85 Calyer Street looks like many other frame houses in Greenpoint, but it was the home of the greatest mechanical genius to ever live in Greenpoint, Thomas Fitch Rowland, and one of the most important short conversations in American history took place in the parlor there. First, though, lets get a little background on the owner of the house, Thomas Fitch Rowland.
Rowland was born in Connecticut in 1831 and became a railroad engineer, quickly becoming one of the leading experts in the design and construction of steam engines. However, he decided to leave railroad engineering, switching to the construction of steam engines for sailing ships and also developing an expertise in metallurgy. He was soon invited to come to Greenpoint to build ships because of his twin areas of expertise. By 1859 he founded his own company, the legendary Continental Iron Works on Quay Street. Two years later, he would help make history when visionary Swedish naval engineer John Ericsson approached him about building a revolutionary ship in Greenpoint, the ironclad Monitor, which would revolutionize warfare making wooden ships obsolete. Continue reading →
On January 30, 1862 the most important event that ever happened locally occurred. Greenpoint wrote its name in the history book when a ship was launched here that not only changed naval warfare forever, but also helped the Union win the Civil War and end slavery. That ship, the first ironclad ship in the United States Navy, The U.S.S. Monitor, was built locally at the Continental Iron Works on Quay Street and West Street.
The construction of the Monitor was something of a miracle in itself. Its builder, Swedish John Ericsson had previously been falsely blamed by The United States Navy for a tragic incident. In 1844 Ericsson was the mastermind of the construction of a revolutionary warship, the Princeton, which featured futuristic innovations: steam engines below the waterline; a screw propeller instead of paddle wheels and new methods of mounting, aiming and firing guns. Ericsson’s sponsor in building the Princeton was an unscrupulous United States Navy officer, Captain John Stockton who wrongly took credit for designing the ship that was rightfully Ericsson’s. Stockton did in fact design one part of the ship, a huge gun, which exploded on the ship’s maiden voyage, killing numerous Washington big-wigs. Amazingly, Stockton pinned the blame on Ericsson who was blackballed and told he would never build another ship for the Navy. Continue reading →
Did you know that Greenpoint has a museum? Yes we do and at this time it serves as a traveling museum visiting local schools. Motiva Enterprises has donated waterfront property at the launch site of the USS Monitor so a museum could be built in the future. They are now working toward fixing the site to make it open to the public. Please visit their site for more information. www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org
¿Sabías que Greenpoint cuenta con un Museo? Sí tenemos uno y en este momento sirve como un museo itinerante visitando las escuelas locales. Motiva Enterprises ha donado propiedad frente al mar en el sitio de lanzamiento del USS Monitor para que un museo podría construirse en el futuro. Ahora están trabajando hacia la fijación del sitio para que sea abierta al público. Visite su sitio para obtener más información. www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org
Last Saturday the Brooklyn Diggers held a fun and educational event in Winthrop Park to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the U.S.S. Monitor, built in Greenpoint, during the Civil War. Awesome Greenpoint photographer Emily Raw set up a daguerrotype photo booth. Subjects got dressed up and posed for a few moments, but when these kinds of photographs were taken back then, the long exposures lasted for many minutes. To keep subjects still, Emily explained, their necks were held in place by a metal brace. That sounds delightful! Emily left the brace at home that day, unfortunately. There are a lot more from this awesome set here. More about the Brooklyn Diggers here. Emily Raw’s website.
Buy your limited edition Brooklyn Diggers 150th Anniversary T Shirt for only $25 at Kill Devil Hill! Sale goes toward the 150th Anniversary Celebration in honor of laying of the keel USS Monitor in 1861. The FREE event will take place October 22nd in McGorlick Park. More info.