Must-See Red Hook
by Michael Hsu, 07/16/2013
Photo: David Sharps
Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge
Pier 44, 290 Conover St., 718-624-4719
Before the proliferation of highways, tunnels and bridges, the New York Bay was bustling with ships. At the time, waterways were the main paths of transport for cargo and commuters alike. The Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge preserves and celebrates the period from 1860 to 1960, when waterways thrived. Housed on the last remaining wood-covered barge of its kind (the Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge no. 79), this charming and creaky museum literally rises and falls with the tide. The barge itself, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was salvaged in 1985 and restorers needed more than two years to get the vessel floating (there were 300 tons of mud below its deck). Today, it welcomes aboard children and adults alike to learn and explore. (One highlight: an exhibition about how gongs and bells were used to communicate aboard tugs and barges.) The museum is open Thursdays from 4 to 8pm and Saturdays from 1 to 5pm. It's closed the last two weeks in December. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. From the barge, you can often get a good look at Red Hook's contemporary role in NYC's cruise-ship economy, as spectacularly large luxury liners like those of Cunard and Princess Cruises come and go from the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal nearby.