USS-Vermont-Ship-Brooklyn Navy Yard-1898-Storage Receiving-NYCPhoto from Library of Congress

On the Twitter account @Discovering_NYC, run by Tess Stahl, an Untapped Cities contributor, we recently came across this quirky looking ship/enormous house boat at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The USS Vermont, as it appeared in the photo above taken in 1898, had a series of face lifts in its life as a military boat and afterwards.

Built in the Boston Navy Yard from 1818 to 1825, the USS Vermont was one of nine 74-gun warships commissioned by the United States Congress. Hard to imagine from the later photographs, but the USS Vermont looked like a quintessential 19th century ship as you can see from a model at the U.S. Navy Museum:

The USS Vermont didn’t become a commissioned ship until 1862 during the Civil War, by which point it was no longer cutting edge in its design or military capacity. Until this point, is also never had its mast and riggings installed. It was sent to serve as a storage boat and receiving ship in South Carolina but was severely damaged in a storm en route, losing its sails, rudders and additional boats. According to the website Vermont Civil War, the USS Vermont “served the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron as an ordnance, hospital, receiving, and store ship.”

An early journalistic photograph was taken aboard the USS Vermont during the Civil War, showing “contrabands,” the term used to refer to former slaves free because their owners had left their plantations, but not yet officially freed in the period before the Emancipation Proclamation. This 1861 photograph of contrabands aboard the USS Vermont by Henry P. Moore is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

contrabands aboard u.s. ship vermont, port royal, s.c.-civil war-slavesContrabands Aboard U.S. Ship Vermont, Port Royal, South Carolina. Photo via Metropolitan Museum of Art in public domain.

In 1864, the USS Vermont was sent to continue public service at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, whereupon she lost her mast and sails, and gained a new, enclosed upper level. There, she would serve as a storage and receiving ship with numerous amenities including church services, recruiting office, mess hall and captain’s quarters.

USS Vermont-Storage Boat-Hospital-Receving Ship-Port Royal South Carolina-Civil War-NYC-USS Vermont (left) and USS New Orleans (right) at Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1898. Photo from US Navy Historical Center from Wikimedia Commons.

Captain Cassey-USS Vermont-Brooklyn Navy Yard-Civil War-NYCCaptain Casey’s Quarters. Photo from Library of Congress..

USS-Vermont-Ship-Brooklyn Navy Yard-1898-Storage Receiving-Interior-Top Floor-Church Service-NYCTop floor of USS Vermont at Brooklyn Navy Yard during a church service. Photo from Library of Congress. You can see more images of the interior of the USS Vermont at the Library of Congress.

A photo showing the decorative hull:

USS-Vermont-Ship-Brooklyn Navy Yard-1898-Storage Receiving-NYC-3USS Vermont at Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1898. Photo from Library of Congress.

In 1901, the USS Vermont was condemned by the US Navy and sold the year after.