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First, if you’re free today and within travel distance of Lower Manhattan, do yourself a favor and attend this event, 4 p. m., a book signing by Dr. James M. Lindgren. His new book is a much needed complement to Peter Stanford’s A Dream of Tall Ships, reviewed here a few months ago. Details in Preserving South Street Seaport cover almost a half century and will enthrall anyone who’s ever volunteered at, donated to, been employed by, or attended any events of South Street Seaport Museum. Lindgren laments SSSM’s absence of institutional memory saying, “Discontinuity instead defined the Seaport’s administration.” Amen . . as a volunteer I wanted to know the historical context for what seemed to me to be museum administrations’ repeated squandering of hope despite herculean efforts on the part of volunteers and staff I knew.
As my contribution to creation of memory, I offer these photos and I’d ask again for some pooling of photos about the myriad efforts of this museum over the years.
Pier 17. April 17, 2014. According to Lindgren, this mall opened on Sept 11, 1985 with a fireworks show. Its demise may by this week’s end be complete.
April 12, 2014. Photo by Justin Zizes.
Feb 23, 2014.
Jan 21, 2014 . . . Lettie G. Howard returns.
Sept 20, 2013. This is the last photo I ever took FROM the upper balcony of Pier 17.
Sept 12, 2013.
July 2012. A fire had broken out on the pier, and Shark was the first on scene responder. Damage was minimal, despite appearances here.
Now for some photos of vessels that have docked in the South Street area in the past half century.
July 2012 . . . Helen McAllister departs, assisted by W. O. Decker and McAllister Responder.
June 2012. Departure of Marion M as seen from house of W. O. Decker. Photo by Jonathan Boulware. The last I knew, Marion M is being restored on the Chesapeake by a former SSSM volunteer.
Lettie G. Howard hauled out in 2009.
2009. The Floating Hospital . . . was never part of the SSSM collection.
2009. Maj. Gen. Hart aka John A. Lynch aka Harlem.
Helen McAllister with Peking and Wavertree. Portion of bow of Marion M along Helen‘s starboard.
Mathilda posing with W. O. Decker in Kingston. 2009.
Moshulu now in Philadelphia.
2005, I believe. Spuyten Duyvil (not a SSSM vessel) and Pioneer.
Thanks to Justin and Jonathan for use of their photos. All others by Will Van Dorp. For many stories on these vessels, that mall, and so much more, pick up or download these books and read them asap.
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.
Today was the fifth NYC City of Water Day, and today offered a demonstration of the blessing of water.
At 1610, someone on the NYWaterways vessel, where I was narrating a tour, noticed smoke coming from Pier 17, lots of it.
By 1611, Shark, owned by NY Water Taxi & Circle Line downtown, appeared to be first
By 1612, Bravest had arrived on the scene.
All fotos by Will Van Dorp. Here’s an early evening update from the NYTimes.