Biographical / Historical
Harry Montefiore Bergman (1885-1971) was born on August 3, 1885 in Elmira, New York. He graduated from college in 1907 with a degree in Applied Science from Columbia University's School of Engineering. After graduation, he went to work for Godwin Construction Co. He specialized in structural foundations and was an authority on the soil and bedrock of Manhattan Island, New York. Beginning his employment as a superintendent, he rose to the position of Secretary and General Superintendent of Civil Engineering in June, 1927. In January 1932, Bergman was elevated to Vice-President and finally attained the presidency of the company in 1957. Bergman retired from the company in 1967. He was a member of the Association of American Society of Civil Engineers.
Godwin Construction Company was founded by Philander Hanford Godwin (1877-1936) in the early 20th century. Godwin was one of the pre-eminent civil engineering firms in New York City primarily involved in constructing foundations for large public building projects. The company was responsible for digging and construction of the foundations for the Chrysler Building, 176th St. Telephone Building, the old New York Port Authority Truck Terminal, the old Madison Square Garden at 8th Ave. and 50th St., the Hudson River Bridge, New York Hospital, Knickerbocker Village and others. Godwin Construction Co. was located in New York City, through the years at various locations: by 1915 at 251 4th Ave., by 1932 at 370 Lexington Ave., Rm. 1201 and later at 130 East 44th St.
Bergman, a lifelong bachelor, developed a love of motion picture photography and pursued this hobby with great enthusiasm. He photographed not only Godwin's construction work and work sites at various foundation projects throughout New York City in the 1920s and 1930s but filmed the company picnics, called "Beefsteaks", family leisure time activities and vacations as well. Bergman was also an avid yachtsman and filmed many hours of footage while sailing on Samuel Lauterbach's yacht
may also have been owned in a partnership between Lauterbach and Bergman) and at the Rockaway Park Yacht Club (RPYC) in Rockaway Park, New York. Bergman, along with Lauterbach, was one of the founders of the RPYC and it was reportedly founded because Jews were not allowed membership in any of the "exclusive" yacht clubs surrounding Manhattan. The yacht club was destroyed during the hurricane of 1938. Many films feature Ruth Perl who was Bergman's favorite niece. They took numerous trips to California, Canada, and Europe. Perl seems to also have taken an interest in motion picture photography as well, often operating the camera herself. Perl married Irving Kahn and had three sons, Donald Kahn, Alan R. Kahn and Thomas G. Kahn, who figure prominently in the later films. Bergman was a lifelong resident of New York. As of 1916, his address was 615 W. 143rd St., New York, NY. For a time he lived at 120-18 Newport Ave. in Rockaway Park, NY. In 1951 he bought a home at 143-17 Cronston Avenue in Belle Harbor. At the end of his life, Bergman is noted as living at 1 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. Bergman died on August 3, 1971. At the time of his death Bergman was staying at the Florence Nightingale Nursing Home, 175 East 96th St. in New York, New York.
Bergman's employer and the founder of Godwin Construction Co., Philander H. Godwin, was born on September 30, 1877 in New York City, NY. Godwin graduated from Columbia University's School of Engineering with a degree in Applied Science in 1899. After graduation, he married Carrie L. Pye and they had two children. Godwin founded the Godwin Construction Co. in the early 20th century and was the company's president until his death in 1936. As of 1916, his residence address was Cedar and Arch Avenues in Larchmont, NY and by the time of his death he was living at 26 Willow Avenue in Larchmont. He was a member of the Larchmont Yacht Club and perhaps had a great influence on Bergman's taking up the sport. He was an active member of St. John's Episcopal Church, Larchmont and a member of the Union League. Godwin died on March 27, 1936 in Larchmont.
Sources: Records of Columbia University, New York, New York "City Sells 2 Plots for Factory Sites", New York Times, June 6th, 1951, pg. 64. Newspaper Obituary of Harry N. Bergman, Archives Center Control File Conversation and correspondence with Alan and Kimberly Kahn
My Life: Edward du Moulin