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Between spring 2004 and summer 2007, I volunteered about 1000 hours at South Street Seaport Museum, or SSSM, mostly on Pioneer but also on W. O. Decker and Lettie G. Howard. The experience was exhilarating—learning the lingo of schooner sailing and the lines and procedures, rustbusting and painting, all good for maintaining youthfulness and toning up aging muscle. Without my time at SSSM, there might never have been this blog called tugster about a place I imagine as the sixth (and primary) boro.
What pulled me away from volunteering was my sprouting curiosity about all the other vessels and projects and careers in the harbor with more tugboats than I could recall without the assistance of my camera. Downloading my photos after a day’s sail would lead to a night’s worth of googling, to learn what I could about the boats, companies, cargoes, and ultimately the crews. Volunteering there felt focused too exclusively on SSSM and their vessels’ tracks from Pier 16 back to Pier 16. This frustration should not have surprised me, given my lifelong wanderlust and curiosity.
SSSM has stayed with me though. One sweet memory I carry of SSSM is of the stories I heard as a volunteer about the time of creation, creation of the museum, that is. But these stories came in fragments, and the gaps between have triggered lots more questions. The more I heard, the less I felt I knew. A Dream of Tall Ships, covering the time period from 1967 until 1974 in 500 pages, is like a vessel loaded deep with memories filtered through the recollections of Peter and Norma Stanford, founders of SSSM. The account is detailed and peopled with legends from a half century ago, a time when nautical giants were feeling the urge to preserve what remained of commercial sail, both coastwise and global. People like Alan Villiers and Karl Kortum, “ship savers” who inhabit this book, strike me as optimists who could imagine second (or “new”) lives for these old vessels built a century or more before. The Stanfords recall their travels to places like Punta Arenas and the old port of Buenos Aires to purchase Wavertree, one of the tall ships that seem in hibernation down at SSSM today. The photo below–taken from among the over 60 images in the the book, shows Wavertree in the condition SSSM acquired her.
The book describes a time in the history of SSSM and New York City when it seemed that only the brightest future could lie ahead. When SSSM sponsored an event, the most powerful, brightest, wealthiest, and most generous of the city rolled up their sleeves and weighed in. In a timeline of SSSM events in the postscript pages of the book, names appearing include Jack Kaplan, Brooke Astor, as well as Laurance and David Rockefeller. Then there are giants like Pete Seeger and Burl Ives. At a January 5, 1968 meeting at the Whitehall Club to launch SSSM’s James Monroe Luncheons, the pantheon of New York’s maritime industry showed up to listen to ocean historian Robert G. Albion speak. NY political elite like Mayor Lindsay were there, as was the famed naval architect Howard Chapelle.
Real estate struggles existed already back at the creation, but it seemed manifest that SSSM would grow into a premier maritime institution, center of the New York State Maritime Museum, and more. Stanford documents the growing membership. New York was heady with the growing fleet of tall ships and other interesting vessels. Exciting happenings like Sea Day seemed to spread a love of the city’s connection with the sea, an event that predates “City of Water” day.
But don’t take my word for all the memories in this book. I hope enough of you read this book—skim quickly through the too-long segments about martinis and such– and maybe if enough of us start to glow again with embers long ignored, maybe new energies will again start up the dream to make SSSM a street of tall ships that will inspire seafarers of the future.
As I stated earlier, the book has over 60 photos, like the one below showing Wavertree first arriving at the museum, and
this one, showing ARA Libertad docked at the SSSM in July 1969 after delivering a portion of the Wavertree‘s topmast, shattered off in 1910 while rounding Cape Horn. Two other interesting notes about the photo below. First, when the Commissioner of Ports and Terminals tried to block Libertad from docking at the SSSM pier, Libertad‘s Captain Vazquez Maiztegui responded, “Libertad will berth in New York at South Street Seaport, no other place.” Second, at around the same time, Pete Seeger and Clearwater put in there to celebrate her first arrival in New york.
I immensely enjoyed this book. My only regret is that it didn’t contain 160 photos or 1600 photos. For example, on September 20, 1968, a Bronx River Towing tug delivered the vessel today known as Lettie G. Howard to Pier 16; I’d love to know more and see a photo. Square Rigger Bar & Grille is repeatedly mentioned; let’s see at least the facade. I’d be thrilled if an electronic addendum of photos from these early years could remedy this.
Again, get the book and read it soon.
Click here for some previous reviews I’ve posted.
Here was 3 with links to 1 and 2.
I’ve been so far unable to find the original use of this barge, but I haven’t expended much shoe leather either.
Click on the foto below from the July 21, 1977 NYTimes for an article on Michael O’Keefe’s barge restaurant opening. Anyone identify the tug?
Bulk commodities commerce needs some stretches of riverbank in the sixth boro. Crushed stone in; garbage out, as well as
scrap metal, petroleum,
desert scrapings aka road conditioner.
Products galore and more and
Places to park aka dock are vital also.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
Well, clearly I’m not the only one who recognizes how delightful Alice’s presence in the sixth boro proves to be.
Thanks to the Long Island City Community Boathouse for these pics long on spirit if perhaps a bit short on focus. My last trip with LIC Community Boathouse goes back five years already!! On that Sobro cleanup trip I also took these fotos.
These fotos remind me that I’ve yet to get myself to Four Freedoms Park (below) on Roosevelt Island, as well as
All fotos are compliments of the Long Island City Community Boathouse.
Here was 9.
It seems that sailing just gets better as summer turns into fall. Like Pioneer. Click here for bookings via Water Taxi.
There are also those sailing vessels I’d like to see under sail. Like Angel’s Share with its twin helms, here
a close-up of the port helm.
with its Marshall Islands flag
Heron . . . which I’ve seen as far south as Puerto Rico.
I’d love to find the time and invitations to sail on all those wind vessels. But I actually did sail on Pioneer the other day. Come with the vessel and crew as we leave the pier,
ride the wind in a busy harbor for a few hours, and
then lower sail before returning to the pier.
All fotos taken this week by Will Van Dorp. Time’s now for me to head out and enjoy more of this autumn air.
I’d love to find more fotos like this, illustrating a line I’ve heard repeatedly, as variation on . . . “NYC used to have huge pier fires.” The smoke here might be wafting over from a NJ pier fires. I’d also like to hear more about the general perception of piers at that time.
My take is that emphasis in fighting the fires was on containing them, ensuring that they didn’t spread inland. Piers, aka covered short term warehouses, were transitioning into oblivion or another life as containerization began to supplant break bulk cargo and moved out of these areas of the sixth boro and airplanes supplanted ocean liners. Pier maintenance slipped and fires of a range of causes broke out.
I’ve heard people say . . . fires burned for weeks.
(I’ve used this foto before.) In some cases . . . in NYC and elsewhere . . . retail areas were built.
The rest of these fotos are from September 2013. Retail buildings, parks and residences, businesses sprang up and continue to. And one of those places, Pier 17 on the East River side of Manhattan is transitioning again. Bravo to the Demanes for holding out, as Howard Hughes promises to “re-energize” the area.
Pier 57 on the Hudson River side is the venue for a similar makeover. What was just a plan a few months back is happening now.
Here’s the interior of Pier 57 a few days ago.
You might recall the Nomadic Museum not far from here . . . nine years ago already.
OK, this is a wandering post. Partly, I wanted to tell a story I heard last week from someone who fought these pier fires thirty years ago. He related that one aspect of fighting these fires was removing “fuel.” In some cases what would burn in these long-smoldering blazes was cargo, which would be pushed into the river. His example was clothing, mens’ dress shirts. Into the river whole skids of them would go. And then, as soon as was possible, many would be fished out . . . because to let them sink would just add to the pollution in the harbor and be wasteful. I don’t know how common this would be, and I know nothing of the attitude of the merchandise owners or insurers . . . The piers were then a very different world.
Thanks to Seth for sharing these fotos. My apologies if I’ve rendered any story inaccurately. I’d love to see more of this type of foto and hear more stories.
Here was ASB 2. There might be eight million stories in the naked city, but in its primary boro aka the sixth boro at least half again that number of other stories could be told . . by the collective whoever knows them.
Captain Zeke moves with the diverse stone trade past folks waiting below our very own waving girl and
all those folks waving and taking fotos from the ferry and every other water conveyance.
The 1950 Nantucket‘s back in town . . for the winter.
Yup . . . no one could have predicted these . . .
back when Shearwater was launched in 1929.
A cruise ship shuffles passengers as Peter F. Gellatly bunkers.
Kristy Ann Reinauer stands by a construction barge.
A barge named Progress has returned to South Street Seaport Museum, here between Wavertree and Peking.
Emerald Coast is eastbound on the East River.
Two views of Adirondack, one with WTC1 –or is it 1 WTC or something else–and
another with the Arabian Sea unit.
And Sea Wolf heads north . . . .
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
. . . well, only one day of it, and she’s been around for over 30,000 days. These fotos, shared by Al Trojanowicz, were likely taken on July 4, 2000. This date should be easy enough to verify, given the sailing vessel along the left side of the foto . . . Wavertree with sail bent on. Anyone know the tug escorting her?
Bertha . . . tied alongside Harvey! I’d first thought this was near Chelsea Piers, but I’ve been corrected . . . it’s at the old fireboat house, Marine Co. 6, at the foot of Grand Street in Manhattan just south of the Williamsburg Bridge. Thanks for the correction, Al. Here’s a link to the fireboat locations in the 1960s. And here are some great vintage fireboat fotos and info.
Bertha underway . . . with a hint of Wavertree on the far side of the NY Waterways vessel.
Might the tug in the distance be Pegasus?
And given the date, the Domino plant just beyond the Williamsburg Bridge might still have been in operation.
I hope to share more of Bertha‘s past, but the indiegogo fund raiser is critical for getting Bertha back into the water and sailing into the future. Click on the “save Bertha” link upper left.
Many thanks to Al Trojanowicz for sharing these fotos.
Captain Charles . . 1953. Know the location? The bridge in the background is a clue. Answer can be found at the end of this post.
James Turecamo, like me class of 1969, foto taken just before yesterday’s planned building implosion. By that early hour, James had already earned a fair amount of “keep.” To see James in Turecamo livery, click here.
Hunter is something different! She’s just towed in a dead fishing boat. How much would a RIB like this cost new?
Catherine and Kimberly, both Turecamo, escorted Tonna up the Arthur Kill, past the scrapyard where Gary Kane and I filmed the documentary.
Jennie B, 1955, in the mighty Columbia.
Captain Bob, August 1945 Marietta Manufacturing Point Pleasant WV hull #538, is a one year younger sibling LT of Bloxom (June 1944 and hull # 519)! Also, in this run was Mary E. Hannah and James A. Hannah, posted here on tugster in 2012. To get a sense what Captain Bob (ex-Sea Commander) looks like high and dry–and by extension what Bloxom of Graves of Arthur Kill once did–click here. On the vessel below, I love the green “door.”
Linda L. Miller, eastbound of the East River. Linda L. and Gabby Miller assisted in loading Mighty Servant a year and a half ago.
Coastline Bay Star, once known as Coney Island, dates from 1958.
Longsplice (originally Shrike, 1959) recently high and dry near the Arthur Kill.
And this vessel, on the left bank of the Willamette, I’ve no idea. Anyone help?
All fotos taken in the past month by Will Van Dorp.
Very related: I’m looking for someone (or some group of people) to take over guest editor position of this blog for about a month this summer. Compensation is a fortune of sixth boro shellbacks as well as fame; you could become a paladin of the port. You really can be geographically any watery place. And you have to adhere to a disciplined foto-driven/sparse verbiage mix of workboats, history, eccentricity, and apolitical wit. Of course, you can add to that a smattering of your own favorite sprinklings.
Hmmm . . . does that describe tugster? Feel free to add to a characterization of the blog. But seriously, I need to step away for a while this summer . . . to gallivant, of course. Get in touch for details. Learning the blogging template is not difficult.
More Seth Tane fotos.
Foto #1. It’s 1979, 34 years ago. What I see is no structure on Pier 17 Manhattan, lots of covered warehouses and a ship on the Brooklyn side. Extreme lower right of foto . . . is that the floating hospital? There’s another large white vessel to the left of lightship Ambrose. There’s a vacant lot just to the south of the Brooklyn side access to the Bridge. And a large ATB looking tug in the Navy Yard. What have I missed?
Foto #2. W. O. Decker–in my posts here and here and many other places–comes to pick up a tow, Poling #16. Digression: if you do Facebook, here’s the Marion M (shown in the second Decker link there) updates site with fotos. Lots of intriguing details in the background of the Navy yard here.
Foto #3 Driving Decker here is most likely Geo Matteson, author of Tugboats of New York. A 2013 “reshoot” of this cityscape is a “must do.”
Foto #4. Tied up at Pier 17, Decker remakes the tow to get the tanker alongside.
All fotos by Seth Tane.
If you’re interested in collaborating in a documentation of the changing harbor, particularly the evolving articulation between the sixth boro and the other five, please contact me. See address upper left side.
Here’s the treat I’ll leave you with for a few days. The twin towers in the background should clearly state we aren’t in Kansas or 2013 anymore. Please comment on your speculations. Foto #1
This is from the converging waters just south of the Battery. Notice the towers to the right. Foto#2
Note the stripe on Coursen‘s bow. Foto #3
Note the I-beam structure to the right. Foto #4
Note the relative positions of the towers and the Manhattan-side Holland Tunnel vent. Foto #5
Again, thanks in advance for your comments and reminiscences.
Source will be credited soon.