100 Years of Refuge at the Brooklyn Army Terminal

May 15, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Brooklyn Army Terminal. This remarkable facility served for 47 years as a critical supply base and logistics hub for the US Army, and today it is a center of industry and innovation, home to 100 companies and nearly 4,000 jobs. Throughout this centenary week, we will be sharing stories of the Terminal, past and present, on our blog and social media.

The Brooklyn Army Terminal was designed for war, a massive warehouse and port facility to receive, store, process, and ship war materiel to points around the globe. But the Terminal did not just send out troops and supplies to wage war; it has also been an important place of refuge and relief for people trying to escape persecution, war, and disaster. Here are some examples of the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s history as a safe haven over the last century.

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Visiting the Ships of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Since we began working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard nearly ten years ago, the Yard has become a huge part of our lives and our identity, both as a company and as individuals. We see connections to its past and present nearly everywhere we go, and we are learning new things about it every day.

We are always looking for new ways to bring the stories of the Yard to life for the public. It has been nearly 40 years since a ship was launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and more than 50 since a US Navy ship was built there, so shipbuilding can seem like a distant memory. We have found that actually seeing the products of the Yard’s workers is not only a great inspiration, it also helps us better understand the nature of the work that went into them. It’s one thing to talk about welders, shipfitters, caulkers, and riggers building a 45,000-ton battleship; it’s another entirely to actually see the sum of that labor and how it all fit together. Unfortunately, only a small number of Brooklyn-built ships still exist, but we have been lucky enough to visit a few of them over the years.>> Continue reading

Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Frederick Lois Riefkohl

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.


Frederick Lois Riefkohl (1889–1969)

The histories of Puerto Rico and of the US military are deeply intertwined, and much of that history runs through the career of Frederick Lois Riefkohl, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the US Naval Academy, to win the Navy Cross, and to achieve the rank of rear admiral. Normally we would not consider someone from Puerto Rico an immigrant – they are US citizens – but Reifkohl lived in a complicated time.>> Continue reading

Food Manufacturing Hub Opens at Brooklyn Army Terminal

Masaki and Yukimi Momose have been making their Japanese-style salad dressings for more than three years, but now, they are finally making it in a space they can call their own. Their company, MOMO Dressing, is the first tenant in the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s Annex, a former administration building for the military complex that is now being reinvented as a center of food manufacturing.

MOMO held their grand opening on August 10 with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which spent $15 million renovating the 55,000-square-foot building. Also in attendance was another food manufacturer who calls the Terminal home – chocolatier Jacques Torres.>> Continue reading

Homing Pigeons Return to Brooklyn Navy Yard After 115-Year Absence with “Fly By Night”

After a hiatus of 115 years, a vast squadron of homing pigeons has returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

This weekend marks the opening of Fly By Night, an ambitious performance piece by artist Duke Riley and produced by Creative Time. On the deck of the decommissioned naval vessel Baylander, Riley and his team have erected a pigeon coop and assembled some 1,800 birds. After weeks of training and preparations, performances will begin on May 7 and run for six weeks, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at dusk. Each evening, this flock will be released as the sun begins to set, each bearing an LED light on its foot to create a swirling, winged light show above the East River.>> Continue reading

Presidential Visits to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Part II

Three years ago, in celebration of Presidents Day, we wrote about the handful of times that sitting US presidents had paid visits to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At that time, we only mentioned two such visits – by William Howard Taft, once as president-elect on November 13, 1908, and as soon-to-be-ousted-president on October 30, 1912, and by Woodrow Wilson,  on May 11, 1914. But we have since done considerably more historical digging, and we would like to share a few more notable presidential visits.>> Continue reading

From Perry To MacArthur: Flag Links Historic US Visits to Japan, in Peace and War

September 2 marks the 70th anniversary of the official end of the Second World War, when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945. While we are marking the event today, the actual anniversary took place at around 8pm on September 1, Eastern Standard Time. The largest celebration of the event in the world was held in Beijing, and has long since finished; the major commemoration of the event in the US will take place at 3pm EST in Hawaii, aboard the USS Missouri, where the original surrender took place.>> Continue reading

Carrier Catapult Tests Once a Common Sight at Brooklyn Navy Yard

Last month, the US Navy began testing of its new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, aboard the first ship that will deploy the system, the carrier USS Gerald Ford, currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

EMALS is the latest innovation in aircraft carrier catapult systems, which are designed to assist aircraft in taking off over short distances. On June 5, 2015, crewmembers of the Ford launched test “sleds” – meant to mimic the weight of the carrier’s aircraft – off the end of the flight deck and into the James River.>> Continue reading

Fleet Week Ships Carry Strong NYC Connections

USCGC Sturgeon Bay. Credit: US Coast Guard

On Wednesday, May 20, a small flotilla of US Navy and Coast Guard ships will steam under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to mark the beginning of a week-long, city-wide celebration of our country’s Sea Services. The ships will be coming from different commands and homeports, but many of them have strong historic and contemporary connections to New York and the nautical history of this region.

The ships will be berthed along Manhattan’s West Side (at Piers 86 and 92) and at The Sullivans Pier in Stapleton, Staten Island. All will be open for public visiting hours (see here), but if you want to get a waterside view of them, join our Fleet Week Harbor Tours, May 22-25, with Classic Harbor Line>> Continue reading

The Fall of Singapore, 1942

February 15 marks the anniversary of one of the most dramatic and shocking moments in the Second World War, the fall of the “Gibraltar of the East,” Singapore, in 1942. While Singapore is very, very far away from the places that we give tours, we have a special connection to that country, and to the people there conducting scholarship on World War II history, an area of particular interest to us.

Turnstile Tours had the opportunity to travel to Singapore in October 2013, at the invitation of the Singapore Tourism Board and the National Heritage Board, where we led trainings for many of the country’s museums and attractions on how to make guided tours more engaging and interactive. One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Changi Museum and meeting the team at Singapore History Consultants, Singapore Walks, and Journeys. This family of companies is in many ways a kindred spirit to Turnstile, for-profit businesses with a strong focus on research, education, and preservation. They operate many of the country’s World War II-related historic sites, but they also conduct an enormous amount of archival and archeological research to document and interpret this important history.>> Continue reading