uss monitor

A Greenpoint Landmark Now Seems Doomed

Thomas Rowland Local Millionaire
Thomas Rowland, local millionaire and builder of the USS Monitor

In a previous post I reported that there was an application to demolish 85 Calyer Street, the historic home of the builder of the first ironclad battleship in the United States Navy, the USS Monitor. The situation looks bleak and the historic house seems doomed. The new owner of the property, Daniel Kaykov, has received an approval to have the historic building demolished. Although the building is rich with local history, the building is not protected by landmark status, so little can be done to save the historic structure.

Sadly, the previous owner of 85 Calyer Street, a man named Tommy, not only knew the history of the house, but even expressed pride in owning this piece of local history. Once, when I was giving a historic walking tour he approached the group and showed us some of his historic photos of the house when Rowland owned it. The house once had a grand entrance for carriages and an elegant facade that has since been covered over with drab vinyl. The owner also told me of a kind of bunker in the back garden that might have been used to help smuggle booze into the area from the nearby Noble Street pier during the prohibition era. Continue reading

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A History of Greenpoint in 25 Buildings: 85 Calyer Street

Thomas Fitch Rowland, illustration by Aubrey Nolan
Thomas Fitch Rowland, illustration by Aubrey Nolan

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

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The Day Greenpoint Wrote a Chapter in American History

USS Monitor
Monitor on the James River, Virginia, 1862 Officers on deck (left to right): Robinson W. Hands, Louis N. Stodder, Albert B. Campbell (seated), William Flye (with binoculars). Note dents in turret from cannon fire. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)

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

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Que Pasa, Greenpoint? Monitor Museum

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

Monitor Museo

¿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

 

Category: (Not)Forgotten Greenpoint, Culture | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SUNDAY SNAPS: BROOKLYN DIGGERS

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.

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