"The World Trade Center Anchor
and the Elusive Search for History"
India House: It was here when New York was still a great center of shipping as well as the port.
It was here at India House the Lords of Shipping sat amongst Admirals actual and honorific
And here we came hat in hand in 1967, the green friends of South Street looking for money to rescue a long buried Dutch ship we had only a week before learned of - by accident.
It all started with a call from Joe Cantalupo.
Joe Cantalupo, the formidable head of the Cantalupo Carting Company whose exclusive franchise hauling waste in Lower Manhattan was secure had been so offended at the City's destruction of Washington Market that he refused to haul the demolition debris. And at the same time so taken was he by the young spirit of those working to save the buildings of Fulton Market that he became an active volunteer at South Street Seaport.
Joe & I were on the curatorial committee. Though there was no collection to curate we were ambitious .So one day my phone rang and I heard Joe out of breath asking me to drop everything and come downtown on the double. “There were some old valuable murals,” he said “ in Monahan's Saloon in Cortland Street” and Joe had been talking to Monahan for some weeks about giving the murals to South Street Seaport. “ I think we should look at them right now…. the building's on fire”. So I grabbed a cab, days' pay in those days, and rushed to Monahan's. It was chaos. Fire engines everywhere, water dripping down from the upper floors, smoke billowing …but none of this had caused the bar to empty. Joe and I pushed through the reluctant regulars and looking over their shoulders saw that the murals behind the bar were just faded, nicotine stained photographic enlargements of well-known prints of South Street, of no value. There was no sense rescuing them but it seemed graceless to leave so we too had a beer. As we stood in Cortlandt Street commiserating with other onlookers on the loss of history, a man talking with us said there was a Dutch ship buried in this neighborhood. I thought he said his name was Monahan, but looking at the card he offered in the rotating light of the fire trucks I saw that it was Moynihan, Michael Moynihan brother of the noted Harvard Professor, Pat Moynihan, and more to the point, Chief of Public Relations for the Port Authority which was just about to begin excavation for the new World Trade Center.
So in the dark as Monahan's smoldered Moynihan decided that the all-powerful Port Authority and the less- consequential- than- he- knew South Street Seaport Museum would join forces to search for the Tijger. the earliest vestige of European trade in the new world which was resting directly beneath the site of the planned Trade Center.
As everyone here knows the search was officially a failure, but along the way we met some remarkable people and learned something about New York.
First was Henry Druding who is shown in the exhibit – in the photograph with the anchor. Druding had long been Chief Engineer for the Port, having worked on the George Washington Bridge and was now concluding his career supervising this immensely complicated construction. You would not have wanted to disagree with Mr. Druding. His build was NFL and his demeanor was impatient. But one day we were standing as we did often near where we hoped the rest of the Tijger would be found and he gestured towards thousands of crossed logs then being unearthed that had been had used as cribbing to underpin 18 th century brick buildings on filled land. . As he stood at the bottom of this now famous bathtub with the subways suspended high in the air overhead he mused about how profligate our ancestors had been destroying whole forests and how he hoped we had had learned not to be so destructive.
There were others involved. Dr. Ralph Solecki. The Columbia Archeologist who later became famous for discovering that cavemen loved flowers and Dr. Simon Hart, Chief Archivist of the Hague, who shared his court records from the early 17 th century revealing that the first New Yorkers were just as commercially agile and inclined to litigation as we are today. (Adrian Block and Hendrick Christiansen had more than a little in common with Donald Trump).
But by far the most interesting was Mr. Jamie Kelly, for whom the award being given today is named. James Kelly came as a child from County Longford, Ireland, to Brooklyn. His first job was as a digger on the IRT when they were expanding the platform beneath Dey Street in 1916, and though by the time the timbers downstairs were found, he had just left the IRT to go on the Vaudeville stage singing under the name, “The Tunnel Harp” - he was called back because of his interest in history and under his direction they tried pulling the keelson and the three frames out with mules but they didn't budge. They then decided to saw off the timbers. And by a stroke of genius or luck Kelly had them moved immediately to the aquarium at Castle Clinton which saved them from almost instant deterioration and where they were enjoyed by generations of New Yorkers. Years pass and Kelly serves in the War, tries his luck as a boxer and goes into Brooklyn Politics. Luckily at the moment in 1943 when Bob Moses decides to demolish Castle Clinton over the objections of everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to George McAneny, Kelly has risen in the Brooklyn machine to be County Clerk, not enough power to stop Moses but enough to slow him down and get the Tijger rescued again and this time given to the Museum of the City of New York .The late 1960's effort to find the balance of the hull was at towards the end of his life. I think he enjoyed having his pet project taken seriously and also derived great pleasure from the honor of being the official Brooklyn Borough Historian, and the reverent attention lavished upon him by young students of New York History.
Of course the mastermind behind the idea that New York might profit from the inspiration of its history and learn from the likes of the Kellys, Cantalupos and Drudings who loved the city.
And the commander who in fact led the bedraggled but inspired army that DID save the Street of Ships and the buildings of Fulton Market Fulton is not here today. Peter Stanford.
There was thought for a minute last week about postponing this event until he could be here, but when he heard of it Peter said, “Don't be silly, it's a fundraiser.”
A practical romantic. He's taught us what the best New Yorkers are.
Peter has sent us some thoughts with his good friend Ron Oswald. But before we hand over the Jamie Kelly award ...let us have a toast.
“To Peter Stanford for all he has done to help New York honor it's maritime past and to recognize its possibilities for the future...
And to us, for all we are now obliged to do to carry on in this good tradition, enjoying the pleasure of doing significant work in very good company...
The work of the South Street Seaport, National Maritime Historical Society, The Working Harbor Committee, The Columbia Project, the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and, of course, the India House Foundation.”
INDIA HOUSE FOUNDATION 17 Battery Place #1232 NY, NY 10004
Contact us to share what you know and to add your name to the mailing list, Email: email@example.com