The North Fork River has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially the stretch that runs through the center of town. It was fun to watch the huge rocks placed in the river to create water features that will hopefully draw people to the area to enjoy not only the water but other features of the park and surroundings.
The river has played a vital role in the development of Norfolk since the first settlers arrived in 1866. In fact, the river and the grain and lumber mills built along its banks defined the location of the town. The business district of the city center spreads west of the river and the mill, while residential development springs up around the businesses.
One of the early housing estates was called Queen City Place, a project of Queen City Real Estate. In 1891, the company announced the sale of the city’s “most desirable” residential lot.
“Despite undoubtedly having the most beautiful and well-located addition Norfolk has ever seen, the company is in no rush to sell their property, preferring to wait until … the streets and avenues (are) fully graded. By that time already There, … buyers will have the opportunity to invest in what is destined to become a popular Norfolk residence,” according to its advertisement.
According to the developer, a number of factors contribute to the area’s appeal, including access to an electric street rail system. The development was located near the sugar beet factory on what is now Riverside Boulevard, near what is now the Carhart Lumber Co. Indeed, an electric street car does transport people, especially sugar beet factory workers, from the area to the city center.
But the main attraction in the area is the river, which forms the eastern boundary of the addition, according to the developer.
“The land slopes easily from the hills in the west down to the river, just big enough to provide the city’s best natural drainage, without the danger of the great ditches in the streets being washed out at every storm. The soil is a fertile loam, Grasses, trees, shrubs, flowers and garden plants will flourish in it.
“The North Fork River…is a wide, calm stream that provides excellent recreational facilities for boating, and there are many cool corners in the beautiful trees that shade and beautify the banks, where hot summer days can be enjoyed It’s a pleasant time here, while the rest of the city is blazing hot.”
Real estate developers and factory owners aren’t the only ones recognizing the river’s allure. As is the case today, people recognized its entertainment potential. One of these was Mat Powers, who brought “one load” rowboats to town in 1888 and began renting them out so people could enjoy leisurely trips down the river. The more ambitious can make their mark in the Bowers-sponsored boat races. A year after arriving, Powers built a bathroom beneath the dam.
Unfortunately, Powers and his boat weren’t just for entertainment purposes. He also loaned them to authorities and others willing to search for the young boy who went missing in the river.
On May 18, 1888, Robert Whitley placed a newspaper ad promising a $25 reward for the recovery of the body of his son Joseph. Volunteers took boats and walked to shore to search. On May 24, Powers found the boy’s body while walking by the river. Joseph was buried the next day at Prospect Hill Cemetery. Power rejected the reward.
In August 1889, August Moldenhauer drowned after trying to row a boat with his hands. After failing, he jumped into the water and tried to pull the boat with one hand while swimming with the other. The boat left him and he drowned because he couldn’t swim. The body was found the same day.