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Update: May Day no more at South Street Seaport Museum, and I have sent my benjamins as promised. As I understand it, the Museum has been “taken over” in some fashion by the Museum of the City of New York. Below, Peter Stanford addressed a group of “save our seaport” supporters back in May.
Bravo to Save our Seaport for their efforts to pull together support.
This is related. The Great Lakes are mostly devoid of commercial passenger traffic today, but a century ago, had my great-great grandparents lived and prospered along the “northern coast” of the US, deluxe cruise itineraries might include stops at Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit.
SS Aquarama exudes that age of optimism. Too bad I hadn’t started this blog and contracted my obsession a decade or more earlier . . . I would have been able to photograph her in mothballs in Buffalo. Although it’s better late than never, when “stuff gets gone, it’s gone.”
So here’s the answer to my “whatzit” question . . . that place of carved oak above is the lounge on one of those Great Lakes passenger vessels: City of Detroit III. Who knows what honetmooners, retirees, or other celebrants smoked cigarettes (back when that was thought sophisticated) and sipped drinks here.
Among the many great people I met this past year was Peter Boucher of Nautical Log. Peter sent me this foto in response to a foto of Cove Isle, here. Peter’s explanation of the foto below is as follows: ”When we were on the 1967 Western Arctic Patrol in CCGS Camsell at one of the river stops this CCG river vessel came out to visit us. Our Captain renamed it “Dimwit”, as it looked like it was going to turn over at any moment.” Here’s another shot of Dumit.
I had to include this foto here: this endless coal train travels along the bottom of the Great Lake called “Lake Maumee.” Never heard of it? It was there, though. The day before Thanksgiving I waited a long time as this slow train moved prehistoric plant material along the bed of this prehistoric lake.
Blue Marlin captivated me this year, to put it mildly. Here Clearwater, another worthy project if you’re still toying with year-end donations, checks it out.
Guest post by Sandy Eames, a friend, a South Street Seaport Museum volunteer since 2001, and a Save Our Seaport steering committee member. Sandy read this at Community Board 1 meeting of 5/24/2011. In my 2006 foto below, Sandy is working on Pioneer‘s tender, named for a museum volunteer John Willett. In the background, left to right are Helen McAllister, Marion M, Peking, and (barely visible) Pioneer.
“I do not want to run anything, I simply want to be able to learn how to cut wood better and varnish it so that it onlookers say “oooh”, and steer a historic schooner again through the night under the stars. Of course, being able to do this with the ships under the capable care of the leading maritime museum in America in New York would be wonderful too! But we are not there yet!
I wonder how we got to live in New York City. Our forebears came the hard way – by sailing ship on journeys often taking a month. I came here in 1980 the easy way, on a Laker Skytrain into JFK. But are we going to teach our children and visitors here that everyone arrived by jet at JFK in the 1600’s? I don’t think so.
What has happened to the South Street Seaport Museum over the last decade or more simply appalls its friends, supporters and volunteers. Take a favorite schooner away from a sailor and you have trouble!
But what’s much worse is the secrecy of the Seaport Museum’s administration, its failure to outreach to its members, volunteers, the local community, and the maritime community, and the management’s ineptitude in running the museum effectively. The result is now that the museum is on the rocks, mostly out of business, yet the existing captain and admiral remain at the helm. It’s no wonder that a large group of people is upset, wanting change, and making noise.
I hope I speak for the many volunteers, museum members, local waterfront supporters and many maritime leaders across the country who would love to pitch in, do what they can to help save this institution, and put it back together – back on an even keel perhaps? Just where did all these maritime expressions come from? Did you get your one square meal today? Is the cat still in the bag? Such a teaching opportunity!
Here’s my proposal:
First: Lock down the museum immediately. Stop any further damage to the museum. Change the locks. Ask the volunteers to monitor and sustain the ships.
Second: Bring in an Interim CEO to run the place, to give us a chance to rebuild, make a new business plan, raise new funds, and then hire a new full time top flight CEO from the maritime museum field to run the place. Volunteers can run Pioneer this summer and generate needed revenue.
Third: Return to profitable sanity. Go back to teaching our kids and visitors the maritime history of New York. Re-open the museum’s galleries showing its extensive collection of paintings, scrimshaw and tools. Put the ships back to work as floating galleries with exhibitions of how New York really started, and take some of them out working on the water.
We urgently need your help in cutting through the thicket of government institutions so that we can achieve a change from secrecy, ineptitude and lack of trust, to openness, competency, support and engagement.”
Thank you, Sandy!
In the second foto, taken by the inimitable bowsprite, Sandy’s showing off the brass treads he installed in Pioneer‘s aft cabin ladder.
Just a quick update: I’ve heard from 11 people–some on email–willing to put up some money. I intended this as pledging a la Public Radio/Television. I had imagined that once a sizeable amount of money was pledged and a goal for the money was agreed upon, we could collect the money. May Day–the seasonal one–arrives soon. The dire one I hope never arrives. To fuel the discussion, I’m putting up fotos never before (I think) never posted here. Like Peking,
I’m offering to give away a Benjamin Franklin, or a half dozen. And I’ll do it before May Day!! See the end of the post.
The foto below–never posted here before–comes from 2005 and shows “the schooners,” a handsome Pioneer (1885) and elegant Lettie G. Howard (1893), 244 years of sailing between them. On a personal note, I logged in over 600 hours as a volunteer on these two boats as well as on W. O. Decker between 2004–2006. That means winter maintenance as well as summer sailing.
Such nautical treasures are these vessels (left to right: Marion M, Wavertree, W. O. Decker, and Peking) and so many fine folks, volunteers as well as professional crew, did I meet during this time . . that
When word on the street says Museum administration is looking to ”send its working ships to ports elsewhere for long-term storage” and otherwise declining comment on the crumbling state of affairs, I hope to hear that these same administrators abdicate their positions. These vessels are no white elephants. These are no “floating paperweights.”
During my years as an active volunteer, I knew this place could be much more than a red barn with seven masts sticking up above it.
Conditions of giving away my Benjamins: current Museum president Mary Pelzer resign effective immediately and a committee focused on the vessels be installed forthwith. And, I’d like 1000 people (former volunteers, boat fans, former professional crew members, just plain fans of these vessels, or friends and friends of friends of any of the above) to pledge at least a Benjamin each to be deposited with a trustworthy and maricentric steward by May 1, 2011. This could be the “seaport spring.” Let’s not let this go to May Day.
See the selection below from yesterday’s New York Post. Here’s info on a “Save our Ships” meeting for April 28. All fotos above by Will Van Dorp.
“Abandoning ships: City’s old vessels lost in fog of debt, neglect,” New York Post, April 25. “Rotting wood covers their decks, their masts are flaked with rust, and their hulls are corroding.
New York’s last tall ships — once-proud symbols of the Big Apple’s rise to greatness — are in a shameful state of disrepair as the museum that’s supposed to care for them sinks in a Bermuda Triangle of debt and bad management. Seaport Museum New York has closed its landside galleries and is looking to send its working ships to ports elsewhere for long-term storage.
The museum’s stationary ships — Peking, one of the biggest sailing ships ever built, Wavertree, a three-masted cargo ship, and Ambrose, a lightship that a century ago guided sailors into New York harbor — face an unknown fate. ‘Those ships, which are emblematic of our heritage on the waterfront, are almost being left to rot,’ said Roland Lewis, president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a coalition of nonprofit groups. . . . The museum declined comment, except to say it is ‘exploring various options’ to maintain its vessels.”
Boro6 aka the sixth boro or New York harbor sees diverse vessels and and floats in and out staggering amounts of cargo. I’m thrilled by the amount of collaboration this blog can muster. Many eyes see more things. Like Princess Danae, captured last week by John Watson. Princess Danae has long since departed, but John pointed out a secret. Any ideas?
The vessel is operated today by Classic International Cruises. For scale, compare her beside Norwegian Jewel. The secret? Princess Danae began life in 1955 as Port Melbourne, a
tanker general cargo vessel! (Thanks for catching that, Bart!)
A darker story awaiting enlightening here . . . the inimitable Elizabeth Wood took this foto some five or so years back. It’s Lettie G Howard, dormant and in bondage for many months now, and for sale; part of the sad dissolution
and crumbling happening at the museum formerly known as South Street Seaport. Until a new plan for the ships (See these stories by MWA, Old Salt, and Frogma.) even Pioneer will remained fettered. SOS indeed, or given the age of Lettie G and Pioneer . . . should we make that CQD? CQD!! The MWA link has a tribute to Bernie also.
Thanks to John, Justin, and Elizabeth for these fotos and the collaboration. The ones of Thomas J Brown and Pioneer by Will Van Dorp. Type any of these vessel names (except Princess Danae) and you’ll get many previous appearances. And, doubleclick enlarges most.
Elizabeth Wood took the following pics just over three years ago; I hated the gloomy light that day, but now I find it appropriate given the topic this post. Below is a letter from Peter Stanford, founder of South Street Seaport Museum, who thinks the current chairman and director should resign.
<< … a long slide from four piers under Seaport Museum control and a museum that was operating in the black until corporate managers took control, who sold out to Rouse in 1980. In those days you helped lead “a revival of spirit” (as a NY Times headline called it) in 1980, when Jakob (Isbrandtsen] and the Wavertee Volunteers turned to, supported by NMHS, and saved the ship from the sale or scrapping as set forth in the Rouse plan. Today we have one pier and have lost our urban renewal status which gave the Seaport Museum control of waterfront development which now proceeds regardless of museum needs and interests.
Seaport management asked Terry Walton and myself, with another seaport founder, Robert Ferraro, to develop an outline plan for the ships. We’ve now done this, after consultation with leaders in the Mystic, San Diego, and Erie maritime museums. These good souls run active, creative ship programs. And they have the vision to see that failure of the historic ships’ cause in New York would deal a deadly blow to the movement nationally – and in fact, internationally. As soon as we have final approval by Ray Ashley in San Diego, Dana Hewson in Mystic, Walter Rybka in Erie we’d like to circulate a summary of the Ships Plan to bring fresh life and interest to the ships of South Street.
We might also hold a meeting of informed people on what the Seaport needs and what it can deliver. We might hold this meeting on Maritime Day, 22 May, during the scheduled visit of the Gazela of Philadelphia, the last square-rigger in the immemorial Newfoundland fisheries – Jakob’s old skipper Robert Rustchak is relief skipper and trustee of the ship, and I hope he can help us do this in proper style. And I hope others of like mind may also weigh in to get a public campaign rolling.
ACTION THIS DAY! Meantime we urgently need e-mails to Mayor Bloomberg (www.nyc.govt/mayor) and the NY Times (212) 639-9675), to let the Mayor (www/nyc.gov/mayor) know that the fate of the Seaport Museum cannot be left to real estate interests in high cabal, and to alert Times readers to back-alley dealings over an institution which has been a resource and inspiration to many New Yorkers – which needs their support to tell the story of New York as a city built by seafaring, which is vital its well-being and progress on the sea trades today and tomorrow. >>
To any who wants to e-mail Mayor Michael Bloomberg, put this address on your browser line http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html This will bring you to a form to email the mayor. Max 300 words. What to write?
Whatever you want, whatever you know. If you don’t know much, keep in mind that ( as Rick Old Salt reports) Peter Stanford, Museum founder, has so little confidence in the the current leadership of the Museum that he calls for them to resign. I’m not privy to the inner workings at the Museum, but I did invest 1000 volunteer hours there, ending a few years back because the low morale among folks who worked there just broke my heart. If you know anyone who has ever worked there, ask them.
A vibrant port city, with its active sixth boro, deserves an energetic and maricentric museum, determined to provide residents and visitors to New York “ a living maritime museum … on New York’s historic waterfront, where a century ago a thousand bowsprits pointed the way to commercial greatness,” as Robert S. Gallagher wrote in October 1969. And a functional research library . . . that would be nice, too. May brighter days lie ahead. And may Peking and her sister vessels breathe again.