The Village of West Haverstraw was incorporated on March 29, 1883. At the time of its incorporation the Village had 1,602 residents. Dr. Frank Green in his “History of Rockland County” described the boundaries of the Village in this quaint manner: “The boundaries of the Village are: South, by the Village of Haverstraw and the Ramapo Road to its junction with a road that leads south to John Springsteen’s; West, by a line running from this junction to the Stony Point line, near the New Jersey and New York Railroad; on the North from the Stony Point boundary eastwardly to the road leading north from Benson’s Corner and by a line which continues the course of the said boundary to a point on the Minisceongo Creek north of the Farley house on the lands of the Haverstraw Clay and Brick Company; and on the East by a line running southerly from the above point to the north line of Haverstraw.”
The references to the railroad and the brick yard in the description indicate that West Haverstraw had a meaningful industrial and business history prior to its incorporation.
As early as the 18th century grist mills were built along the Minisceongo Creek. In 1828 John Glass constructed a calico printing factory in what would become the hamlet of Garnerville in the Village. Glass was killed when a boiler exploded on a steamboat which was taking his first shipment to the city. The business was taken over by James and Thomas Garner in 1838 and they built the Garnerville Print Works into an important industry that gave Garnerville its name and livelihood, The factory buildings that were begun in the 1840’s and many of the homes built for the workers still exist today. There is evidence that it is the oldest industrial complex still in use. Today the factory buildings, known collectively as the Garnerville Arts and Industrial Center, contain a variety of small businesses as well as studios for artists and sculptors.
In 1830 Elisha Peck brought the machinery from England for a rolling mill. The firm produced sheet iron, wire, screws as well as sulphuric acid and other chemicals. Later cannonballs and armament were manufactured for the Union army. The area became known as Samsondale after the ship Samson, on which Peck returned from England.
In 1873 the New York and New Jersey Railroad ran from Jersey City through Mt. Ivy, Thiells, and West Haverstraw at Benson’s Corner in the Village. The line was extended to Haverstraw Village in 1887. The West Shore Railroad opened to travel in 1883. The West Haverstraw Railroad Station was the finest on the line and included a well-known restaurant. It was destroyed by fire in the early 20th century.
The brick industry was the area’s greatest business. In the late 19th century and early 20th centuries brickyards extended along the Hudson River from Haverstraw Village to Grassy Point.
Among present day businesses is Martino’s Meat Market on Railroad Avenue which has been in operation since 1913 and is still owned and operated by the Martino Family.
The residents of West Haverstraw can be proud of living in a village with such a remarkable history.
Contributed by Thomas F.X. Casey, Historian of Rockland County