Place of the Month

Waterfront Museum

 

Almost ninety years after the heyday of lighterage, Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge #79 is still working in the New York Harbor, though in a manner its original skippers likely never imagined. Since 1986, the former lighter has been known as the Waterfront Barge Museum. Now docked at Pier 44 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the barge is a vibrant red beacon amid gray warehouses. To get to the gangway, one must walk by a garden of wild flowers. On board, a crew of five or six workers and up to fifteen volunteers is present almost every day, constantly sanding, sawing, re-sealing and generally keeping the barge ship-shape.
 
Open to the public on Thursdays from 4-8 p.m., and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m., the museum is tiny and its permanent collection, at first glance, seems to be little more than weather-worn and slightly rusty bits and pieces one might come across while wandering through an abandoned pier. Indeed, passersby who visit during the official hours come more to enjoy the peace and beauty of the waterfront and a bit of conversation with the museum's energetic and knowledgable director, David Sharps. Its serene-if-slightly-remote location notwithstanding, the museum receives between eight and ten thousand visitors each year, and roughly sixty school groups fill up the museum's single room on other days of the week for lectures about the history of the New York Harbor and how the barge was restored. When a larger scale exhibit is not in place, the work of a local artist will be featured on the barge's walls. During the summer, an evening concert and performance series rounds out the unique identity of #79 in its second incarnation. Truly, this is a museum whose value is determined by the people who step on board, dependent upon their curiosity, and absolutely gratifying to those who seek treasure in unexpected corner.
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Waterfront Museum