When the Patroon Creek Sewer backed up

Researching the Dey Ermand paint company, we came across the interesting information that Hugh Dey Ermand, head of the company around the turn of the century, lived at 248 Hudson but also owned a string of residential properties on the near north side of the city. Specifically, he owned 13 residential buildings known as Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 26 Pleasant Street.
We know this because on or about the 20th day of February 1909, the Patroon’s Creek sewer, “which consists of an arch or culvert over the Patroons creek, extending from North pearl street to the Hudson river, and which was built by and under the direction of the city of Albany about twenty years ago, beame completely obstructed by means of logs of wood and other materials which accumulated therein by reason of the negligence of the city of Albany, its officers, agents and servants, in the construction and maintenance of said sewer, and in consequence thereof the water which on that date entered the same from Patroons creek, and also the sewage which was emptied therein from five connecting sewers, was discharged therefrom through the manholes over the same and from the entrance to said sewer and overflowed the surrounding streets and premises, pouring into the basements and other parts of each of said several buildings and flooded the same to the depth of several feet, thereby causing great damage to the structure of each of said buildings and requiring an expenditure of at least three hundred and sixty-six dollars ($366.00) for the purpose of necessary repairs to said buildings….” Dey Ermand petitioned the Albany Common Council for payment for his damages. Thinking about it, $366 doesn’t seem like a heck of a lot of damage, even in 1909 dollars, and in fact it paled in comparison to some other claims made for the same flood.

For instance, Mary A.D. McGaughan, owner and resident of 1098 Broadway, “a brick and wooden building consisting of a store and dwelling-house,” cited the same effect from the same event, in somewhat more graphic detail. “During the night of February 19 and the morning of February 20, 1909, . . . a great many telegraph poles, railroad crossties, sections of trunks of trees and other large blocks and logs of wood floated into said sewer and lodged therein near a bend or curve in the line thereof a short distance west of a manhole which is located between the Erie canal and the lands on which are laid the tracks of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company, and completely prevented the further passage of the water and sewage then in said sewer in its course to the outlet in the river….” Mary McGaughan sought $407.65 in damages and loss of stock, which was not described.

The Harry E. Campbell Company of 403 North Pearl Street, doing business in the buildings and premises on the southwest corner of North Pearl and Tivoli streets since 1906 as a foundry and maker of architectural iron work, took it a step further and said that the city had on numerous occasions been told about such deposits of debris, and “although they occasionally removed some of such obstructions, failed to protect the opening at the westerly end or mouth of said sewer by a grating or other suitable guard designed to prevent the entrance of such materials into the same . . . .” Campbell claimed the loss of a motor and rheostat, tools, 15 tons of coal, 2 tons of sea coal, 1 ton of flour, 1 dozen crucibles, 10 tons of foundry sand, 1 barrel of French sand, 1 barrel of plumbago, 1 barrel of charcoal facing, 400 tons of moulding sand, damage to their sheds, flasks, boards, the pattern-shop floor, and the loss of closing the foundry for two days. In all, they asked for $1,522.50 in damages.

Sarah A. Pryor, residing at the southwest corner of Learned and Thacher streets where she had a dwelling and a saloon, said that the water flowed with such force that “the covers on the tops of the several manholes on Manor street beame detached therefrom by reason of the pressure of water undearneath and same, and the water therein gushed forth into said Manor and adjoining streets with great force, flooding the same and abutting premises, including the building occupied by the claimant and situated on the southwest corner of Learned and Thacher streets . . . .” She sought $2345.10 for damage to her property.

Ann Jane Haskell of 1086 Broadway sought $75.00 in damages.

We don’t know what the city ultimately paid, or if after that time they put a grate on the sewer entry.

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