Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Down by the riverside

A lost world along the Trent and the Neuse

Neuse River waterfront near the intersection of East Front and Broad streets, c. 1900. The boat Two Brothers is seen pulled up on shore and the U.S. Revenue Service Cutter Boutwell is visible in the distance at the federal dock.

by John B. Green III

New Bern's waterfront was once alive with activity of all kinds - docks and wharves, shipyards and warehouses, gristmills and sawmills - and the watercraft that used and served them.  Today it is almost impossible to find any trace of New Bern's once vibrant, gritty waterfront. But the photographs remain.  Here is a selection, mostly dating from about 1900 to 1910, which give a sense of what it once was like along the rivers.

Meadows Shipyard, Trent River waterfront, 200 block South Front Street, c. 1910.

Two-masted schooner heavily laden with bags of produce, Neuse River near the bridge.  Bridge keeper's house visible at left of photograph.

Meadows guano factory, Neuse River waterfront,  200 block East Front Street near Union Point, ca. 1910. New Bern's waterfront was home to many industries that could be highly offensive to the nose such as guano works, tan yards, turpentine distilleries, and fish houses.  All these plus sawmills and shipyards would also have assaulted the ears with the general din their operations produced as well as with the steam-powered  mill whistles they all employed to summon their workers in the morning and send them home again at day's end.

Norfolk-Southern steamer Neuse, Neuse river, c. 1900. Large river steamers like the 200 foot, 720 ton Neuse operated throughout the sound region of eastern North Carolina carrying passengers and freight.

King's Daughters club house and library, formerly the New Bern Yacht Club, Neuse River waterfront at foot of Broad Street. At the wharf is a North Carolina sharpie, a typical work boat of the sounds.

Trent River waterfront between Hancock Street and Craven Street, c. 1900, showing New Bern's warehouse district.

Steamer Howard, Trent River waterfront. Small, shallow-draft vessels like the Howard, carrying freight and a few passengers, could navigate the Trent River as far upstream as Trenton in Jones County.