This week, we got a special tour inside the archives of the Brooklyn Navy Yard by Dennis Riley, the archivist. A visit through any archive brings to light the historical context in which an institution was formed, but the Brooklyn Navy Yard archive is particularly unique, because much of the content was simply left behind by the U.S. Navy when the yard changed ownership to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. Reilly, who has been with the Navy Yard for a little over a year, has really continued the effort of previous archivists to organize and bring to light some of the amazing artifacts in side. Here’s a recap, with photos, of some of the most unique pieces we saw:
The crumbling Admiral Row mansions are awaiting demolition, except for two that will be salvaged but there are the original floor plans for the townhouses which reveals buildings of generous proportions: front and back parlors, parlor extension and a library just on the first floor.
From Quarters D on Admiral Row, the whimsical wallpaper from inside the townhouse.
These miniature canons were loaned to the archives from the Museum of City of New York. Other canons have been recovered from the yard, while still others serve as bollards, flipped upside down and buried in the ground.
When the Navy left the yard, it took the heavy signage that once fronted the entrances. The navy has leant one back to the archives.
There are 40,000 records in the archives, which includes records management for the corporation, along with drawings for the Navy Yard. The above is the drawing for the foundry of the Navy Yard, a building that is no longer standing.
Riley sees his role as also the keeper of donations from the personal collections of Navy Yard workers and Navy staff, and he says the fact that families entrust the archives to manage such keepsakes is “humbling.” Above are photographs from the fire of the USS Constellation in which 15 people lost their lives.
Above is part of a collection of documents and memorabilia from the Seatrain Shipbuilding days, a venture to build crude carriers that closed in 1979.
Application papers for a skilled worker named Abraham Friedman, whose family donated his collection:
Friedman’s identification cards:
This document shows that Friedman worked for some time at the Maspeth extension of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a confirmation Riley found of various annexes he had heard of during the peak of activity.
The Navy kept dogs as part of the operation and these plans show the kennels built for them.
Soon, the archivists will be going through a collection of artifacts and tagging them, which include signage, helmets, vintage guns, artillery, old flags and more.
A piece of practice artillery
The USS Ohio was the first ship built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was destroyed in a deliberate controlled fire off the cost of Long Island. A package of remnants retrieved the Long Island Sound has just been delivered to the archives.
Last week we got to the bottom of those mysterious WWII radio towers atop a building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Here are the original plans (full of math) for the towers.
This detailed plan shows the layout of desks and offices inside Building 3, determining where workers like planners, estimators, drafters, clerks, stenographers, and more would sit. Fun notes on here: the officers used a different bathroom than everyone else, and there is a note for where the pneumatic tubes were in the mailroom.
Here are some additional photographs of the archive:
The Museum at Eldridge Street. Image by Peter Aaron.
Come discover the history, architecture and the magical sanctuary of the landmarked Eldridge Street Synagogue, a beautiful house of worship built by Eastern European immigrants in America, in an After Hours Tour and Wine Reception run by the Museum at Eldridge Street. The tour will take place on 12th March, 2015 at 6:30 pm, and while it’s not an official Untapped Cities event, Untapped Cities readers can use code “ESAH” for a special 50% discount on tickets. Click here to buy tickets. The tour promises to lead attendees down secret architectural and historical paths in the Synagogue.
In 1964, a father and son were renovating a former speakeasy in the East Village into a theater when they came across two unopened safes in the basement. The speakeasy had been sold eagerly for a very cheap price and the entertainment business then was closely linked to mobsters. To touch their belongings meant death. Opening it with the former owner, $2 million dollars were found inside. What happened next has shaped the lives and the theater for the next sixty years.
Join us for a tour and cocktail at this former Prohibition speakeasy on Saturday, May 9th at 3pm, which includes a guided walk through of the Museum of the American Gangster. You’ll see the original safes that were discovered, the former escape routes for the mafia, and more. There are only a few tickets left, so grab them now!
Here’s what the Untapped staff is reading in the HQ today:
Today’s U.S. Congress may be a bunch of hot-aired do-nothings, but the first session conducted under the U.S. Constitution shows how much Congress is capable of getting done. On March 4, 1789, the House of Representatives met for the first time at Federal Hall in New York City, under the leadership of Speaker Frederick Muhlenberg (PA). The first Congress didn’t get off to the best start either–due to lack of quorum, it disbanded for the day without conducting any business. Members faced transportation woes making the trek to New York, and the House did not achieve its minimum quorum until April 1.
One of New York City’s most beloved buildings is the Flatiron Building. Though never one of the tallest buildings in the city, it was nonetheless revolutionary in its own way due to its construction method. Here are some fun facts not commonly known about the iconic building.