Johnson Ironworks: Reader Challenge


Not long ago I received an email from reader Cherie Magee with an inquiry into the Johnson Ironworks, once located on Inwood’s Spuyten Duyvil. It seems Cherie had inherited some old family photographs along with a generations old story about an ancestor who may have worked at the ironworks.

Johnson foundry in 1923.

She wrote:

I was doing some research on the Isaac Johnson Foundry and your website came up. Terrific site! Thanks for all your information. I am trying to find out if there are any records about the foundry and its employees. I think my Great-Great Grandfather may have worked there.”

Cherie soon forwarded the photos she believes are images of foundry employees taken somewhere in the area around the ironworks. She’s hoping someone reading this post might provide a valuable clue to help put her photos into perspective. A true reader challenge.

She wrote:

Timothy Sweeney

I was always told that my Great-Great Grandfather worked at a foundry in Spuyten Duyvil and that one of his daughters – my Great Grandmother, worked for the Delafield family – also in Spuyten Duyvil. I have found them living there in the 1890 and 1900 census.

My mother dug through some old family photos and there are several terrific photos of my Great-Great Grandfather, Timothy Sweeney. One of the photos was taken with 11 other workers. The photo is entitled “The Corporation” and three of the other workers are named as well. They are all holding pick axes. The Isaac G. Johnson Foundry is the only foundry I found in that immediate area, so I am wondering if there are any records still around that might confirm his employment at this foundry. Someone also mentioned to me that New Yorkers (in particular apparently) referred to their local governors as Corporations…so I was wondering if that could apply here. Could these men in the photo perhaps have been foremen and were jokingly being called the Corporation? I don’t imagine there would have been a lot of formal type photos of laborers.

“The Corporation”

I have also included a few other photos – Timothy Sweeney (my Great-Great Granpa) and Dan Hayes, his son-in-law. They are the same two in the photo by the railroad tracks. Could the tracks have been by the Foundry? The next two I have no idea where Dan is – but the stone-walls certainly look like someplace in that area. The last two photos – I was wondering if they could have been taken at the Miramar Pool. Do you have any other photos of the pool to compare these with? Unfortunately, none of these photos are dated.

Dan Hayes
Dan Hayes
Dan Hayes
Dan Hayes and Grandpa Timothy Sweeney.
Site presumably near the old Johnson Ironworks.
Swimming area presumably near the old Johnson Ironworks.

Being interested in the Johnson Ironworks, Cherie’s request immediately caught my eye. While I was able to rule out the Miramar pool as the location in one of the photos, the trail ended there.

That’s where you the reader come in: If anyone has any information, photos, records or even old family histories of the Johnson Ironworks, I encourage you to write in. The foundry once had a workforce of some 1,200 men, so I imagine there are some historical treasures still floating about.

For more information on Inwood’s old Johnson Ironworks, click here.

Lost Inwood Amazon link


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