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East River Park

East River Park Anchor map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Pulled from the East River, the origins of this anchor are unclear. When it was placed on the site in 1970, the accompanying plaque stated that the piece was donated by the F&M Schaefer Brewing Co. in memory of the William H. Brown shipyard. The Brown shipyard was famous for building the schooner yacht America, which was launched on May 3, 1851. The international yachting race known as the America’s Cup was named after this schooner.

It has been suggested that the anchor honors another ship built in a yard on the East River, the steamship S.S. Savannah. The Savannah, the first vessel of its kind to cross an ocean, was built in 1819 with elegant passenger accommodations. The boat’s owners found it difficult to attract passengers, however, after potential travelers realized that a continuous fire burned on board to generate power. Lacking public support for the vessel, the owners declared bankruptcy and converted her into a sailing ship. The Savannah wrecked off of Fire Island in 1821.

In a more symbolic sense, the East River Anchor serves as a monument to the crucial role the harbor and the rivers have played in New York City history. Between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, more than thirty shipbuilding companies were operating in yards located along this section of the East River between the Battery and 14th Street.

The shipbuilding industry went through a period of decline in New York City following the Civil War, especially on the East River docks. The maritime depression and lack of skilled ironworkers drove many ship carpenters to Brooklyn and Staten Island, or out of the city entirely. It was not until World War I that the slump ended on city docks, as dormant companies were called upon to manufacture cargo ships, minesweepers, naval tugs, and destroyers.

While outer borough and New Jersey builders continued to operate through the rest of the 20th century, their activity began slowly to decline after the wars of the 1930s and 40s. The remaining firms, mostly found in Staten Island, were small repair operations rather than large-scale builders. These firms remain active today, serving as reminders of New York City’s rich maritime history.

East River Park Anchor Details

  • Description: Anchor on base, plaque
  • Materials: Anchor--iron; Base--concrete; Plaque--bronze (?)
  • Cast: ca. 1850 (?)
  • Dedicated: ca. 1970
  • Donor: Downtown Lower Manhattan Association; F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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East River Park Weather

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