Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Nostalgic.

LUSITANIA-Harbor-New-YorkKayaking through New York City’s waterways and becoming aware of the maritime traditions of the harbor, it’s hard not to become nostalgic about its bygone days, reflected in the numerous wrecks of ships, some of them over a hundred years old, that lie here and there in the harbor.

A case in point is the Binghamton, a 1905 steam ferryboat—the last of many—that has reached her last resting place, as it now clearly is, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson at Edgewater.

BINGHAMTON_ NNS_Hull_49_Page_03_Image_0001The Binghamton operated as a cross-Hudson ferry, making a mile-long trip back and forth between Hoboken and Manhattan, continuously from 1905 to 1967, when the last ferries were forced out of business (until their recent renaissance) by competition from the Hudson tunnels and the George Washington Bridge.

BINGHAMTON_ NNS_Hull_49_Page_06_Image_0002

BINGHAMTON_ NNS_Hull_49_Page_09_Image_0003Binghamton was then converted into a floating restaurant. The restaurant closed in 2007, and since then Binghamton has awaited a new use.

From Wikipedia:

The Binghamton is significant as possibly the last surviving steam ferry still afloat built to serve New York Harbor, the birthplace of commercial steam navigation, the birthplace of the double-ended steam ferry, and an area whose development was profoundly shaped by the introduction of vessels of this kind.

Indeed, The US Department of the Interior added Binghamton to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Bill Lee has written a loving, detailed essay on her history, and Tugster has posted a series of photos (here, here, and here) that give a good idea of her interior as it was until quite recently.

Bill Lee’s essay ends when Binghamton‘s future still looked promising. Unfortunately, in 2011 Hurricane Irene greatly accelerated her progressive deterioration, and last year Hurricane Sandy finished the job. Binghamton no longer floats, but is resting on the bottom.

May 2013

Every time we paddle past, we see greater decay. Now an entire side of the boat is down, giving us dramatic views into the inlaid wood and stained glass of the interior—all ruined now. Water sloshes back and forth through the interior spaces with each passing wave.

March 2013IMGP4261 cropped smallBinghamton 2Binghamton 3

A reminder of the transience of beauty…

70 responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

  1. Wabi-sabi. Water speeds decay in many ways. The new lines created by the sinking of the ferry are a sort of improvement, like a dying person coming briefly to life before the end. Very nice photo essay as usual, Vlad.

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  2. Thanks for the interesting commentary to go with the lovely photos. Seeing a boat/ship die like this is sad.

    janet

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  3. Wonderful photographs, and a great story. Thank you for the little jaunt into the past, very special. But then it is said I have sea water instead of blood sometimes! :)

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    • Some people are like that :-) Our friend Tugster, for instance, can’t help photographing tugs, pretty much all the time…

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      • :) Hence the name I’m guessing…Tugster? I think most photographers I know, including myself have their favourite thing they like to shoot. For me it’s doors, can’t get enough of them!

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        • Doors :-)

          Yes, Tugster for that reason. I linked to three of his Binghamton posts above. His blog is here.

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        • Excellent I shall check it out… yes doors ;) What’s not to like?

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        • Doors are great! Especially in countries where they are older and have a bit more character… I’ve seen lots of nice window photo too.

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        • I have a whole collection of very ancient doors from when I walked across Spain some years ago, visiting places off the beaten path, deserted medieval villages with fabulous huge old wooden doors. Great stuff. Windows are good too. Venice, Italy is a great place for doors and windows, have many of those photos too. I think I just love shooting architecture, the older the better!
          What’s your theme, other than tugs?

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        • Mine’s not tugs—I leave that to Tugster :-)

          I am not sure I do have a theme. I take pictures of everything that seems interesting. Take a look around Wind Against Current and see for yourself! :-)

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        • I shall indeed :)

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  4. Beautiful photos of a sad girl. I love perspective of then and now. :)

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  6. Again a great read and even better pics!!! How I look forward to your adventures. Can you keep us posted though on when they have the tug boat races? Would love to come down and see them

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  7. I have paddled by her many times myself Vlad without being aware of her significant history and sadly, never taking the time to look it up (that despite almost becoming a nautical archaeologist many years ago). You have inspired me to learn more of her history.

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  10. So sad to see this bit of history literally go under. Thanks for sharing her history and what appears to be her ultimate demise.

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    • The way these things usually turn out, she’ll probably be there for decades, slowly rotting away, because at this point, if she no longer floats, it will be too difficult and expensive to move her…

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  11. Seeing this remind me the ship ot Titanic..

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  12. I lived in NYC for many years but was unaware of the rich history of its harbor. Thank you for sharing this information. I learn something new every time I visit your blog. I love that! :)

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    • It often turns out to be fascinating once you dig into it… Another such story is the Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn :-)

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      • …or in your case, kayak around it.
        I read the submarine story. I can’t believe I missed all of those interesting bits of history while growing up in NY. It’s probably because I spent so most of my time in Central Park as a child instead of the harbor.
        I could tell you about cool spots like the “Alice In Wonderland” statue in the park though. ;)
        The submarine story was intriguing but I must say, the vessel itself looks kinda spooky. Cool secret place though!

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        • Johna Till Johnson

          Oh, “Alice”! Our friend Val has one of her earliest childhood memories there. If I’m remembering her anecdote correctly, she was so small as to fit under the mushroom (which means she could barely toddle)….. That is a wonderful recollection for you to have!

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  14. That ferry boat is amazing. I hope to visit your city one day – there’s so much that you’ve shown that we need to see.

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  16. Wonderful journey down memory lane- NYC is a fascinating place, I still have to see it!

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  17. It really is sad, what happens to the beautiful old ships and boats that no one has use for anymore. At least on land the decay is slower. Great essay!

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    • On land decay is slower, but buildings get actively demolished when someone wants to build in that spot anew… whereas old boats just get towed somewhere out of the way and (almost) forgotten. So, paradoxically, that’s how hundred-year old boats that nobody has had any use for for years are still in existence…

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  18. Very rich in history.

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  19. Incredible photo’s to go along with the info. I used to take a ferry to Staten Island as a child. This brought back memories of that. Thanks …

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  21. Excellent Vladimir – really enjoyed this one!

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  22. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic | blogagaini

  23. I hope they find another use for her

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    • Too late, almost certainly :-(

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      • But at least she is serving us well as a bit of nostalgic ornamentation in New York’s water ways. Cleaning up the harbor and rivers is great — I love Brooklyn Bridge park – but I would not like to see New York turned into Disneyland.

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        • I completely agree, Frank! Fortunately NYC is pretty resistant to Disneyfication. There are simply too many anarchic forces at work. Even Times Square is slowly becoming more gritty again…

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        • Of course you are right, Vlad — NY is chaos on a grid system. But then there is SoHo. Last time I was there it was a Disney-like outdoor shopping mall. I remember the artists lofts and mystery it held for the urban explorer. 50 years ago it would have been hard to imagine the state of that neighborhood today.

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        • Very true, and the same goes for Times Square. But these places tend to revert given time—admittedly, it could be a long time in the case of SoHo. With Times Square, I notice that the street hustlers and the con men are back, like weeds that you can’t keep down—and in a place like that they should be encouraged ;-)

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        • “I notice that the street hustlers and the con men are back, like weeds that you can’t keep down—and in a place like that they should be encouraged ;-)”

          Now that’s anarchy! I struggle between encouragement of chaos and anarchy and a Calvinistic desire for things to be RIGHT! Lately the anarchy is winning….

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        • On balance, that’s a good thing :-)

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  24. This is a great post

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  26. So cool. I love stuff like this. Hey I nominated you for: http://blueribbonfair.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/so-happy-the-wordpress-family-award/ if you are interested.

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  27. That’s sad about the boats being left to nature. The Binghamton was a beauty in her day, sad to see the state she is in now.

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  28. That’s very sad. We have an old steam ferry in San Diego and it’s home to the SD Maritime Museum. It’s beautiful inside and out and I hope it doesn’t decay anytime.

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  30. let me join with a news story from kurt of news 12 NJ that there are plans, PLANS, to move a NEW old ferry into Binghamton’s location soon . . after the old one is haul away in pieces in a scow. as news folks like to say . . . watch that spot.

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    • Will do! Of course, there were also ambitious PLANS for the Binghamton for a decade or two. We’ll see how long it takes. But when it does, we’ll be sorry to see the old Binghamton go…

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