New York City opens America’s first elevator museum

elevator museumGoing up (or down) to New York? Hit the button for Queens and head to the country’s first elevator museum. Former elevator repairman and collector Patrick Carrajat opened the museum last week to chronicle the history of the American elevator from the oldest Otis elevator in 1861 to an autographed photo from the movie Titanic of the ship’s elevator. Located in Long Island City, the “nexus of the elevator world” for its proximity to elevator companies and many of the city’s subway lines, the one-room museum is full of elevator paraphernalia but mostly serves as a showcase for Mr. Carrajat’s extensive knowledge and stories about his career. He hopes to eventually move the museum into a bigger space with room for an antique elevator.

The free museum is open weekdays and some Saturdays, check www.elevatorhistory.org or call

917-748-2328 for more details.

Want more ideas for a visit to Queens? Check out our Undiscovered New York guide to modern art in Long Island City.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Grevel.

Undiscovered New York: Naval Brooklyn

When you describe the history of New York, you begin to realize that it is inextricably tied to the sea. Just recently we told you about a boat graveyard in Staten Island that has to be seen to be believed. And in fact, New York Harbor has been witness to some of this country’s most important nautical history, from New York’s rise as a trading port for the Dutch and the British, to the millions of immigrants who caught their first glimpse of their new country by boat at Ellis Island.

But no area of New York City has a more famous reputation in American naval lore than the borough of Brooklyn. Not only is Brooklyn home to one of the most historically important shipbuilding yards in the U.S., the borough was host to one of the fiercest battles of the Revolutionary War and is also the birthplace of one of history’s most famous ships.

If stories of bloody battles, abandoned admirals’ mansions and a little Civil War ironclad called the Monitor sound interesting, click below to keep reading…
The Battle of Brooklyn
If you remember your U.S. History, you probably already know about famous events in the American fight for independence like the Boston Tea Party. But did you know one the first major battles of the Revolutionary War was fought in Brooklyn? In August of 1776, British troops invaded Brooklyn by sea, coming ashore with over 30,000 troops near the area of Gravesend Bay. The American forces in the area quickly moved to slow the British advance, staging a small counter-attack at a site known as the Old Stone House. The house, and Brooklyn, was lost to the British, but luckily the American forces lived to fight another day. Interestingly, a recreation of the original 17th Century Dutch farmhouse sits not far from the site of this famous conflict. On the first floor visitors can visit a gallery commemorating the battle.

The U.S.S. Monitor
The bloody U.S. Civil War was a watershed for military innovation, including one of the first naval battles between two armor-plated ships, the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Merrimack at the Battle of Hampton Roads. The Monitor held its own in the battle thanks to a unique design with a single rotating gun turret and a streamlined shape below the waterline. Even though the battle took place on the Virginia coast, the uniquely designed Monitor was constructed in Brooklyn. The ship was built at the now defunct Continental Ironworks in the Greenpoint section of the borough. The famous vessel is commemorated in the area with its own street name (Monitor Street) and a statue at Monsignor Mcgolrick Park.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard

Arguably no shipbuilding yard in the United States played a more important role in U.S. naval history than the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The government first purchased the site in the early 1800’s, commissioning it as a U.S. Navy shipyard. At its peak during World War II, the Yard employed around 70,000 workers and was responsible for the construction of such famous vessels as the battleships U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Missouri. While the Yard’s importance has faded, you can get a unique sense of the site’s history if you’re up for some adventure. Along the edge of the Navy Yards sits Admiral’s Row, a strip of abandoned and decaying mansions that once housed naval officers and their families (pictured above). The mansions’ tall fences, barbed wire and large warning signs offer a “spooky” backdrop for some photos and an easy walk. You can find the site at the corner of Navy Street and Flushing Avenue near the neighborhood of DUMBO.

Undiscovered New York: Life and death in the graveyards of Staten Island

Staten Island. It’s a name many New Yorkers invoke with disdain. And tourists? The city is lucky if they venture beyond Manhattan to the borough of Brooklyn. But despite this poor reputation, there are plenty of reasons to visit New York City’s fifth borough.

True, it’s never going to offer the glitzy shopping and haute cuisine of its ritzy neighbor Manhattan to the north. But urban explorers, history buffs and adventurers take note: what the borough lacks in picturesque vistas, it more than makes up for with “edgy” character and quirky sites of interest. My favorite? The Staten Island boat graveyard.

For those that do not know, Staten Island is home to what used to be the world’s largest trash heap at Fresh Kills. For years, the city of New York dumped thousands (if not millions) of tons of garbage on this site, creating one of Staten Island’s more imposing geographical landmarks. Gross, right? While even an adventurous traveler like myself might skip a site filled with old diapers and decaying chicken bones, all that trash has provided an interesting side-attraction in the form of huge fleet of half-sunken abandoned boats. Want to know more? Click on through the link to continue.Rather than sink the vessels elsewhere, the city of New York has chosen this sliver of water between the island of Staten and the coast of New Jersey as the final resting place for dozens of ships. The many boats sit half beneath the surface, silent sentinels to formerly productive seafaring lives.

As these old relics of wood and steel are ravaged by the salt and air, their decay leaves behind some strangely beautiful works of art. As wood rots away, rusty metal skeletons emerge and decks lie at odd angles, half submerged and half afloat above the murky water’s surface. Just beyond lies the hulking mass of the former landfill, gently sloping off in the distance. Needless to say the atmospheric surroundings make for an awesome setting for photography buffs.

Perhaps even more intriguing is that this isn’t the only graveyard in the area. Yet another forgotten Staten Island graveyard lies within easy view, but a graveyard of a very different sort. At the edge of the salty marshland leading to the boats is a small cemetery called the Blazing Star Burial Ground. The cemetery houses the final remains of Staten Island residents dating back to the 1750’s when the area was the site of a popular ferry crossing and roadhouse. As you stroll among the small plot of ancient gravestones it’s hard not to wonder about the inhabitants who made this once-pristine vista their final resting place. Could anyone have imagined how drastically their view would change?

So how does one find this hidden gem? Well, first you need to find a way out to Staten Island. Although it’s not impossible to use a combination of mass transit with ferries, trains and buses, a car is much preferred in this case. The site is located near the town of Rossville, on Arthur Kill Road. Not to be a tease, but that’s all we’re giving away. That’s what Google Maps is for, right? This is supposed to be an adventure after all, and any good adventure is not without its intrinsic risks and uncertainties. Happy exploring!