Notes from the Port Authority of Oswego. VII. Fay, Spofford and Thorndike

Oswego’s Harbor and Dock Commission (HDC) functioned for 32 years (1923 to 1955) before being replaced by the Port of Oswego Authority.  During those years, many changes were wrought in Oswego’s harbor.  Some changes were under the control of the HDC; some were not.

During a very busy 1923, the new commission members realized that professional guidance would be necessary for effective harbor development, and they decided to look for an experienced engineering firm. After searching for the desired expertise, and reviewing three proposals, the commission hired the Boston engineering firm, Fay, Spofford and Thorndike (FST) for a fee not to exceed $15,000 (the equivalent of about $195,000 of today’s dollars).

To pay for the professional work, the HDC requested a “taxpayers’ special election,” that was held during February, 1924, to enable the City of Oswego to bond for $7,500 in each of the years 1924 and 1925.  Fay, Spofford and Thorndike immediately began their work, and produced over the next couple of years, one of the most spectacular commodity surveys and plans for harbor development ever seen in Oswego, if not in the whole of the Great Lakes.

The report, Great Lakes Commerce and the Port of Oswego, New York, was produced in 1925 by FST in two volumes, only Vol. 1 of which I have been able to find.  It was presented in a bound, 8.5” X 11” typed format, and delivered by FST to the Commission.  The Table of Contents, alone is 64 pages in length, followed by an 80-page narrative and 422 pages of data-filled Appendices about (A) commodities freighted on the Great Lakes, (B) commodities freighted on the Barge Canal, and (C) transportation charges by water, rail and a combination of both. Volume II apparently was smaller than Volume I, judging from the printing costs.  Hopefully one will be retrieved from some archive for review.

The Palladium-Times, in 1925, submitted the low-bid to print copies of the report (HDC minutes, 10-26-1925), and was paid $3,000 (about $19,000 in today’s dollars) “for printing, binding, etc. of 3000 copies of the two-volume report of the engineers….” (HDC minutes, 12-17-1925).

In addition, FST prepared for publication in the Palladium Times a six-part presentation entitled, Survey of Great Lakes Traffic and Study of Transportation Conditions Through Port of Oswego.  That series appeared on June 3, July 1 and 30, August 1, 5 and 30, 1927.  Each individual part required 3/4ths of an entire newspaper page, i.e., the series consumed 18 wide columns of newsprint published over a three-month period.  It is a grand historical record of Oswego’s role and potential in the first quarter of the 20th Century.

In addition to the two-volume printed report and the six-part newspaper presentation, FST also created detailed maps of their recommendations for harbor development and improvements.

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