Tag Archives: Waterfront Museum

W is for Waterfront

Located at 290 Conover St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Museum Website:  https://waterfrontmuseum.org/

Waterfront Museum

The Waterfront Museum, founded in 1985, is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It is housed aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The museum aims to preserve the city’s maritime history and waterfront traditions and promote an understanding of the importance of our water highway for commerce, carrying commuters, culture, and recreation. 

The museum provides free and low-cost opportunities for education, exhibition, and the performance arts abroad the barge.

Open year-round, the museum offers free tours every Thursday 4 to 8 pm and Saturday 1 to 5 pm. In addition, school and group tours are offered by appointment.

The barge was built in 1914, for the Lehigh Valley Railroad, to carry cargo across the New York Harbor. It is an example of transport prior to the container system, where cargo to and from ships had to be transported to the railroad depots for distribution or further transport. Barges were also used to transfer much of the freight from rail to water, and float it to its destination. It was done this way until a road system blanketed the region, and trucks took over the local distribution.

Lehigh Valley #79 is the only surviving example of its kind afloat today. 

The barge which was functioning till 1941, was acquired by David Sharps in 1985 and turned into a maritime museum. It had to undergo extensive repairs and refurbishing of the superstructure before it could be afloat and moved.

The historic vessel operated from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, Hoboken, Piermont, NY, and South Street Seaport in NYC, before moving to its permanent homeport Red Hook, Brooklyn in 1994.

A former dumping area into was transformed, with the help of volunteers, to an example of open space and waterfront development. 

The museum’s permanent collection includes artifacts that tell the story of the barge and what it used to be used for, a large collection of barge and ship models, and tons of information on maritime history and traditions.

The barge had a cabin on top where the barge captain and family would have lived. This cabin was cut off and put in the stern of the barge as the captain’s quarters. David Sharps also built up the belowdecks part of the barge where his family lived.

The museum holds several arts programs for youth and entertainment programs throughout the year. An area of the main deck has been transformed as a stage for this purpose. You can see a list of upcoming events on the museum’s website.

As barges do not have engines, they have to be towed around by tug boats. The Waterfront Museum has an interesting collection of tug boat signs on its walls.

Another attraction is the bell board of the Orange Ferry that ran between Beacon and Orange.

A large sign ‘Women’ did not indicate the ladies’ room, but the half of the boat where women could go on. 

A cute little flower patch grows in shoes on the outside deck of the museum.

During the barge’s functioning years, cargo was carried on the main deck. You can see the barn door and the hatches through which cargo was handled in and out.

It is interesting to see the ‘Fender’, a rope contraption created by wrapping rope over rope, and used over the sides to protect the vessels as well as the dock.

A beautiful George Rhoads audio kinetic ball machine adds to the charm of the place. And the views… the Verrazzano Bridge, the Statue of Liberty… there is nothing to beat the views from the barge.

27 Apr 2023