A visit to the South Street Seaport and the newly-restored Wavertree.

View Transcript

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO NYC ARTS.

I'M PAULA ZAHN AT THE TISCH WNET STUDIOS AT LINCOLN CENTER THE STORY OF NEW YORK CITY BEGINS AT ITS WATER FRONT, THE ORIGINAL CENTER OF TRADE.

THE SOUTH STREET SEAPORT MUSEUM CHRONICLES THE HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM.

THE FLAGSHIP OF THE COLLECTION IS THE NEWLY RESTORED WAIVER TREE.

BUILT IN 1885, WAIVER TREE CIRCLED THE WORLD FOUR TIMES BEFORE THE END OF HER SAILING CAREER, AND REPRESENTS THE TYPE OF CARGO SHIPS THAT USED TO LINE SOUTH STREET.

CAPTAIN JONATHAN BULLWEAR THE MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR SPOKE WITH NYC ARTS ABOUT WAIVER TREE AND THE HISTORY OF THE SEAPORT.

THE SEAPORT MUSEUM IS A 50-YEAR-OLD INSTITUTION THAT EXISTS IN THE ORIGINAL PORT OF NEW YORK.

IT IS LOCATED IN THE BUILDINGS AND ADJACENT TO THE PIERS, AND WITH A PORT OF SHIPS.

NEW YORK WAS A PORT BEFORE IT WAS A CITY.

THE SHIPPING PIERS AND THE SHIPS AND THEIR CONNECTION TO THE REST OF THE WORLD IS WHAT BUILT NEW YORK.

WE REALLY TELL THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE STORY OF MODERN NEW YORK.

THE STREETER SHIPS IS A TERM THAT'S USE TO THE DESCRIBE SOUTH STREET FROM THE BATTERY UP TO THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE AND BEYOND.

THE HEAD RIG, THE SPAR THAT COMES OFF THE BOUGH OF THE SHIP, HANGING OVER THE BUILDINGS THERE MUCH THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WATERBORNE TRANSPORTATION AND THE GROWING METROPOLIS THAT REPRESENTS THE BIRTH PLACE OF NEW YORK AS WE KNOW IT.

THESE SHIPS WERE THE ENGINES OF TRADE, THEY WERE BIG RAW MATERIALS IN AND MANUFACTURED GOODS OUT.

BUT THEY WERE ALSO INSTRUMENTS OF GLOBALIZATION.

INSTRUMENTS OF CONNECTION, THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE MIGRATION OF PEOPLE, CULTURE AT EXCHANGE.

WAIVER TREE IS OUR FLAGSHIP, SHE IS AN 1885 IRON SAILING SHIP.

MANY PEOPLE WOULD REFER TO HER AS A BIG TALL SAILING SHIP.

SHE IS FOR US THE CONNECTION BETWEEN NEW YORK AND THE REST OF THE WORLD.

SHE WAS A GLOBETROTTER.

SHE WAS WHAT'S CALLED A TRAMP FOR MOST OF HER LIFE.

A TRAMP WAS THE NAME FOR A SHIP THAT WOULD CARRY ANY CARGO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD AS LONG AS IT PAID.

ON THE DAY THAT WAIVER TREE WAS LAUNCHED IN 1885, SHE WAS A PROFOUNDLY NORMAL SHIP.

NO MORE SPECIAL THAN A MACK TRUCK OR A FREIGHT CAR TODAY.

BUT SHE IS THE LAST SURVIVING SHIP OF HER TYPE IN THE WORLD.

SHE HAS OUTLASTED ALL OF HER SISTERS.

SHE DID SO BECAUSE OF A SERIES OF HAPPY ACCIDENTS.

IN 1910 DURING HER SECOND ATTEMPT TO TRY TO ROUND CAPE HORN, THE CAPE OF THE SOUTHERN END OF SOUTH AMERICA, AND PROBABLY THE MOST VIOLENT AND DANGEROUS BODY OF WATER IN THE WORLD, SHE WAS DISMASTED.

WHICH MEANS THAT HER TALL SAILING RIG CAME FALLING DOWN TO THE DECK, IRON, WOOD, STEEL, COURTAGE AND CANVAS ALL CAME CRASHING DOWN, DESTROYING THE SHIP'S ABILITY TO SAIL.

REMARKABLY KILLING NO ONE.

SHE WAS TERMED A LOSS.

SHE WAS FOUND BY THE SEAPORT MUSEUM IN 1970, SHE CAME HERE TO GREAT FANFARE AND HAS BEEN LOVINGLY PRESERVED BY VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF OF THE MUSEUM EVER SINCE.

WAIVER TREE JUST UNDERWENT A 16 MONTH, $13 MILLION RESTORATION FUNDED BY THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

WHICH BROUGHT HER AS CLOSE TO SAILING AS SHE'S BEEN SINCE 1910.

SAILING IN THE 19th CENTURY WAS A PRETTY GRIM BUSINESS.

THE JOB IS TO GET A SMALL PILE OF COAL, A COUPLE THOUSAND TONS OF COAL HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD OR DIE TRYING.

THE INVERSION OF IMPORTANCE OF MONEY AND HUMAN LIFE BETWEEN THE 19th CENTURY AND NOW CAN'T BE OVERSTATED.

CREWS WERE EXPENDABLE.

SAILORS WERE EXPENDABLE.

CARGOS AND SHIPS WERE NOT.

IT WAS A RIGID CLASS HIERARCHY.

IN THE CABIN DOOR THAT LEADS TO THE CAPTAIN'S SALOON, INSIDE THE CAPTAIN'S SALOON, SHE'S A VICTORIAN SHIP.

A PUMP ORGAN AND SETEE.

ON THAT SIDE OF THE DOOR IT'S BRIGHTLY FINISHED WITH VARNISH AND NICE PANELS.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, PAINTED WHITE, UTILITARIAN, WORK A DAY.

SO TOO WAS THE LIFESTYLE.

ABOARD THE SHIP, THE CAPTAIN ENJOYED A PRETTY COMFORTABLE EXISTENCE.

THE SAILORS LIVED FORWARD, TOWARD THE BOUGH OF THE SHIP, AND LIVED MANY MEN TO A SMALL CRAMPED THING, SLEEPING ON A STRAW MATTRESS.

EATING SALTED MEAT OUT OF WOODEN BARRELS.

ONE OF THE IMPACTING THINGS ABOUT WAIVER TREE, ABOUT SEEING HER IS WALKING DOWN TO THE PIER AND SEEING THE MAJESTY OF HER TALL MASTS AND THE RIGGING THAT'S NECESSARY TO MAKE A SHIP LIKE THAT WORK.

THE REAL GEM IS TO GET INTO WAIVER TREE AND GO DOWN INTO THE HOLD SPACE.

WHICH IS OPEN THIS YEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

AND BE ABLE TO TAKE IN THE SIZE AND SCALE OF A HUGE CARGO SAILING SHIP FROM THE 19th CENTURY.

IT'S LIKE BEING INSIDE THE BELLY OF A WHALE OR IN A CATHEDRAL.

AT ONE TURN, INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL, THE CONSTRUCTION IS BREATHTAKING AND ITS FUNCTION WAS TO DO A MUNDANE AND DIRTY JOB.

THIS IS WHERE I WOULD SAY THAT WAIVER TREE IS TRULY UNIQUE.

THERE IS NOT ANOTHER SHIP IN THE WORLD THAT HAS A SPACE INSIDE LIKE THE ONE THAT WAIVER TREE HAS.

SHE ISN'T THE SHIP THAT BUILT NEW YORK.

BUT SHE IS OF THE CLASS OF SHIP THAT MADE NEW YORK WHAT IT IS.

FOR US, PARTICULARLY AS THE LAST OF HER TYPE, SHE REPRESENTS NEW YORK'S CONNECTION TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.

THAT IN THE 19th CENTURY, FROM THE EAST RIVER PIER, YOU COULD GET ON A SHIP LIKE WAIVER TREE, GO RIGHT, GO STRAIGHT AND END UP ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

♪♪