High Seas. Live Music. Open Bar. What else could you ask for in a celebration? Last Saturday, dozens of people made the trip to Red Hook, Brooklyn, for The Grand Neptune Ball - a celebration on the historic Lehigh Valley Waterfront Museum Barge. The festivity was in honor of the historic wooden barge, which is a nonprofit that raises funds for renewed arts and education programs.
Guests arrived in their finest Neptunian fashion, and partied like Poseidon all night long. The event featured light jazz tunes by Steve Oates and the Zac Greenberg Quartet. Local distillers Van Brunt Stillhouse and Widow Jane provided an endless flow of cocktails, to go along with mouthwatering hors d’oeuvres. The interior of the barge was filled with marvelous pieces of artwork by Bill Mensching. All proceeds from the tickets sales went to benefit the barge–the only surviving wooden covered railroad barge from the 1860s. Today, the barge acts as a museum, classroom, and theatre, all acknowledge to the work of Captain David Sharps, who founded the Waterfront Museum in 1986 to promote maritime history and its importance to the everyday life of the city, and the world.
Sharps had a history of living on the water. When he was studying theatrical movement in Paris, he lived on a houseboat on the Seine. When he returned to New York, David wanted to continue living on a boat, so a tugboat captain introduced him to the Lehigh Valley No. 79 Barge. When Sharps first acquired the historic barge, it only cost him $1, it came with 300 tons of mud in its hold and was grounded in New Jersey. The barge was eventually restored to seaworthy condition after seven years of restoration. The barge’s main attraction is driven in large part by proprietor Davis Sharp’s blend of compelling history and showmanship, turning the barge into a showboat. The great night was driven by Sharp’s enthusiasm and the painstaking care for the boat, which doubles as his home!
Since 1994, the Barge has been docked in Red Hook, Brooklyn and has become a landmark and a source of pride for the community. With spectacular views of Statue Liberty and the Lower Manhattan, the barge is the last enduring example of its kind afloat. However, the Museum is often overlooked due to its location at a more obscure part of Brooklyn. While most people today associate Brooklyn with the hipster kingdom Williamsburg, there are many other neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Red Hook, is a lesser known and even less traveled side of Brooklyn, due to it being isolated from major forms of public transformation. With surroundings of pre-civil war warehouse and shipping yards, Red Hook projects a waterfront vibe with a blossoming community of creative types. Today, despite having no subway stations directly in the neighborhood, Red Hook is a destination for New Yorkers from all over, and the barge is one of the top reasons.
The museum’s open hours are Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., though groups can visit on other days by appointment. There are also special theater, dance, and circus showboat performances by Sharps and his friends.
Special thanks to David and Stela. All photos courtesy of Jackson Krule