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AN Albanian by birth, who holds an important position as a state officer, and whose abilities have brought him into wide notice, is the Hon. John Bogart, the accomplished state engineer and surveyor. He was born in Albany, on the 8th of February, 1836. His ancestors came from Holland to this city as early as 1640, and owned lands in Beverwyck, now Albany, in 1641; they were consequently among its very earliest settlers. And here their descendants lived in characteristically simple, honest, industrious ways, until they established comfortable and substantial homes for themselves and competencies for their children. The family also owned property in Ulster County purchased from the Indians, and Mr. Bogart has the original parchment patent for these lands from Governor Benjamin Fletcher in the reign of King William and Queen Mary, dated March 28, 1694. The old Dutch element of Albany, though quiet in its progress, nevertheless succeeded in laying the foundation of our municipal fabric on solid ground which the political convulsions of more than two centuries have not been able to undermine.
When still very young, John Bogart, the subject of this memoir, was sent to the Albany academy. That institution, then as now, was noted for the thorough educational training given to its students. Under the direction of Dr. T. Romeyn Beck, Dr. William H; Campbell, the Rev. William C. Miller, and Dr. George H. Cook, the elements of a liberal education were excellently taught. At that period the two great prizes of the academy year were the Van Rensselaer classical medal and the Caldwell mathematical medal, given for the best student in each of those branches. Young Bogart was the first person to whom were awarded both of these medals in the same year. From the academy he went to Rutgers College, where many sons of Albany Dutchmen had, for years, received their collegiate education. He graduated in 1853, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The college subsequently conferred on him the master’s degree.
Mr. Bogart’s health on leaving college was delicate and, to secure the advantages of active exercise, he entered at once the corps of engineers of the New York Central railroad and was actively engaged for several years upon the improvement of the lines of that road, then in progress. A large part of his duties was in connection with the construction of the direct road between Syracuse and Rochester, through Clyde, Lyons and Palmyra, which effected a saving of twenty miles, as compared with the length of the older line by way of Auburn, Geneva and Canandaigua. In this service his health was entirely restored and he has since been strong and vigorous, fairly promising to continue the somewhat remarkable record for longevity of his family for many generations.
This experience in engineering work established his choice of a profession. He has been through life a civil engineer and has become well known as an expert in the consideration of questions connected with engineering. His next service was as an assistant in the engineer department of the state of New York. He was engaged upon the works of re-construction and enlargement of the canals of the eastern division of the state, and for some time, as a young engineer, occupied a part of the offices in the state house where, thirty years afterward, he presided as the state engineer.
At this time the construction of the great park in New York City was then just being entered upon. This project involved very important engineering work in its roads, tunnels, arches, bridges, drainage and water system; it also involved the artistic element of aesthetic landscape treatment. Mr. Bogart was engaged upon this work until the beginning of our civil war, and became deeply interested in the development of urban and suburban park improvements. He has since been connected with many such improvements in various parts of the United States.
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At the outbreak of the great civil war the urgent demand of the government for the best services of the young men of the country was responded to at once, both by the subject of this sketch and by his only brother, James Henry Bogart, who served through the war, up to the siege of Port Hudson, La., where, as a major of one of the New York regiments, he was killed while leading his troops into action. Mr. John Bogart entered the service as an engineer and served throughout the war, being stationed most of the time in Virginia. He had charge of the construction of the heavy fortifications upon the Rip Raps, an island in Hampton roads, which, in connection with Fort Monroe, guards the mile-wide channel from the ocean to the James river and to Norfolk. He was present at the memorable engagement between the iron-clad Merrimack and the first Monitor, witnessing, from the mast of one of the ships, the fight which revolutionized naval warfare.
Mr. Bogart was, during the war, on active duty at many points in Virginia, including Yorktown, the Chickahominy, Norfolk, Point Lookout, the James River, City Point, etc., and at Richmond immediately after its evacuation. He remained in the service until 1866, when he returned to civil life and has since been constantly engaged in the direction of engineering works and as a professional adviser in the management of large operations.
The experience gained in the construction of Central park in New York City has led to his connection with works of city and park improvement in many places. He was chief engineer of the Prospect park, Brooklyn; he was also chief engineer of the department of public parks of the city of New York from 1872 to 1877, and he has designed and aided in the construction of the parks and been connected with the public improvements of many cities, including Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Nashville, New Orleans and Syracuse.
When it was determined to construct a park in the city of Albany, Mr. Bogart was consulted by the commission charged with that important undertaking. He made the design for our beautiful park and superintended its execution. It was a labor of love for him to aid in the development of these grounds in the city of his birth. He considers that no other city in the world has, in the same area, so fine a park and the citizens of Albany, as they enjoy the opportunity for recreation thus afforded should give a pleasant thought of remembrance to the man whose careful study and artistic taste has made these grounds what they are.
Mr. Bogart has been connected for many years with the direction of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the representative organization of his profession. He is the editor of the transactions of that society, in which publication appear the most important engineering papers published in this country. His article on “engineering feats,” published in Scribners Magazine for July, 1888, was a notable paper, widely read and copied.
As a civil engineer Mr. Bogart has the reputation of conservative judgment, based upon well-informed experience and study. He is an excellent organizer of large forces of men, and has been very successful in the direction of works of much magnitude. Upon questions involving technical engineering considerations his advice is sought by the men who have large interests involved, and his private practice as a consulting engineer rendered it difficult for his friends to persuade him to accept an official position.
Mr. Bogart had charge of the exhibit of civil engineering at the international exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876. When the holding of a world’s fair in New York City was contemplated, he was chosen to represent the civil engineers on the general committee, and was also appointed a member of the executive committee. He was one of the board of experts to decide upon the plans for the proposed New York cathedral, and was president of the board of experts to examine the plans for the Nicaragua canal. He is now one of the consulting engineers for the Cataract Construction Company, which proposes to utilize the immense water power of the Niagara River; is the consulting engineer of the Harlem River bridge commission, and the consulting engineer of Trinity Corporation of New York City.
Mr. Bogart was the deputy state engineer and surveyor during 1886 and until the summer of 1887, when he resigned that position. He was at that time engaged in superintending the construction of the great bridge in course of erection across the Harlem River valley for the city of New York, consisting of two steel arches of 510 feet span each, and seven granite arches of 60 feet span.
In the fall of 1887 he was elected state engineer and surveyor, and assumed the office on January 1, 1888. On the resignation of Gen. Newton as commissioner of public works of the city of New York, in the fall of 1888, Mr. Bogart was tendered that position by the mayor of New York, but declined it. In the autumn of 1889, Mr. Bogart was reelected state engineer and surveyor to hold office till the close of the year 1891.
Personally, Mr. Bogart is of a very social disposition, popular and universally well liked; a man of somewhat over medium height, with thick iron-gray hair, heavy, drooping, military moustache, of quick, alert manners and distinguished bearing. He is, in fact, a Dutchman of the nineteenth century. He is a member of our Fort Orange club, of the Century club, and of the Holland and Saint Nicholas societies of New York, and is a trustee of the Engineer’s club of that city.
Mr. Bogart’s father, John Henry Bogart, formerly in mercantile business in Albany, has resided in New York for a number of years past. His mother, Eliza Hermans Bogart, died in March, 1889.
Mr. Bogart’s family now consists only of his wife, who was Miss Emma C. Jefferis, of Pennsylvania. They lost their two children several years since. It is to be hoped, and it is understood that there is some ground for the hope expressed by many of our citizens, that Mr. and Mrs. Bogart will make Albany their permanent residence, where they have already made very many friends.