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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.
Three kings parades happened today in some parts of the world . . . including East Harlem, where camels walk through Manhattan streets. This blog has had a fair number of posts about queens, so here are some kings, though not Gaspar, Melchior or Belthasar.
But here’s Ocean King, a foto I took back in June 2010. I believe she’s built in 1950, and this was the only time I saw her in the sixth boro.
I caught this shot of King Douglas in the KVK in spring 2009; tonight she’s crossing the Andaman Sea.
And finally . . . a stretch, I got this “below the keel” shot of Pe king back in January 2007, a whole seven years ago. Click here to see fotos of Peking‘s first ever arrival in the sixth boro, almost 40 years ago, when there was great optimism about her future.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp.
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.
I’d planned something else for today, but when Brian DeForest, terminal manager of Atlantic Salt, sent along these fotos –taken Sunday from a unique perspective, I scrapped my erstwhile plan. See the orange details in the foreground?
These are fotos from the ship, which is currently moving at 10 to 11 knots southbound off Cape May. That’s the Bayonne Bridge and
here’s the arm conveying salt onto the pile.
I’m sure this has a technical term, but I’ll call it the bracket that supports the arm when not in use.
And here’s a view into the traveling wheelhouse and
Here is engine room info.
Finally, here’s Quantico Creek as seen from the bridge wing.
Here’s a foto I took nearly six years ago on the KVK looking off the starboard bow of a large vessel of another time–a century ago–that used to engage in a salt trade out of Chile. Know the vessel?
Answer: Peking. Here’s one of six posts I did about that transit of Peking from Caddell’s back to South Street Seaport Museum waters.
Many thanks to Brian DeForest for all these fotos, except the last one.
A thought just occurs to me: Chile’s main salt port today is Patache. Could that word be a Spanish spelling/pronunciation of the word “potash”?
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.
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.
“Ghost gallery” returns to scenes from several years back with fotos I’ve not used, at least not in this version. Take Peking‘s last move . . . the whole harbor exudes gravity on a cold mid-January afternoon as McAllister
Last shot here . . . Cosette used to transport the used cars out of New York, a task now performed by Grey Shark and others. Cosette once occupied the niche of Danalith in Narragansett Bay. I wonder two things: where is Cosette today and what great Bolivian port of registry did/does she wear on her stern . . . Potosi? Salar de Uyuni?
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.