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:
Model of USS Vermont in US Navy Museum. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
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.”
Illustration via Vermont Civil War
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, South Carolina. Photo via Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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 (left) and USS New Orleans (right) at Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1898. Photo via US Navy Historical Center.
Captain Casey’s Quarters. Photo via Library of Congress..
Top floor of USS Vermont at Brooklyn Navy Yard during a church service. 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 at Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1898. Photo via Library of Congress.
In 1901, the USS Vermont was condemned by the US Navy and sold the year after. This photograph from the 1920s shows even more additions and modifications to the USS Vermont: