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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 6, 1922

Little Miss Holland Breaks Bottle of Champagne at Launching.


Tug Takes It to Dry Dock, Where It Will Receive Many More Tons of Concrete.

The launching of the great steel and concrete caisson that is to be a permanent part of the vehicular tunnel under the Hudson River took place at 8:30 yesterday morning at the Staten Island Shipbuilding yard at Mariners' Harbor, S. I.  Workmen knocked away the blocks that held it on greased ways, and it slid into the water and floated as buoyantly as a new ship.

The only ceremony was the breaking of a bottle of champagne over the bulk by Miss Anne H. Holland, the twelve-year-old daughter of Clifford M. Holland, chief engineer in charge of construction.  George Flinn, President of Booth & Flinn, Ltd., the contractors, furnished the wine, and William J. Davidson, President of the shipbuilding company, supplied a bouquet of roses.  Equipped with the wine and the roses, Miss Holland climbed a little platform and broke the bottle against the side of the caisson with the words: "I name thee New York River Caisson."  Then Miss Holland bowed to the applause and rejoined her father.

When the caisson struck the water it careened a trifle, and all of the engineers present held their breath till it settled to a depth of sixteen feet and then slowly righted.  A tug fussed up and towed it to a near-by dry dock, where many more tons of concrete will be poured into it, and after a few finishing touches are applied it will be towed to the foot of Canal Street and sunk at the pierhead line.  The caisson is the biggest ever constructed.  It is 93 feet 3 inches wide, 108 feet 6 inches high and 37 feet deep.  It will be sunk in its permanent position until it rests on solid rock, and will be held there by pouring more tons of concrete between its inner and outer shell.  When it is finally in place its total weight will be 15,000 tons.

When the great shield that is boring the tunnel under Canal Street reaches the caisson, circular openings for the two tubes, each 32 feet in diameter, will be burned through, and the shield will then march unobstructed through it.  Then the shield will begin its work amid the mud and rock of the river bed.

From the most eastward point of the work on Canal Street to the shore line is about 900 feet, and to the end of the pier is an additional 1,000 feet.  So far the westward journey of the shield has advanced only 67½ feet.  On Thanksgiving Day it was within 7 feet of the great disposal plant of the Canal Street sewer that the city is building.  Then it was noticed that the compressed air was escaping, and that much of the necessary resistance required to move the shield was lost.  This sewage plant is 75 by 45 feet.  At a meeting yesterday of the Tunnel Commission, Chief Engineer Holland was authorized to build a wall on the side of the sewage plant.  This will cost $16,000 and will take two weeks to complete.  In the meantime the work of tunnel building practically will cease.

This incident was discussed among the engineers present at the launching and during the breakfast that was served for those who rose early enough to be present.  Among those were State Engineer Frank Williams, State Engineer-elect Dwight B. LaDu, the engineers of the Erie and Lackawanna Railroads, Tunnel Commissioners, representatives of the contractors and as many of the employes of the commission as could be spared.

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