JOHNSTOWN - The state Department of Transportation plans to place a historical marker at the North Perry Street bridge to commemorate an 1889 flood that washed out an early version of the bridge and killed five people.
The current bridge spanning the Cayadutta Creek is being replaced in a $2.4 million project being funded by federal, state and local governments. The marker will be placed sometime after the work is completed, which is expected to be in December.
City Historian Noel Levee said Thursday he isn't sure when the DOT ceremony to place the marker is scheduled, but it will definitely honor those who died at the site in a 1889 flood that struck the Colonial City.
This 1889 picture shows men searching the Cayadutta Creek for bodies of flood victims near a bridge on?North?Perry?Street.
"DOT called me and wanted to know the particulars of what happened," Levee said.
He said the flood of July 9, 1889 killed five people as it washed out an early incarnation of the North Perry Street bridge.
"It washed out several bridges [in the city]," the city historian said. "It was like a tidal wave coming along the Cayadutta and through the town."
Local officials decided to replace the 30-foot-long North Perry Street bridge after DOT in 2008 red-flagged what was the deteriorating stone-arch structure between Smith and Washington streets.
D.H. Smith Inc. of Clayville, Oneida County, is doing the bridge work for $1.83 million, but other costs have pushed the total project amount to about $2.4 million. Federal Highway Administration money is paying for 80 percent of the project, and DOT is paying 15 percent. The city's share is estimated at $100,000.
Utica-based DOT Public Information Officer James Piccola, who also is serving as project manager for the North Perry Street bridge replacement project, verified the state will dedicate some form of marker to the 1889 flood.
"From what I understand where the bridge is being done, there is going to be some placard or commemoration," Piccola stated.
With the project due to be completed in the middle of winter, he said, DOT may wait until spring to have an official ceremony dedicating the marker.
In a column written by former Fulton?County Historian William G. Loveday Jr. and published in The Leader-Herald, the flood on?July 9, 1889, caused severe damage to the city and its major leather industry.
Severe thunderstorms raised the water level of the Cayadutta Creek to a new record height, he wrote, leading to the collapse of the then-stone arch bridge on North?Perry Street.
"During the creek's rampage, four dams and seven bridges were washed away and destroyed.?The wild waters overflowed the banks and picked up everything in their path," Loveday wrote.
"...it was one of the most calamitous events in?Fulton?County up until 1889 and certainly deserves a significant place in our history."