awarded for the erection of a twenty-room public school building on Avenue C between Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Streets, to be called No. 8. Cost of land, $13,700; contract price of building, $84,658.1

In this year, property, real and personal, amounted to $15,324,767.

At the mayoralty election in the fall of 1903, Thomas Brady was elected Mayor on the Democratic ticket, to succeed Mayor Seymour, who was serving his fourth term.

On December 19, following, fire destroyed a row of frame flats on Avenue C and Eighteenth Street, rendering forty families (mostly Hebrews) homeless and destitute. The fire victims were given temporary shelter in the Hebrew Hall building nearby, and contributions in the way of food, clothing and money were given by charitable neighbors and church workers.

Reports, Statistics, Etc., at the Close of 1903.

Chief of Police Thomas Magner reported for the past year as follows:

Total number of arrests, 1,962; males arrested, 1,462; females arrested, 320; over 16 years, 1,679; under 16 years, 283; total number of meals furnished for prisoners, 1,311, at 25 cents each, cost $327.75. Nativity of some of the persons arrested: Austria, 140; England, 50; Germany, 117; Hungary, 21; Italy, 47; Ireland, 273; Poland, 125; Russia, 179; United States, 977. Total amount of fines paid in Recorder's Court, $2,109.50.

Superintendent of Schools, J. H. Christie, reported for December, 1903, as follows: Total enrollment, 5,504; average attendance, 4,644. This includes the night school, with total enrollment of 334.

Streets, Sewers, Etc.

Belgian, 2.2 miles; macadam, 9.7 miles; asphalt, 1.6 mile; opened streets, improved, 13.5 miles; opened streets, unimproved, 36 miles; total miles of streets in city, 77.5 miles. There were also 30 miles of sewer and 39 miles of water pipe.

The Treasurer's annual report for the City of Bayonne Fire Department Relief Fund showed a net balance of $19,190.35.

1. Corner stone laid April 16, 1904.

Source: First History of Bayonne, New Jersey, by Royden Page Whitcomb, Published by R. P. Whitcomb, 24 East 37TH Street, Bayonne, N. J., 1904.


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