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City Point Works

South Boston in the middle of the 19th Century was dominated by the iron foundries and machine shops. By 1850 Cyrus Alger's South Boston Iron Works was the largest foundry in the country, while the Bay State Iron Company at City Point was the largest and most extensive manufacturer of railroad iron in New England. A number of foundry and machine shops were begun in the 1830s, following Alger in the Foundry Street area. After the arrival of the Old Colony Railroad in 1844 two locomotive works also were erected. The Globe Locomotive Works (1846) produced the borer for the Hoosac Tunnel. Cotton and Hill's Chain factory (begun c. 1830 a t 3rd and F Streets) was a landmark industry of the period. During the Civil War these foundries and machine shops were given a tremendous boost, attracting skilled mechanics to South Boston.

Shipyards shared the glory of East Boston's yards. Harrison Loring's City Point Works, in successful operation through the 1890s built record-breaking clipper ships including, in 1851, "The Northern Light." The City Point Works was one of the manufacturing establishments of South Boston that may be said to have attained a national reputation by the time of the Civil War. The founder of these works, Mr. Harrison Loring (1822-1907) achieved a highly honorable fame in his department of mechanics. He was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and served his apprenticeship with Mr. Jabez Coney, of Boston. Having passed a season in Cuba superintending the erection of engines and machinery, he returned to Boston, and in 1847, at the age of 22, commenced business for himself, not however without capital, for he was tendered by relatives a loan of $20,000, without security - a mark of confidence no less creditable to their sagacity than complimentary to himself.

In 1847 he built a machine/boiler shop in South Boston, and for several years after commencing business Mr. Loring's operation were confined principally to building Stationary and Marine Engines and Boilers, though including Sugar Mills and Paper Mills Machinery, Iron Light Houses, and a great variety of other general work. He was among the first to foresee the great demand which must eventually come for Iron sea-going Steamships, and immediately set about making the proper arrangements to carry on this manufacture quite extensively, in addition to his other branches, which had been gradually increasing.

In 1857 he established the City Point Works, one of the first shipyards in the United States devoted to the construction of iron steamships, engines, and boilers. He made application to the city of Boston to purchase the House of Industry estate, then unoccupied, which application stated that he would agree to carry on the business of Iron Ship building for not less than five years, and would employ not less than three hundred workmen. After much opposition from some of the capitalists of Boston he finally effected the purchase of this estate, consisting of seven acres of upland and a million feet of flats, and prepared it for the purpose by remodelling the old and erecting such new buildings as the business required.

This being the first Iron Ship Building establishment which had been permanently established in New England, there were many who expressed their distrust as to the success of the enterprise, and even some of the capitalists of Boston, who wanted work of this kind, seemed determined to place the new concern in the closest competition with the older concerns of other cities, and giving them the preference over the homo establishment. Notwithstanding all these obstacles however, which to some men of less strength of character would have been insurmountable, Mr. Loring pursued his business with all the energy and steadfastness of purpose, which had characterized his career, by building steamers for foreign markets.

Even in the years 1857-8, when almost all kinds of industry were suspended, Mr. Loring kept his establishment in full operation on vessels to go to. India. He then made a contract with the Boston and Southern Steamship Company for two Iron Steamships of 1,150 tons each ; and unlike the most of contracts of a later date, these two vessels-the " South Carolina" and " Massachusetts"-were completed and delivered on the very day named for their completion. They were afterwards sold to the U. S. Goverument, and proved to be among the most successful vessels in the blockading squadron on the Southern coast. Mr. Loring since built for the Union Steamship Co. of Boston two Iron Screw-Steamships, the "Mississippi" and "Merrimack," of 2,000 tons each, which have given the greatest satisfaction to the Company and are ornaments to the merchant-marine of the country.

He also did a large amount of work for the United States Government, including machinery for sloops of war, side-wheel and screw gun boats. After the manifest success of the "Monitor" over the Rebel iron-clad "Merrimac," and the Government had decided to build more Monitors, Mr. Loring's establishment was called upon to build as many as could be completed in a short time, and he immediately commenced on one, the "Nahant," which was one of the first of her class that was completed, and the first Monitor ever built in New England. The novelty of her construction attracted daily hundreds of visitors to examine her.

Loring complained that the first contractors to order had a decided advantage in obtaining materials. Because Ericsson was the designer, Ericsson's groups always had that advantage.

While fitting the Nahant for sea Mr. Loring laid the keel for another Monitor called the "Canonicus." This vessel embodied all the improvements that suggested themselves while constructing the first, having a much superior deck and a thicker side-armor. She was a powerful Ram, and has more than double the propelling power of the Nahant class, and much superior in many other important points. Although the "Canonicus" was delayed in her construction by additions and alterations demanded by the experience of these vessels, when under heavy fire, to resist the modern projectiles, she was the first one completed of her description. The government officials who were on board during her trial-trip expressed themselves in language of unqualified praise for her sailing qualities, her wonderful strength, and the completeness of all her appointments.

The City Point Works were located at nearly the end of the peninsula of South Boston, about one mile from the city proper. They had a water front of six hundred feet, upon which are built two spacious ship-houses. The machine shop was the structure formerly used by the city as the House of Industry. It was built of unhewn granite, was four stories high, and about three hundred feet in length. By the early 1860s from 600 to 700 skilled artisans plied their tools here both day and night. Loring launched 13. vessels between 1858 and 1891.

In the 1890s Loring built four U.S. Lightships, three sea-going tugboats, and a cruiser for the Navy (U.S.S. MARBLEHEAD). It was at this time that he was forced by financial problems to turn the yard over to a group of three assignees - one of them being his son, Harrison Jr. - in order to complete these government contracts for the benefit of his creditors.

On 17 October 1891 Harrison Loring, who for nearly forty years has been proprietor of the City Point Iron works, made an assignment for the benefit of his creditors. Until it was expected [hat he would receive credit for work on the new vessels now constructing for the United States Government, that would enable him to meet all payments coming due; but, learning that the construction upon the contract by the Govermnent was such that he could not realize from that source for several weeks, nothing was left for him to do but to take this course. He assigned to the Hen. Charles H. Allen, a Director of the Central National Bank and President of the Home Bank of Boston, and George W. Quintard of New York, who represented the Surety Company of New York, bondsmen for Mr. Loring in the building of Cruiser No. 11. Mr. Quintard had the contract for the machinery, engines, and boilers of this cruiser and for other government vessels, and was an assignee of the estate of the late John Roach. Joined with Mr. Alien and Mr. Quintard as assignees was Mr. Lorlng's eldest son, Harrison. Jr. He had experience in his father's yard, was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it was thought he would be of valuable service in putting forward the work in the interest of the creditors.

On 24 October 1891, at a meeting of the creditors of Harrison Loring, proprietor of the City Point Iron Works, the liabilities were stated to be $495,000, and the assets, on a basis of continuing the work, $563,000. Charles T. Gallagher of counsel for the assignees made a statement explanatory of te failure. He gave a recapitulation of the causes and circumstances of Mr. Loring's embarrassment. The contract which Mr. Loring had with the Government was, Mr. Gallagher said, very explicit in its terms, and although an endeavor was made to have the Government advance more money than it had on the work which Mr. Lorlng had done, the Government was but following the terms of the contracts in declining to do so. It had been deemed best to keep the works running, and the disbursements necessary Co pay the help, buy material, etc. had been made. About fifty of the creditors had already assented to the assignment, and none to whom it had been presented had declined to do so. Mr. Gallagher said that Mr. Loring was not yet prepared to submit an offer of compromise.

The second Marblehead, an unarmored cruiser, was laid down in October 1890 by City Point Works, Boston, Mass.; launched 11 August 1892; sponsored by Mrs. C. F. Allen; and commissioned 2 April 1894.

The plant was eventually sold at auction in 1894.

Begining in 1902, the family, especially sons Harrison Jr., Atherton, and Robert, were involved with claims against the Navy totaling over $170,000, for money owned in the construction of the CANONICUS in 1863. Harrison Loring died in 1907. By 1910, after years of testimony and legal investigation, the CANONICUS case had still not been resolved. The Edison Plant is now located at the old City Point site.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:45:58 ZULU