Monday, June 10, 2013

The Scoop on Historic Sloops

I spent Saturday morning at the Hudson Farmers' Market with Louise Bliss, Richard Marsters, and Kathy Torchia of the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society, talking with people about the restoration of the historic sloop Eleanor.

The Eleanor, which was designed by respected naval architect Clinton Crane and built in 1903, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. On Saturday, someone asked me how many other vessels like the Eleanor were listed in the National Register. I didn't know the answer at the time, and I still have only a partial answer, but here is what I have discovered thus far.

In New York State, there are five sloops listed in the National Register. The best known, certainly to us on the Hudson River, is the Clearwater, which is not a historic boat at all but a replica designed after 18th- and 19th-century Dutch sloops that once plied the Hudson River. The Clearwater was launched in 1969 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 for its significance in the environmental movement.

Unlike the Eleanor, which is of the Raceabout Class, the other three New York sloops listed in the National Register are working boats--oyster sloops. The Christeen was built in 1883 and is the oldest surviving oyster sloop in the United States. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992. Between 1992 and 1999, the Christeen, which had survived "sixteen major hurricanes, numerous nor'easters, two sinkings, and severe neglect," was completely restored. The sloop now resides at the WaterFront Center in Oyster Bay, where it serves as a floating classroom, educating people about maritime history, marine science, coastal ecology, the oyster industry, and aquaculture.

The Priscilla is an oyster dredging sloop almost as old as the Christeen. It was built in 1888 and was owned continuously by oyster men and used for dredging oysters until 1963, when the oyster beds had been exhausted. After more than a decade--1963 to 1976--of being used as a cruising sailboat, the Priscilla was given to the Long Island Maritime Museum, then known as the Suffolk Maritime Museum, in West Sayville. In a project that began in 2002, the Priscilla was restored to its original design and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

The fifth sloop listed in the National Register is the Modesty, also at the Long Island Maritime Museum. The Modesty was built in 1923. The last sailing oyster dredger built on Long Island, it is considered to be the best surviving example of the  oyster dredgers that worked the north shore of Long Island in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Modesty--like the Eleanor--is currently undergoing restoration.

Thinking about the three National Register sloops on Long Island, the educational and recreational purposes they serve, and the maritime museums where they are berthed inspires thoughts about our own waterfront, the two initiatives--the Hudson Sloop Club and the Eleanor restoration--that share the goals of connecting us to the river and educating us about sailing, our maritime history, and stewardship of the river, and the historic industrial building on the waterfront waiting to be repurposed. What if the old Dunn warehouse could become a maritime museum and a shared center for the public education endeavors of both the Hudson Sloop Club and the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society?

Addendum:  Since this post was published, Louise Bliss, founder of the Hudson River Historic Boat Restoration & Sailing Society, informed Gossips that Jim Moran, who was very involved in the restoration of the Christeen in Oyster Bay, is the lead expert for the restoration of the Eleanor.  

1 comment:

  1. I personally watched the rebuilding of the Christeen from when she arrived in Oyster Bay as a broken hulk.

    This boat-building activity in Hudson is so promising. Good things always follow when people get their hands to work fixing or making boats.

    I've been saying for years that the Oyster Bay Waterfront Center could be a good model for Hudson. We may finally put the claim to the test, and a lot sooner than I'd anticipated.

    What great new energy here! Welcome!