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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.
See it there, the modest red covered barge between Wavertree and Peking? The steel covered barge is called Progress today. Once it transported coffee from ship to shore. I’m making a note to myself: learn more about these.
And right across the East River to the right of the firehouse at Fulton Landing, that modified but still modest white barge used to be Erie Lackawanna 375. It too transported coffee. More on this later. I took this foto 6/16/2009.
Here’s another modified coffee barge, this one just south of Camden, NJ, now the floating office of McAllister in that waterway.
It’s a counterpart to this McAllister office on the KVK. So given all these repurposed coffee barges I knew about, why
did it take me a day short of seven years doing this blog to go to Bargemusic, the EL 375 barge in the foto above? Shame on me, posing in the “shadow selfie” below, for waiting so long to check out this extraordinary barge.
I trekked out there yesterday in spite of the gusty sub-freezing weather to hear some music and have a look.
Jung Lin was warming up on the Steinway, as
was Andy Simionescu.
I didn’t–and one shouldn’t–take fotos during the performance, but during intermission, I went out onto the pier to see the view from the “back” of the stage.
Here’s the obit of founder Olga Bloom–with more info on her barge project– from the NYTimes almost exactly two years ago. From this article, I learn this was her third barge, that it was built around 1900, and that Peter Stamford was instrumental in getting it permission to dock at Fulton Landing. Here’s a spring 1978 article on what may have been Bargemusic’s first season. Here’s a link that gets you an interview with the current president and calendar of upcoming events. By the way, at 2:48 in that interview, a Bouchard tug passes eastbound on the East River.
Credits to those who offered marine trade skills and others can be found here.
Request: the bargemusic site credits a Captain Hearnley as the one to tow the barge to this location. Can anyone say anything about him? Does anyone know the name of the tug or . . . have a foto of that tow? When was the former EL 375 last hauled?
Final shot for today, a foto from 8/27/2010 of Volunteer passing bargemusic.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp. If you have never been to bargemusic, you’ll thank youself if you go there SOON.
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.
Springtime . . . and motion gives a renewed sense of life to the watery boro. Emerald Sea‘s been around all winter, but she’s not moved loads like this. Diner? Prefab beach buildings for post-Sandy reconstruction? Many thanks to Ashley Hutto for this shot taken along Roxbury, Queens.
Schooner Virginia left Wednesday, headed for Virginia . . . by way of Portland, Maine.
Anyone know the manufacturer of the speedboat in the foreground? In the background is Zephyr, launched 10 years ago from the Austal Shipyard in Mobile, AL . . . and Wavertree, launched 128 years ago in Southampton, UK.
I could almost imagine this boat has a bowsprit.
Smaller workboats seem more commonplace this time of year like Henry Hudson,
this Oyster Bay government boat,
an OCC vessel,
and of course the ubiquitous all-weather sludge tanker North River, frequently mentioned on this blog.
Thanks to Ashley for the first foto, and I’d love to know what that structure on the Weeks barge is. All other fotos by Will Van Dorp, who feels the urge to go somewhere too.
So after work today, I went looking for evidence that New Yorkers celebrate mardi gras. I saw this instead . . . seal?
Not! Unless seals these days carry flashlights and trail markers and have a support
vessels like Linda Ann, herself supported by W. O. Decker and Peking.
Here is one of a series of six posts I did five years ago about Peking, which moved across the bay that day. And half a year back, here‘s a post I did about W. O. Decker and Helen McAllister‘s last waltz. And Wavertree . . . I regret that in my dozen years wandering the sixth boro, Wavertree has not ONCE left the dock. I know some of you must have fotos . . . and good memories of her moves, but I have none.
BUT . . . click here for a mystery vessel with three masts square-rigged in a foto I was given some years back. Anyone want to take a stab at identifying it? The conclusion a few years back is that the foto is “‘shopped,” although it was done some years ago.
My guess is that someone was inspecting Wavertree‘s wet side.
Later I thought I saw a mermaid . . . but I struck out again.
And for the record, after 1700 hr on the E train I finally saw some mardi gras beads . . . worn by a couple going to a party. I had to ask.
All fotos today by Will Van Dorp.