[I’m counting down to the release of the Brooklyn Spaces book by doing one mini-post per day, sharing teasers of some of the places you’ll find in it.]
In 1985, David Sharps—a self-taught and then Paris-trained juggler and clown—bought the Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge No. 79 for $1. At the time, the 1914 cargo ship was sunk eight feet deep in the mudflats of Edgewater, NJ, and it took David two years to remove 300 tons of mud from the hull, restore the barge, and get her floating again.
By the mid-1980s, the barge had become a floating nonprofit museum. In addition to displays about maritime history and the story of this ship in particular, the Waterfront Museum is filled with artifacts—signboards, tools, lanterns, fittings, barrels, foghorns, bells—the majority of which has been donated by fans and enthusiasts.
The museum, which has been docked in Red Hook since 1994, also acts as a floating classroom and cultural programming venue. In twenty years it has brought hundreds of thousands of people to the waterfront, from school groups to tourists, for everything from circuses to lectures to weddings. The Red Hook community board has pointed to the Waterfront Museum as possibly the single most significant factor in bringing people to the neighborhood for the first time.
Want to learn more about the Waterfront Museum, and 49 other incredible Brooklyn Spaces? Buy the book!