Preserving the Fleet of the South Street Seaport Museum | Episode 117

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Since its founding over 52 years ago, South Street Seaport Museum has faced the daunting job of preserving its historic fleet. Join us for a photographic voyage with Director of Historic Ships Jesse Lebovics to see the challenges and remarkable efforts made for the long term preservation of 1885 ship Wavertree, 1930 tugboat W.O. Decker, 1885 schooner Pioneer, and the planned upcoming work on 1907 lightship Ambrose.

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Rocking The Boat: Changing Lives on the Bronx River | Episode 93

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The Whitehall skiff, a style of boat developed in New York 200 years ago, has been changing the lives of teens in the Bronx for the last 20 years at a program called Rocking the Boat. Founder and Executive Director Adam Green joins us to discuss the Whitehall and the impact of youth development based on teaching with small boats that combines engineering, craft, rowing and sailing, and marine ecology.

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Knot Tying 102 with Frank Hanavan | Episode 89

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Artist, rigger, and ship modeler Frank Hanavan follows up on his recent popular presentation on knots, drawing from his experience on tall ships to share knots for nautical and everyday use. No need to worry if you missed part 1 of this series, as Frank will continue with some basic knots, and he will also share some of his incredible ship models that he has constructed (and rigged) over the years.

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Knot Tying 101 with Frank Hanavan | Episode 61

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Knots and ropework have held civilization together for millennia. While they can seem arcane in a world of zippers and zip ties, knotted rope remains an adaptable and resilient technology. Join artist and ship modeler Frank Hanavan for some history of rope and knots and learn to do a few knots you may find really useful in daily life.

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Slavery and the Brooklyn Navy Yard

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.

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What was the First Ship Built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard?

Diagram showing the lines of the sloop Peacock.

For the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work with third and fourth graders in the Brooklyn Historical Society’s CASA program. These young scholars are tasked with writing a book about a place or story important to Brooklyn’s history. In 2018, we helped students learning about Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Greenpoint, and the Empire Stores. This year, students from PS 380 in Williamsburg took on the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The students decided to look at the Yard’s history through the lens of some of its famous ships, ArizonaMaine, and Fulton among them, but also the little-known Peacock.>> Continue reading

Saving the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Timber Shed

Photo showing the Timber Shed in the forground with Admirals Row to the right and the Brooklyn Navy Yard behind.

For the first time in 175 years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Timber Shed has emerged from behind a wall, and it is being prepared for a new life. One of the oldest buildings at the Yard, it is one of the few few surviving structures that represents the Yard’s early history of wooden shipbuilding. 

Actually, the Timber Shed represents the whole purpose and justification for creating the Navy Yard in the first place. When Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert purchased 40 acres of land in Brooklyn 1801, he used appropriations for the purchase of timber, claiming that the Navy needed secure places to store it; otherwise, he was just wasting money moving the government-owned timber to the private shipyards that were building the ships. With this creative interpretation of the law, he created six shipyards that would be at the core of the US Navy for the next 160 years. In those other five Navy Yards (Portsmouth, Boston, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Washington), none still have an extant timber shed.>> Continue reading

Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Henry Eckford

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.

Henry Eckford (1775-1832)

The long, arduous, and risky journey to America has a way of bringing to our shores the most ambitious, talented, and daring people; Henry Eckford was certainly one of those. Born and raised in the Scottish town of Kilwinning, located not far from the famous shipbuilding center along the Firth of Clyde, Eckford set off from his homeland for Canada to learn the shipbuilding trade at just 16. Like John Barry, he apprenticed with his uncle, and became a skilled shipwright in the yards along the St. Lawrence River.>> Continue reading