Tag Archives: New York Harbor

The Sinking of The S.S. Normandie At NYC’s Pier 88


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Normandie_posterOn February 9, 1942 crowds gathered at New York City’s pier 88 to witness a spectacle. The largest ocean liner in the world was on fire. Fire fighting efforts successfully contained the fire after five and a half hours of effort, but the effort was in vain. Five hours after the flames were out the stricken vessel rolled onto its side and settled on the bottom of the Hudson.

The S.S. Normandie was a star crossed ship. Intended to be the pride of the French people, she was designed to be the height of shipbuilding technology and modern culture. Her first class passenger spaces were decorated in the trendiest Art Deco style and filled with luxuries. The radical new hull design, with a subsurface bulb beneath a clipper bow, and long, sweeping lines lent her previously untouched speeds while requiring far less fuel. She even had one of the earliest radar sets ever used by a commercial vessel, in order to improve the safety for her passengers. Continue reading

NY Maritime History: An Historic Battle with Pirates


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BHC1109On the morning of June 10, 1723, just before the break of dawn, a British warship stationed out of New York spotted two sloops sailing less than 50 miles south of Long Island. The captain of the warship, Peter Solgard, was all but certain the sloops were trouble. Three days before, he had been warned by a sea captain about a pirate crew under the command of a notoriously violent captain, Edward Low. But in the HMS Greyhound that morning, Solgard did not attack. Instead, Solgard tacked and set a southerly course, keeping the pirates in view but not approaching, “to encourage them to give him chase.” Continue reading

‘Shore to Shore’ Exhibit Docks At Waterfront Museum


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BoatyardRed Hook’s historic Lehigh Barge #79 will play host to the exhibit From Shore to Shore, which explores the worlds of craftsmen and the places where boats and ships are still being worked on today. Thirteen exhibition panels, accompanying audio video interviews and a timeline highlight profiles of master craftsmen, their tools and the historic boat yards where they work.

On May 3rd from 2 to 4 pm there will be a reception featuring curators Nancy Solomon and Tom Van Buren along with invited boat builders, boatyard owners, and waterfront preservation specialists. Continue reading

The History, Sea Life, and Environment of NY Harbor


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Heartbeats in the MuckThe award winning book, Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor has been updated and reissued in paperback. In Heartbeats, author John Waldman covers the arc of history of New York Harbor from its pristine origins through the ravages of the industrial era to its remarkable comeback today.

First published in 1999, the volume won a New York Society Library Award. The revision includes an epilogue that brings the story of the Harbor to 2012, the 40th Anniversary of the critically important Clean Water Act, and includes the ambitious ongoing oyster restorations; alien species such as Asian shore crabs, zebra mussels, and snakehead fish; the effects of climate change; rehabilitation of the legendarily polluted Gowanus Canal, and even a return of bald eagles to Manhattan. Waldman’s work on New York Harbor also resulted in a Norcross Wildlife Conservation Award and, in 2012, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Conservation Award. Continue reading

Smugglers, Bootleggers and Scofflaws:
Prohibition and New York City


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Smugglers BootleggersUsing previously unstudied Coast Guard records from 1920 to 1933 for New York City and environs, Ellen NicKenzie Lawson’s Smugglers, Bootleggers, and Scofflaws: Prohibition and New York City (SUNY Press, 2013) examines the development of Rum Row and smuggling via the coasts of Long Island, the Long Island Sound, the Jersey shore, and along the Hudson and East Rivers.

With the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, “drying up” New York City promised to be the greatest triumph of the proponents of Prohibition. Instead, the city remained the nation’s greatest liquor market. Continue reading

Lecture: David Bushnell’s Turtle and Underwater Mines


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The Turtle First SubmarineOn September 6, 1776 American forces launched the first-ever submarine attack against British warships in New York Harbor. The submarine Turtle utilized in the attack was later called “an effort of genius” by George Washington.

Historian and author Mike Kochan will present the story of the Turtle’s inventor David Bushnell, his development of the first underwater mine and the submarine invented to carry it to the enemy, his later success with drift mines and the resulting Battle of the Kegs. Continue reading

Spain’s Gift to Catholic New York


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St. Peters c. 1785It is hard to imagine now but in the 18th century New York City and much of the rest of the thirteen British colonies of America, it was practically illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Widespread anti-Catholicism was a side effect of the Catholic-Protestant wars of 17th century Europe and the geo-political rivalries between the English Crown and the allied Franco Spanish Kingdoms for control of the Americas.

The anti-Catholic animosity – Leyenda Negra the Spanish called it – was ingrained into the psyche of the largely Protestant British immigrants who came to dominate North America in the wake of the arrival of the Pilgrims and other fundamentalists in the early 1600s. Continue reading

Statue of Liberty Book Celebrates 125 Years


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A new book written in celebration of the Statue of Liberty’s 125th birthday (October 28, 2011) has been published to support projects of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The Statue of Liberty: A Symbol of Hope and Freedom for 125 Years, is a commemorative, photo-and-fact-filled journal that spans the statue’s beginnings as an idea of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, to becoming a symbol of welcome to millions of immigrants, her quirky role in American pop culture, and the historic 1986 restoration.

The book is offered for $9.99 through the Ellis Island online gift shop. Proceeds support the The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.

Ellis Island Museum Unveils New Galleries


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The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service have opened the first phase of the Peopling of America Center, a major expansion of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which will explore arrivals before the Ellis Island Era. This 10,000 square foot experience focuses on the history of immigration from the Colonial Era to the opening of Ellis Island in 1892.

Interpretative graphics and poignant audio stories tell first-hand accounts of the immigrant’s journey—from making the trip and arriving in the United States to their struggle and survival after they arrived and efforts to build communities and ultimately a nation.

“Until now, our exhibits have centered on the years when Ellis Island was open,” said Stephen A. Briganti, the Foundation’s President and CEO. “Of course the history of migration to America goes back to our nation’s beginnings right up to today, so there were many people whose stories weren’t told. The Peopling of America Center will fill an enormous gap in America’s understanding of its past, present, and future.”

Also recently unveiled was the American Flag of Faces, a large interactive video installation filled with a montage of images submitted by individuals of their families, their ancestors, or even themselves which illustrates the ever-changing American mosaic. A living exhibit, Flag of Faces accepts photo submissions and can also be viewed at www.FlagofFaces.org.

The Center’s second phase, which will open in Spring 2013, will present a series of interactive multi-media exhibits that focus on the immigration experience from the closing of Ellis Island in 1954 to the present day, including a dynamic radiant globe that illustrates migration patterns throughout human history. The Peopling of America Center was designed by ESI Design and fabricated by Hadley Exhibits, Inc.