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Windmills a Dutch treat for Amsterdam

Friday, July 26, 2013
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Dutch-style windmills have been used to symbolize Amsterdam through the years.

Amsterdam gets its name from the capital city of the Netherlands, where windmills are common. The Dutch were early and prominent when Europeans came to the Mohawk Valley.

There is a non-functioning windmill on Route 30 south of the city. The image of a windmill is used in the city’s promotional materials and was made part of the city seal in 1965 during the administration of Mayor Marcus Breier.

The pre-1965 city seal showed carpets, underwear, buttons and brooms. City Historian Robert von Hasseln said city officials saw no further reason to celebrate the companies that made those products after they decided to leave Amsterdam.

When the new city seal was adopted, efforts began to build a windmill in Amsterdam. In 1966, the Junior Chamber of Commerce announced it would build such a structure at Thruway Exit 27. That non-working windmill wasn’t completed until 1974. It deteriorated and was burned by an arsonist July 25, 1991.

Von Hasseln concluded in a 2011 study that the only way to capitalize on Amsterdam and windmills would be to construct a big one that actually works as a tourist attraction. So far that hasn’t happened, but von Hasseln said it could, and he hopes private industry can build it.

Von Hasseln noted there apparently were never any real windmills in old Amsterdam, as water was a more reliable power source than wind for early settlers. Wind was not steady enough, von Hasseln said, and windmills would have to be sited upland, away from the main roads.

A faux windmill was erected as the entrance to a series of tents that contained more than 100 booths at Amsterdam’s Progress Exposition and Auto Show in September 1925. A huge parade preceded the exposition at Ross’s Flats in the East End.

One “mammoth tent” was dedicated to the display of automobiles, and Standard Oil of New York showed off a gasoline pump.

Titanic connections

Two women with connections to Amsterdam were rescued after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Amsterdam native Jane Anne Forby Hoyt survived the disaster. Born in 1877, she worked as a stenographer. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. Frank Forby, of 30 Chestnut St.

In 1906, she moved to New York City after marrying Frederick Hoyt, a businessman and yachtsman. They booked passage on the Titanic’s maiden voyage to New York partly because Frederick Hoyt knew the captain, Edward J. Smith.

Jane Hoyt was convinced to get aboard the last lifeboat that left the Titanic. According to a New Jersey newspaper account, her husband went to the ship’s bridge after making sure his wife was on the lifeboat. Frederick Hoyt and Smith reportedly shared a stiff drink, then Hoyt went to a lower deck and jumped into the water.

Hoyt was found by a lifeboat crew who dragged him aboard. A female passenger put her fur robe on the half-frozen man, not knowing who he was. The compassionate woman was Jane Hoyt and, according to the newspaper, she shrieked, “My God, it’s my husband.”

Jane Hoyt died in 1932 in Long Beach, Calif. Her husband died in New York City in 1940.

Another Titanic survivor died at what was then Mount Loretto Nursing Home on Swart Hill in the town of Amsterdam in 1959 at age 83. A native of Washington, D.C., Marie C. Young was on the Titanic as a traveling companion to Mrs. J. Stuart White of New York City. Both were rescued.

Young lived in New York City until she entered Mount Loretto.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or bobcudmore@yahoo.com.

 
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