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Sailor's Snug Harbor, Seamen's Retreat Hospital and Mariner's Family Asylum, and Society for the relief of destitute children of seamen

Sailor's Snug Harbor

The Morning News
Jan 21, 2001 p. 5F
Snug Harbor's History Recalled
The Associated Press
Article submitted by Ruth E. Cipko - THANK YOU, Ruth!
New York - Sailor's Snug Harbor was established in 1833 with a multimillion-dollar endowment from the trust of Robert Richard Randall.

Randall's son, Thomas, one of the nation's original Sons of Liberty, founded the site as "as asylum or home for aged, decrepit seamen."

Robert Richard Randall made his fortune as privateer in the mid-1700s and instilled both a love of the sea and a philanthropic spirit in his children.

At its peak between 1880 and 1910, the self-sustaining Snug Harbor housed more than 1,000 retired seamen. It contained 60 buildings, including two hospitals, two mansions and a cathedral. It also had a working blacksmith shop, tobacco, dairy and vegetable farms.

Said to be one of the oldest established charitable institutions in the nation, Snug Harbor was the only place of its kind for retired seamen in America. The graveyard on Monkey Hill contains the remains of 7,000 sailors.

With the start of Social Security and a decline in the maritime trade in the 1930s, the population at Snug Harbor dwindled, and by the 1950s most of the Snugs - as the retired sailors were called - had left. Many of the buildings were destroyed or fell into disrepair.

The board of Sailors' Snug Harbor offered the site to the city for free, but then-Mayor Robert Wagner declined.

When the trustees tried to sell the site to developers, artist John A. Noble - who had the exacting eye of an artist but the heart of an old-time mariner - led the fight to preserve it.

Mayor John Lindsay bought the property for $7 million in 1973 and it reopened as the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.

Sailors' Snug Harbor, which under the terms of its endowment must operate in perpetuity, moved to Sea Level, N.C., where it still exists, although no seamen currently live there. Info from rtankardshnb at bizec.rr.com

Snug Harbor on Nelson Bay

Snug Harbor today

From Janet Grainge, 28 Dec 2007: The facility is now called Snug Harbor on Nelson Bay, and we have a good many mariners who live here. We are a 120-room facility, with about half of our rooms occupied by seamen. We opened to the public in 2001, allowing for sailor's wives and others to live at the facility; however, the trust is still alive and well, and mariners are still very well cared for at this waterfront community. At its location on the shores of North Carolina, Snug Harbor on Nelson Bay provides three levels of housing: independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. At Snug Harbor, mariners pay only 40% of their income (not assets), and in return receive private room & board with a private bath and patio, all meals specially prepared for each, medical care or supervision dedicated to individual needs, recreational activities, etc. Captain Randall's trust pays the remainder of fees, no matter what level of care the mariner may require. The facility includes a full gym, game room complete with two pool tables, woodworking shop, walking trail, and greenhouse. Contact (252) 225-4411 or email harborinfo @ bizec.rr.com .

I have attached a terrific photo taken recently of our two of our merchant mariners, Mr. W. Tyrrell & Mr. H. Arond. Merchant Mariners

PBS Hidden New York did a piece on Sailors' Snug Harbor. "Though just a ferry ride from Manhattan, Staten Island's suburban atmosphere is a world away for most New York City residents. The borough was once home to a large retirement complex for seamen called Sailors' Snug Harbor. Looking out across the Upper Bay with a view of the Narrows leading to the Atlantic, Snug Harbor provided a fitting retirement setting, close to the sea to which the sailors had dedicated their lives. When the home moved to North Carolina, Snug Harbor nearly fell to the wrecking ball. Fortunately, community efforts rescued and transformed the site into a botanical garden and cultural center where you can still discover its past history as a haven for old seamen.

"Sailors' Snug Harbor opened on August 1, 1833, becoming America's first and most famous home for retired seamen. Founder Robert Randall declared in his will that the Harbor's purpose was to support 'aged, decrepit and worn-out sailors.' Thirty-seven men were enrolled when the Harbor opened. By 1930, the number had grown to 750. The entirely self-sufficient complex included its own farm and power plant, two large dormitories, a dining hall, music hall, two churches, a hospital and sanitorium, a blacksmith shop, a library, and a morgue. Portions of this text provided by Barnett Shepherd and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center."

In 1869 there were 435 inmates. Interesting note: an 1874 article mentioned that there were 150 at the Seamen's Retreat at Stapleton, and about 450 in the Sailors' Snug Harbor at New Brighton. In Aug 1883 they were celebrating "the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Sailors' Snug Harbor at West Brighton" and said that when it first opened there were 72 inmates, and in 1883, 788. In 1967 there were about 317 retired sailors living there.

Marine Hosp

Seamen's Retreat Hospital and Mariner's Family Asylum

Founded 1831. Cornerstone of building laid 1834. Located between Stapleton and Vanderbilt Landing, aka Clifton, aka Edgewater, over 35 acres. It was supported by a Seamen's Tax collected upon each ship entering the port. All nations used the Retreat. (Sailors' Snug Harbor required seamen to have served five years under the U.S. flag.) They also had a Lunatic Asylum, Mariner's Family Asylum (15th Anniversary: 1868), Old Ladies' Home, and a small cemetery "beneath the shadows of the willows" and mentioned a cemetery book "kept so well that a few days ago a woman from Chicago came to look after a brother she had not seen for years, and was at once shown the spot where the body had laid for fourteen Summers."

In 1854 there were 170 patients being treated and in 1871 they had 140. In the first 25 years, they received 58,215 patients, cured 47,029, relieved 4,917, discharged at own request 1,777, and 2,813 died. In 42 years, there were 59,146 patients, 47,821 restored to health, 4,971 relieved, 1857 discharged and 2856 died. In 1882, New York sold the Seaman's Fund and Retreat property to the marine Society, of New-York, for $160,000 (or 86,000). The Government decided in 1885 to purchase the property from the Marine Society for $280,000 for the purpose of permanently establishing there a marine hospital for the port. Not mentioned again.

Society for the relief of destitute children of seamen

See News.

The New York Daily Times of Jun 4, 1852 p. 3 also mentions the "sixth anniversary of the Society for the relief of destitute children of seamen" celebrated at Sailor's Snug Harbor. They say "it was formed several years ago by a number of benevolent ladies of New-York, upon whom the peculiarly helpless condition of the destitute children of seamen had been impressed." They started out with "some twenty children", cared for and educated them. Present included Capt. Hart, superintendent of the Sailors' Retreat "as a sailor from a child of eight years, when he was thrown helpless upon the sea of life." The officers of the Society for 1852 were:
Mrs. W. A. TOMLINSON, 1st Directress
Miss C. O. DOWNES, 2d Directress
Mrs. W. D. CUTHBERTSON, Treasurer
Mrs. E. BEMENT, Recording Secretary
Mrs. M. CLARKSON, Corresponding Secretary
Mrs. Geo. GRISWOLD, Mrs. W. H. ASPINWALL, and 19 other ladies elected Managers.

In 1853 there were 99 children there - 66 boys and 33 girls. In 1854, 110; in 1855, 126 then 160. I don't find mention again until 1861, when there were 120. I did not find them again until 1871, when they celebrated their 25th Anniversary. There were nearly 100 children. In 1885, they reported 160.

The Seamen's Society for Children and Families, as it's called now, is the oldest not-for-profit organization on Staten Island. It still exists in 2004 and is giving scholarships.

From Gerard McCaffery:

I am [Janet: was] the CEO of Seamen's Society for Children and Families. I was happy to see the reference to our history on Staten Island. We still provide a range of services on Staten Island and Brooklyn that includes foster care services (over 500 children in our care), adoption, day care (about 250 children every day), preventive services to help keep families together and a range of youth services including the scholarship assistance you mention. We purchased 50 Bay Street two years ago that we expect to start renovation and construction on this October. It will be the first property the agency has owned since the 1950's when we sold our campus on Castleton Avenue to the Staten Island Mental Health Society. Once complete the building will serve as the location for most of our Staten Island-based programs and our administrative offices.

If you have any interest, we have lots of old archives at our offices at 25 Hyatt Street that a volunteer goes through and maintains on a regular basis. We are alive and kicking after 158 years.

...We actually get several inquiries a year from Last one was from a woman whose aunt was in our care in the 1930's when the aunt was 9-12 years old. The aunt's grandfather resided at Snug Harbor during that same time. She sent us photos and some other clips. We discovered that the woman's uncle had also resided with us though the family never knew anything about it. Amazing story.

We also get inquiries from individuals who were in foster care with us or adopted through us the years. There is no cost involved for us doing a search of our records.

Anyone who thinks they had a relative reside with us can contact me at my work e-mail. We can go from there.

Thank you Jerry McCaffery [formerly] of the Seamen's Society for Children and Families!!!

The current contact is Nancy Vomero, CEO of Seamen's Society: nancy at roots-wings.org
Found at NARA:
Record Group 90 Records of the Public Health Service [PHS], 1912-1968 90.4 Records of PHS Hospitals and Field Medical Installations 1794-1944 90.4.37 Records of the hospital at Staten Island, NY History: Seamen's Fund and Retreat established pursuant to an act of the New York legislature, April 22, 1831, to provide hospital care to sick and disabled seamen in New York City. Closed in the summer of 1882. Property conveyed to Marine Society of New York, which leased it to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service in 1883. Purchased by the United States in 1903. U.S. Marine Hospital opened on Bedloe's Island, New York Harbor, 1879. Transferred in 1883 to site of Seamen's Fund and Retreat, Staten Island, NY. Closed as federal facility, 1981. Now operated as Bayley Seaton Hospital by Sisters of Charity of New York. Textual Records (in New York, except as noted): Records of the Seamen's Fund and Retreat, including minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1843-50, 1863-67; reports of the Superintendent and Visiting Committee, 1842-44; financial records, 1831-66; ship registers, 1854-73; patient registers, 1835-82; case histories, 1831-70; death register, 1831-73; and autopsy register, 1852-54. Records of the PHS hospital, including patient registers, 1879- 1911; letters sent, 1904-11. Medical Officer's journal, 1906-14; registers of permits issued to enter hospital, 1881-1908, with gaps; station orders, 1924-30; and (in Washington Area) medical case registers, 1831-32, and outpatient records, 1891-1939.
Found at NARA: (Records appear to reside in Atlanta)
Record Group 442 Records of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1921-80
442.2.3 Records of divisions and branches
Textual Records: Records of the Division of Quarantine, consisting of historical files of the U.S. Quarantine Station, Rosebank, Staten Island, NY, 1921-80. Epidemiology and Research Analysis Branch special and annual reports on the Foreign Quarantine Program, 1955-68. Published and unpublished manuscripts by Laboratory Branch staff members, 1952-64. Manuscripts submitted to the Venereal Disease Branch for clearance, 1962-63.

New Info 09Feb2013: Sailors Snug Harbor Board of Trustees
The Trustees of the Sailors? Snug Harbor
40 Exchange Place, Suite 1701
New York,NY 10005
Tel: 646-465-8585, Toll Free: 1-888-257-5456
Fax: 212-513-0243
info at thesailorssnugharbor dot org

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