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This Week in Port Jervis History

On February 2, 1892, the current Erie Depot in Port Jervis was completed. The building was designed by Grattan and Jennings. William Shoemaker Grattan (1846-1904) and Alva M. Jennings (1861-1904) of Buffalo were also responsible for the later construction of the coaling station in Port Jervis. The depot was the second at this location. The previous depot at this site was built in 1889 to replace the original station on Pike Street, but was destroyed in a fire on December 26, 1890. A temporary station was located in the Goodale Building (now the R.H. Smith Mercantile) until the new building was completed. Jennings and others from the firm arrived in Port Jervis on June 25, 1891 to remove the ruins of the former depot and work on the new building began the following day. The depot cost $35,000 (a little over a million dollars today) to build. The waiting room and ticket office of the new depot opened to the public on February 11th, 1892.

On February 2, 1918, a fire destroyed the Main Street Academy on Sullivan Avenue and East Main Street. The building was constructed in 1888 and designed by Binghamton architect, Truman Isaac Lacy (1834-1914), and built by Cornelius Henry Ackerman (1839-1910), a Binghamton contractor and civil engineer. The smaller “Old Main Street School” (pictured in the lower left in front of the Academy) was razed shortly after the completion of the Academy. Author Stephen Crane first attended school at the Old Main Street School from 1878 until January of 1880 when he began attending school at the Mountain House School, also in Port Jervis. Architect T.I. Lacy also designed the second Church Street School in Port Jervis. Some of the extant buildings designed by Lacy are the Press Building in Binghamton, NY, Eisenhart Drug Store in Bangor, PA, Carbondale City Hall in Carbondale, PA and the Ward Vanderlyn House in Oxford, NY. The Main Street Academy was built of brick, Ohio sandstone and Georgia pine. The fire in the Academy started around 6:45 PM in a third floor laboratory. School officials and students who arrived while the fire was still limited to the third floor, carried books, typewriters, and other school property out of the building from the lower floors. As the fire spread to other parts of the building, the Board of Education President, James Gillinder, ordered everyone to evacuate the building. The Neversink Steamer and Hose Company was quick to arrive on the scene. The firemen labored, however, to carry the hose from the hydrant to the school grounds through the three feet of snow on the ground and a number of the nearby hydrants were frozen, with temperatures dropping to two degrees that night. Firemen threw snowballs to break windows so the weak stream of water could douse the interior of the building. Ultimately the frozen hydrants and a lack of water pressure to the hoses proved too much in their efforts to save the school. The firemen were able to protect the nearby buildings, including Deerpark Reformed Church. The Sullivan Avenue School was built on the site in 1919, but was closed in 2004 when it was determined to be structurally unsound and was demolished in 2017.

On February 3, 1689, Willem Cool (William Cole) was born in Kingston, New York. William Cole is the namesake of Cole’s Island and Mount William in Port Jervis. Cole was the first deacon of the Maghaghkamik church, now the Deerpark Reformed Church. Cole was part of the committee that raised money to build the church. In 1745, he was chosen as elder and he was one of the most active residents in the new settlement. Cole’s residence had a stockade around it and was located just west of the burying grounds (south of Saint Mary’s Cemetery). Some have suggested that the original church building was protected by the same stockades of Cole’s residence (or Cole’s Fort). William Cole died in 1755. On November 10, 1778, Kazimierz Pulaski received a letter from George Washington instructing him to march to Port Jervis:

“Upon consulting Governor Clinton of the State of New York, upon a position, in which your Corps can be employed to advantage, and at the same time be plentifully subsisted in the Article of Forage, he advises the Minisink settlement upon Delaware. You will therefore be pleased to march immediately for that place, and take your Station as near Cole’s Fort as you conveniently can.”

Pulaski did not station his forces at Cole’s Fort, but did remain in the vicinity of Port Jervis for two months. In 1779, Cole’s Fort was burned by Joseph Brant.

On February 6, 1937, Doctor Henry Brinkerhoff Swartwout passed away at his home at 17 East Main Street. Swartwout, who was a physician and surgeon, who served as the first mayor of the City of Port Jervis. Swartwout was elected President of the Village of Port Jervis on March 26, 1907. Swartwout ran unopposed on the Republican, Democratic and Citizens Union tickets receiving a vote from most of the roughly fourteen hundred voters who voted that day. Port Jervis became a city on July 26, 1907 and Swartwout became the first mayor of the city. Swartwout was born on February 4, 1861, on the Swartwout family farm outside Port Jervis to Peter Philip Swartwout and Hannah Cuddeback Swartwout. Swartwout finished his schooling in Port Jervis and then attended Cornell University for two years. He trained with Dr. William Louis Cuddeback and then studied at Bellevue Hospital Medical College, graduating in 1885. Following his graduation, he interned at the House of Relief in Lower Manhattan, an emergency hospital also known as the Chambers Street Hospital. On March 10, 1886, Swartwout married Carrie B. Peck, a teacher in Port Jervis. The following day, the newlyweds sailed for Europe, where Swartwout continued his medical studies at the University of Vienna. Swartwout returned to Port Jervis in the fall and began practicing medicine in October of 1886. Swartwout had a private practice and served as a visiting physician at Hunt's Memorial Hospital (which later became the Port Jervis Hospital) and at St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum, as well as becoming the surgeon for the Erie Railroad Company. In 1887, Dr. James Halsey Hunt purchased the old Savings Bank Building, built by John Strader in 1868, at the corner of Ball and Sussex Streets. The following year, Hunt employed local builder, Darius Rhodes (1827-1909) to greatly expand and convert the building into a hospital. The project involved constructing a fourteen hundred square foot building adjoining the Savings Bank Building (the vertical line in the picture on the left shows the 1888 expansion in the front and the improved but much smaller 1868 structure behind it). In 1892, Dr. Cuddeback and Dr. Swartwout purchased Hunt's hospital. Carrie and Henry Swartwout and three of their four children are interred at Laurel Grove Cemetery.

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