University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Alpine, New York

Submitted by mccaffer on Mon, 02/09/2009 - 8:34am

By Geoffrey McCafferty (2009) 

When I was a graduate student at SUNY Binghamton I worked for the Public Archaeology Facility, a Cultural Resource Management firm affiliated with the university. I directed several large projects, including a highway department survey in Alpine, New York. Under CRM legislation, archaeological survey must be done prior to federally funded construction. As it happened, an old bridge over Swan Hill Creek had to be replaced, so a cultural resource survey was required. This resulted in two seasons of archaeological research, including excavation at several site loci.

The Swan Hill Creek bridge spans the seasonal stream of the same name on a small road leading out of the town and into mountainous state forest to the east. The town of Alpine in the late 1980s was a quiet community of about one hundred inhabitants, living largely in house trailers. Historical research, however, indicated that Alpine had been a booming mill town in the mid- to late-19th century. This project, then, was aimed at documenting the rise and decline of a rural industrial center.

Alpine was first settled in the early 1800s, and first appears on the Tompkins County map of 1835. By 1857, the Beers' map shows that Alpine was home for about two dozen homes and several mills (Fig. 1). The town continued to boom, as indicated on the 1874 Schuyler County map (Fig. 2). In addition to the mills, a hotel and several businesses were also indicated, including blacksmith shops. The end of the boom was precipitated by the exhaustion of local forests, and then when the railroad by-passed Alpine in the late 19th century; this is seen on the USGS map from the turn of the century (Fig. 3).

Figure 1: Beers' map (1857) showing Alpine homes and mills


Figure 2: Schuyler County map (1874) of Alpine


Figure 3: US Geological Survey map ( 1895-1906) showing route of railroad line and reduced number of houses


To learn more of the archaeological investigations, click on the link to the left. There is an additional link to historical photos of Alpine from 1897, from the Wixsom Archive (originals on file at the Public Archaeology Facility, SUNY Binghamton).


Site Admin