Denning’s Point Musings 7
Historic Winters on Denning’s Point (continued)
With the Denning’s Point trails closed for the winter to protect the American Bald Eagle foraging, perching and roosting habitat, I have been pondering what changes people living on the Point would have experienced during this season over the past 6,000 years. The present winter-time closing takes the high road of environmental conservation … but what about the other years? Let’s pass a few of our own blustery weeks, continuing what we began with Denning’s Point Musings 4 through 6, considering winter as experienced on Denning’s Point over the years, one era at a time.
Winter on the Point called for hard work, including harvesting ice for use in the summer. An engineer’s sketchbook dated 1877 shows the location of an ice house near the bay side of Denning’s Point. Ice harvesting was big business by the mid 1800s and a necessity if one wished the luxury of cool drinks in the heat of summer. By the end of the Civil War three million tons of ice were harvested annually from the Hudson although the Denning’s themselves harvested ice only in sufficient quantity for their family’s consumption choosing to stay out of the commercial harvesting business. Ice harvesting was grueling work requiring many hands and strong backs.
From 1881 – 1939 the Denning’s Point Brick Works reigned over the Point. During the winter the brick yard was closed for it was too expensive to heat kilns in the cold weather. The hundreds of summer workers went home; none remained on the Point over the winter. The only resident during the cold months was a watchman hired to prevent theft or damage of brickyard equipment. The people of Beacon continued their tradition of launching ice-skating parties from the Point’s beaches during the winter season throughout the brickyard years.
On the Point from 1939 - 1988 two industrial endeavors evolved both of which operated through the winter. Durisol, a manufacturer of “green” building panels remained open year-round on the Point from 1947 – 1954. The Noesting Pin Ticket Company, known locally as “the paper clip factory,” operated a wire extrusion plant on the Point from 1954 - 1988. Despite the business owners’ efforts to keep people off the Point throughout the year, including the winter, Beaconites determinedly found a way to reach their favorite beaches from which to skate and ice boat.
In 1988 Denning’s Point was purchased by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation. and became part of the Hudson Highlands State Park. A balance had to be struck between recreational usage and preservation of the land as a natural foraging, perching and roosting habitat of the American Bald Eagle. Therefore, the advent of winter brings change on Denning’s Point. From December 1st until April 1st, the trails are closed. Join me in April when the cold months of winter are but a memory and the trails reopen to all who wish to soak in the history and the beauty of Denning’s Point.
Jim Heron, author of Denning’s Point - A Hudson River History and Project Historian of Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries.