Sand Mining in Port Washington
It’s a Living!
by Christopher Bain
There have always been many ways to make a living in Port Washington. Before the Long Island Railroad extended the line from Great Neck to Port Washington in 1898, there were fewer choices. Farming was broadly practiced all over America, and Port was no exception, from wheat to flax to vegetables to apple orchards. Much of it for local consumption and some for sale in the big city nearby. Fisherman did what fisherman have done for countless generations and Cow Neck also did a strong trade in oysters, mussels and clams. All the normal trades and support services were represented including blacksmiths, carpenters, boat builders, hotel keepers, you name it.
Soon after the Civil War however, with New York City growing faster than any city in the country, it was discovered that the best sand, for making the best concrete came from little old Port Washington. By some calculations, 90% of the concrete that built the sidewalks, the skyscrapers, the subway tunnels, the building foundations of NYC came from Port. More than 100 million tons of sand, shipped by barge from Port Washington to Manhattan by extremely hard working individuals who came from Italy, Ireland, Gemany, Nova Scotia, Poland, Norway, and Russia. Here are three views from "back in the day".
This is said to be the only monument to labor in the world. RIght here in Port Washington. Second, know that there are two wonderul sources of information, if you are interested in learning more about the sandmining industry in Port Washington. One place is actually visiting the memorial that we’re about to show you, across the road from Bar Beach. Inspired and led by the vision of one Leo Cimini, funded by the kind and generous donations of the Langone family, and brought to realization by artist/sculptor Edward Jonas (along with the help of the Town of North Hempstead and dozens of other individuals): This is a monument everyone in the area should visit.
The other source of information to consult is the Port Washington Public Library, who captured the last days of local sand mining before it had completely vanished, in written and audio recordings that are a treasure for our community.
And if you played in “the pits”, anywhere in town (and there were many) send us your memories or put them on our Facebook page.