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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Save Our Seaport Meeting
Thursday, January 30th
St. Margaret’s
49 Fulton St.
Our next public meeting is approaching — we will
meet this Thursday, January 30th, at our usual spot:

Conference Room 1 at St. Margaret’s House
49 Fulton Street, 6:30PM

Our numbers have been growing, and we need YOU!
Please plan to join us on Thursday.

Click To Download


Many of you are familiar with the outstanding
coverage provided by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
when she was reporting for the Downtown Express.

Terese has launched her own project, Downtown
Post NYC, and continues to write insightfully
about our historic neighborhood and the fight to
preserve it.

The newsletter is delivered three times a week to
your email, and you can sign up at

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


It's written in Mark 14:7 of the Christian Bible, "For you have the poor with you always . . .", and it's obvious that many of their children will always be there as well. It's of these innocent human bequests that author/historian Michael T. Keene writes in "Abandoned: The Untold Story of Orphan Asylums".                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Charles Dickens wrote, "What place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? They are a kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs.  What lies beyond . . . all that is loathsome, drooping, and decayed is here."

Dickens was writing of England's major cities. Those of the New World were just as bad.

Michael T. Keene writes of like conditions. His account begins back in the mid-1840s when Ireland's essential potato crop begins failing. In September of 1846, the 'great hunger' is devastating the farming population. Landowners often evict their tenants for non-payment of rents, by the following year forcing them to scavenge the countryside for wild food, including roadside grass and weeds. Cholera and typhus begins taking their toll. Keene tells us, "It became common to find entire families, homeless and infected with the disease lying dead on the roadside." To many of those still surviving, there finally seemed to be one solution.

America! Which for most of the new arrivals meant lower Manhattan.

In 1865 an estimated 30,000 homeless children were living on the streets around lower Manhattan's Five Points neighborhood - (seen on the book's cover; the name coming from the intersection of the streets known today by the names of Baxter, Mosco, and Worth). Wikipedia reports it was a, "disease-ridden, crime-infested slum for well over 70 years."

For many of us growing up in the second half of the last century the word "orphan" brings to mind Oliver Twist, Fagan, Little Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks. More recently the musical "Newsies" would come to symbolize the problems faced by the parentless in this lower part of the state's largest city.

Keene has set out to fill in the blanks regarding the solutions arrived at over the following century, with emphasis on the state of New York. Beginning with the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, which began weaning the public from the viewpoint that poverty was the result of a lack of morality. Already New York had passed a law back in 1824 requiring each county to purchase land, and erect one or more buildings to serve as a "poor house".

Even as far back as 1735 pioneering Bellevue Hospital had been founded in Manhattan to provide services for the poor of all varieties, as well as the aged, the insane and even criminals. But it would prove incapable of providing for hundreds of orphans, especially when the casualties of the upcoming Civil War would greatly decrease the numbers of fathers across the country. The time for orphanages had arrived.

The seeds of such institutions had been sewn in 1807, when Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton founded the Orphan Asylum Society also in New York City. The book recounts a number of successive heroes, especially those in New York (only a few names relatively recognizable - Susan Fenimore Cooper, Cadwallader D. Colden, John Guy Vassar) who down through the decades have eased the situation of those children deprived of home and family, finally ending with the founders and participants in the Orphan Train Movement whose young passengers aided the settlement of the midwestern U.S. from 1854 on through 1929.

During the book's course "Orphans" touches on a number of tales of special interest to New York City and State residents.

Many Rochesterians will remember reading newspaper accounts looking back to the 1839 Rochester Orphan Asylum and the 1901 fire that destroyed this forerunnner to today's Hillside Children's Center, drawing some 1200 people searching for the bodies of their children and the young relatives of acqauintances.

Some Syracuse readers may learn for the first time of their own 1851 New York Asylum for Idiots (it was definitely a far-less sensitive period - the term "politically correct" had yet to be coined.

Finally, moving westward, the book ends with brief  personal experiences by four of the Orphan Train "riders". And a discussion of the program's failures.

As seen in hindsight.

The book will not actually be available until February 15th but interested people can
pre-order the book by contacting me via email or by calling,

The price of the book and audio book will be $22.95 each.

The book will be available on Amazon as well but probably not for a month or so

My four books are:

Folklore and Legends of Rochester
Murder, Mayhem and Madness
Mad House

All of the books also have been recorded and are available as an audio books

I have also produced a documentary series titled, Visions which is available on DVD

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Save Our Seaport Meeting
Thursday, January 9th
St. Margaret’s
49 Fulton St.
Please join us for the first Save Our Seaportmeeting of 2014, this Thursday, January 9th. We will be catching up on recent events, and planning for next week's very important Town Hall Meeting.

* * * * *

CB1 Seaport Town Hall Meeting
Monday, January 13th
Pace University - 1 Pace Plaza
B-level – Student Union

From Community Board 1:

"Community Board 1 Town Hall meeting on the Howard Hughes Corporation’s proposed development plans for the South Street Seaport including the Tin Building, New Market Building and surrounding area.

All are invited to speak.

For more information, call 212-442-5050."

Let's be there in full force and protect the South Street Seaport Historic District from developers. You are welcome to speak publicly, as many of us will.

* * * * *

We hear from our friends at PortSide NewYork that they are in great (and timely) need of some volunteers to help finish the restoration of the galley on the historic tanker Mary Whalen, currently docked on the Brooklyn waterfront.

There will be sanding, paint stripping, priming, painting - all those things we volunteers thrive on! If you can spare any time, please contact Carolina Salguero at 917-414-0565 or

* * * * *

Speaking of volunteering, South Street Seaport Museum Waterfront Foreman Mike Weiss is looking for hands as well. His latest email to volunteers included the following:

"The last Saturday of 2013 had an outstanding attendance from volunteers, and a huge amount of maintenance work was done.  In LETTIE G. HOWARD, work continued on building her cover frame, requiring plenty of ingenuity on the part of her designers, and also in the engine room and in the “Lettie Space” in AMBROSE.  In PEKING, volunteers were chipping, cleaning, and coating the focslehead, and work was happening in her tweendecks on PIONEER’s spars.  Other volunteers were learning carpentry skills, building up the soleboards in our workshop barge PROGRESS’ forward cargo hold, and yet others were scraping, sanding, and priming the wheelhouse top and cabin top of W.O. DECKER.

Last year saw a huge resurgence in volunteer activity aboard our ships, and in turn so much more critical work was done.  Thank you all who came in, and with your help, we’ll make 2014 an even more fun and productive year!  Word-of-mouth brings in plenty of recruits, so tell your friends and family to come by and join you!  See if your employer has any volunteer contribution programs!  Simple donations like dust masks, nitrile gloves, chip brushes, cotton rags, contractor bags, and the like make a HUGE impact on our ability to get work done!  Memberships provide us with funds to get new materials and repairs!  So many of you have already helped out in these simple ways, and it’s because of all of you that we’re able to carry on with our important mission of preserving these ships and New York City maritime history!"

Contact Mike at

Pitch in as little or as much time as you can for our beloved Museum and Ships!