While New York City sat at the nexus of many important canals built in the 19th century — the Erie, Morris, and Delaware & Raritan among them — the city had its own internal network of lesser-known canals, some filled in, some never built, and some still with us today. As part of our ongoing virtual program series on canals, we will examine the ambitious schemes from the 17th century onward to connect the city’s bays and streams, from the Heere Graft of New Amsterdam to the Wallabout Canal of Brooklyn.
Concrete may seem like an odd material for shipbuilding, but during World War I, severe shortages of steel led to this innovation. Devised by Norwegian immigrants the Fougner brothers, they built one of the first such ships in the US at their shipyard in Flushing, Queens. The technology reached its apex during World War II, when the US built over 100 ships and barges, and they were used as freighters, tankers, and even floating ice cream factories. Large-scale concrete shipbuilding is a thing of the past, but we will examine the fates of these wartime ships, and discuss many examples of concrete boatbuilding today.
Running from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, the Connecticut River cuts through the heart of New England. And for a period of about 40 years, a concerted effort was made to turn the rather wild and narrow river into a transportation superhighway to rival the Hudson. Between 1792 and 1835, seven canals were built to circumvent rapids, with the dream of making the river navigable as far as Barnet, Vermont, 280 miles from the Sound. In this virtual program, Andrew Gustafson, who has paddled most of the river by canoe, will trace the history of engineering and navigation, why the effort ultimately failed, and where this disused infrastructure can still be seen today.
Join us for another virtual boat tour aboard a beautiful motor yacht with our friends at Classic Harbor Line. This time we will be heading north, exploring the very northern tip of Manhattan. We will get beautiful views of the Palisades and George Washington Bridge, then tuck inside the narrow confines of the Harlem River and under more than a dozen road, rail, and foot bridges that connect Manhattan to the Bronx. Along the way we will discuss visible landmarks like Yankee Stadium, the Cloisters, and the Harlem River Houses, as well as the extensive rail and barge infrastructure in the area, and the fascinating story of how the famed Spuyten Duyvil was blasted from a meandering backwater into a navigable ship canal.
Take a virtual ride with us on the Astoria route of the NYC Ferry. We will board at Wall Street, and on this one-hour ride, we will examine the historical buildings along the waterfront of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and learn about things to do at each of the ferry’s stops. We will stop by Wallabout Bay for a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other landmarks of the industrial waterfront, learn about the history of housing in the Lower East Side, Midtown, and Long Island City, examine the river’s barge traffic, past and present, and discuss the natural and manmade islands that stretch along the river. To accompany this guided tour, check out our free map guide that we created for Open House New York.
Two hundred years ago New York State was in the midst of digging a canal to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie, a civil engineering project that would transform the state and the country. Canal builders followed ancient waterways, re-imagining their scale and modifying them several times in relation to evolving technology. The canal still connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, but today, the future of this now almost post-commercial waterway is being re-imagined. Join writer and photographer Will Van Dorp, creator of the recent Virtual Erie Canal tour, to learn about the multiple past re-imaginings of this waterway that made NYC the world port it is.