Join Turnstile Tours and the Friends of Olmsted-Beil House for a virtual panel discussion to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Frederick Law Olmsted’s report for the Staten Island Improvement Commission, a comprehensive plan for the island’s growth and development. We will hear unique perspectives about Staten Island in the late 1800s, Olmsted’s public health recommendations, and his legacy in the greenest borough of New York City. The panel will include Prof. Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, Director of Graduate Landscape Architecture Program at City College’s Spitzer School of Architecture; Jessica Kratz of the Staten Island Greenbelt Nature Center; naturalist Ed Johnson, emeritus curator of science at the Staten Island Museum; and moderated by Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours.>> Continue reading
Did you know that Prospect Park has a piece of Gettysburg’s famed Little Round Top? And one of the oldest statues of Abraham Lincoln in America? While memorials to the Civil War are prominent features of the park, the war itself also shaped its design. Co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted spent the war directing the US Sanitary Commission, which provided medical care to the Union Army, and that experience influenced his ideas on public space and public health. On this virtual tour, we will explore the park’s many Civil War connections, from Grand Army Plaza to the Parade Ground.
- WATCH Exploring Staten Island’s Olmsted-Beil House
- WATCH Progressivism and Purified Air: Frederick Law Olmsted’s Living Machines
- Olmsted’s report on the Battle of Bull Run (NIH)
- Olmsted, Hospital Transports: a Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia in the summer of 1862
- “Frederick Law Olmsted’s War on Disease and Disunity” (The New Yorker)
- “In Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza Gets an Intervention” (New York Times)
- “Anna Hyatt Huntington and Equestrian Lincoln” (Columbia University Libraries)
Behind the gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard lies a network of streets that are a mystery to most New Yorkers. Named for naval heroes, shipyard operations, and even a numbered grid, these streets trace the Yard’s history from the War of 1812 through World War II. While new attention has been given to how and whom we memorialize in our public places and streets, we will unpack the stories of the people behind these street names as we virtually walk through the history of the Yard.
- Slavery and the Brooklyn Navy Yard (Turnstile Blog)
- What was the First Ship Built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard? (Turnstile Blog)
- Brooklyn Navy Yard map, 1963 (BNY Archives)
- Slaveholder Lewis Warrington’s Petition to the Secretary of the Navy, 1839 (John G. Sharp)
- John Bartelstone, The Brooklyn Navy Yard
- The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games)
- Slavers of New York
On March 17, 1863, the gunboat Shamrock was launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an event attended by more than 5,000 onlookers and tremendous fanfare. The christening of this ship was meant to recognize the contributions of Irish troops to the Union cause, but it also represented a watershed moment during the ascendancy of the Irish in the city’s waterfront trades. This program will examine the growth of Irish communities along the waterfront before and after the Civil War, look at the centers of civic life, including churches, pubs, and political clubs, some of which persist to this day, and learn about groundbreaking Irish admirals, engineers, and entrepreneurs that helped shape the city’s waterfront.
- Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: John Barry
- WATCH: Waterfront Workers: Finding the Harkins Family with Julie Golia
- Kings County Distillery
- “The Whiskey Wars That Left Brooklyn in Ruins” (Smithsonian)
- Betancourt, Marian, Heroes of New York Harbor: Tales from the City’s Port
The celebrate Black History Month and the 220th birthday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we are looking at the obstacles and opportunities that Black people encountered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the end of the Civil War through the Yard’s closure a century later. The program will examine the long history of African-Americans in the maritime trades, their systematic exclusion from the uniformed ranks of the US Navy in the Jim Crow era, and the new opportunities that emerged during World War II. We will look at profiles of trailblazers, innovators, and activists who worked and served there, and how the Yard became an important to Black economic and cultural life in Brooklyn. This virtual program follows up where we left off with last year’s “An Unfree Fleet,” which looked at the Yard’s connections to the institution of slavery.
- WATCH An Unfree Fleet: Slavery and the Brooklyn Navy Yard
- African-American Maritime Heritage – PortSide NewYork
- The Monitor’s Crew – Monitor Center
- Brooklyn Navy Yard – John Sharp, Genealogy Trails
- The Brooklyn Navy Yard: Civil Servants Building Warships – John Stobo, Columbia University
- Phyllis Mae Dailey, the Navy’s first African-American nurse
- Robert Hammond oral history (Center for Brooklyn History)
- Clark J. Simmons oral history (National Park Service)
- Bolster, Jeffrey W., Black Jacks (Archive.org)
- Harrod, Frederick S., Manning the New Navy (Archive.org)
- Hodges, Graham Russell, Root and Branch (Archive.org)
- Peterson, Carla L., Black Gotham
- Stillwell, Paul, The Golden Thirteen (Archive.org)
Before the celebrated images of “Rosie the Riveter” and “Winnie the Welder,” women served in a variety of roles at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in uniform and as civilian workers. We will celebrate Mother’s Day by looking back at the flag makers, telephone operators, nurses, and more that made the Navy Yard run, and paved the way for the thousands of welders, shipfitters, and machinists that worked in the Yard in World War II, and the women serving in all ranks and branches of the armed forces today.
The program is a great prelude to our program on Saturday, May 16 with Manhattan Beach author Jennifer Egan.
After nearly 12 years of leading tours at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one of the most difficult questions we get – and almost always from young people – is this: Were there slaves here?
This question is vexing not just because of the complex and painful subject matter, but also because the historical record is incomplete. The result is usually an imprecise and unsatisfying answer. In short, yes, enslaved people were an integral part of life at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the 60 years leading up to the Civil War, just as they were across Brooklyn and New York City.
This is an effort to unpack that complexity and get somewhere closer to the historical truth of the matter.
This year during Fleet Week New York, we will be visited by more than a dozen ships and units from the US Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Military Sealift Command, and Royal Canadian Navy that will be berthed at locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Here’s a brief guide to some of the units that will be in town, and be sure to check out the full schedule of events on the official Fleet Week NYC website.
Manhattan Pier 88
- USS Kearsarge open for visitors May 25, 26, 27, and 29, 8am–5pm
James Diani (c.1833–1908)
So far in this series, we have profiled commodores, admirals, and captains of industry. But the real history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is the massive collective labor of thousands of individuals coming together to accomplish extraordinary things. The Navy Yard provided opportunities for newcomers to this country to get decent-paying jobs and apprenticeships (if you could successfully navigate the patronage system) to better their lives. One such person, who spent more than 50 years in the service of this country, was someone we know very little about.>> Continue reading
Peter Christian Asserson (1839–1906)
The Brooklyn Navy Yard has always adapted to change. Over its first 165 years, rapid changes in naval ship designs forced the adoption of new shipbuilding technologies, materials, and techniques, and the construction of new facilities. No single person did more to shepherd the Yard through these transitions than Peter Christian Asserson, civil engineer of the Navy Yard from 1885 to 1901.>> Continue reading