Beginning at the Battery on the North River side, we find first the pier of the famous Camden and Amboy Railway Company, from which passengers and freights are conveyed to the railway by steamer. Above this are the piers of the great European steamship lines, the coast steamers, and the steamboats plying between the city and the neighboring towns. The Boston boats, all of which run to points in Connecticut and Rhode Island, where they make connections with the railways to Boston, are fine steamers. Those of the Narragansett Steamship Company, the Bristol and Providence by name, are the most magnificent steamers in the world. They cost $1,250,000 apiece. They are simply floating palaces, as are also the Albany night boats. The foreign steamers are huge iron vessels, carrying thousands of tons of freight and hundreds of passengers. The sailing of one of these ships always draws a crowd to her pier, and though from five to eight of them leave the port every week, the attraction still continues.
The ferries to Jersey City and Hoboken are all located on this river, and are full of interest to the stranger. The Bethel, or floating chapel for seamen, is also worth visiting. The ice trade of the city is carried on on this front, the principal supply of that article being obtained along the river, about one hundred miles above the city.
The oyster boats, or boat stores, are peculiar to New York. They lie chiefly in the vicinity of Christopher street, and are sources of considerable profit to their owners. The Hay Scales are also curious objects. At the foot of Fifty-fourth street the numerous telegraph lines which connect New York with the States south of it, cross the Hudson. They gain the Jersey shore in the vicinity of the Elysian Fields at Hoboken, and thence continue their way to every part of the States mentioned.
The East River front is the terminus of the ferry lines to Brooklyn, Long Island City, and Hunter’s Point. The shipping here consists almost entirely of sailing vessels. The craft plying between New York and the New England towns have their stations here, and here also are the California clippers. The huge Indiamen lie here receiving or discharging cargo. The whole river front is covered with merchandise representing the products of every land under the sun.
The Floating Docks are among the principal sights of the East River, as are also the vast coal and ship yards. This stream will soon he spanned by an immense suspension bridge which is to connect the City Hall in New York with the City Hall in Brooklyn. The total length of the bridge and its approaches is to be 5878 feet. The bridge is to rest on cables, supported by massive stone towers at the water’s edge on each side. The span between these towers is to be 1616 feet. From each tower the flooring is to be carried a further distance of 940 feet to the land approaches. The New York approach is to be 1441 feet, and the Brooklyn approach 941 feet in length. The approaches will, in some instances, be on a level with the tops of the houses in the cities through which they pass. The total height of the bridge above the tide is to be 268 feet. The work is now progressing rapidly, and will be completed in about three years.
Accidents are very common in every large port, but the peculiar construction of the New York ferry houses renders the number of cases of drowning doubly great. In order to guard against this, and to afford timely assistance to persons in danger of drowning, “rescue stations” have been established along the water front of the city. There is one at each ferry house, and the others are located at the points where accidents are most likely to occur. These stations are each provided with a ladder of sufficient length to reach from the pier to the water at low tide, with hooks at one end, by means of which it is attached firmly to the pier; a boat hook fastened to a long pole; a life preserver or float, and a coil of rope. These are merely deposited in a conspicuous place. In case of accident, any one may use them for the purpose of rescuing a person in danger of drowning, but at other times it is punishable by law to interfere with them, or to remove them. The station is in charge of the policeman attached to the “beat” in which it is located, and he has the exclusive right in the absence of one of his superior officers to direct all proceedings. At the same time, he is required to comply strictly with the law regulating such service on his part, and to render every assistance in his power. The law for the government of persons using the “rescue apparatus” is posted conspicuously by the side of the implements, as are also concise and simple directions as to the best method of attempting to resuscitate drowned persons. These stations have been of the greatest use since their establishment, and reflect the highest credit upon those who originated and introduced them.