Volume 73, Number 5 | June 2 - 8, 2004

Boat trip, wreath layings, memorials and exhibit

The centennial anniversary of the General Slocum tragedy is Tues., June 15. As of this writing, 45 descendants representing 16 families from around the country and Canada, plus historians and genealogists, will be participating in the numerous observances and commemoration events.

Sat., June 12, 9 a.m. — Circle Line boat trip (with continental breakfast), leaving from the South Street Seaport, will retrace the Slocum’s voyage up the East River. Meeting with a flotilla of harbor craft for a waterborne wreath-laying ceremony off North Brother Island, where the ship burned, hosted by the SUNY-Maritime Industrial Museum. The Museum, founded in 1986, has as one of its prime missions the remembrance of the Slocum disaster. “We’ve invited any descendants of anyone involved — victims and rescuers — as well as the Coast Guard and harbor craft, because boats of all description came when we needed them,” says Karen Lamberton, one of the organizers of the Slocum Centennial Committee.

This is a rare opportunity to go near North Brother Island, which is normally off limits to the public. “The Department of Environmental Protection maintains it as a private bird sanctuary,” notes Lamberton. “It’s a place for birds to rest and nest. If you get close to the island, marine police will shoo you away.”

The general public is also invited. Tickets are $35 and must be purchased in advance. For reservations, call SUNY-Maritime Industry Museum, 718- 409-7218.

Sat., June 12, 10 a.m. — Wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Obelisk, erected in 1905 to honor the 61 unidentified dead, in the Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery, Middle Village, Queens, where most of the Slocum victims are buried, followed by an ecumenical memorial service and buffet luncheon at Trinity Lutheran Church, also in Middle Village. Contact Ken Leib at 516-781-8925, or lazerken@aol.com.

Sat., June 12, 5:00 p.m. — Panel discussion with Slocum family descendants and buffet supper, co-hosted by Zion St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Seafarers and International House, held at the church, 339 E. 84th St. For information, call 212-288-0600, or info@zionstmarks.com.

Sun., June 13, 9:00 a.m. — Unveiling and dedication of a plaque to be placed on the former St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (now the Community Synagogue) at 323 E. Sixth St. Procession through the streets of the former Little Germany neighborhood to Tompkins Sq. Park for the annual memorial service at the monument. Descendants will march along with groups from all over New York City, including the Cathedral High School Marching Band and the New York City Fire Department’s Hibernian Pipe and Drum Corps. All New Yorkers are invited to participate. Information, SUNY-Maritime Industry Museum at 718-409-7218, or Frank Duffy, chairman of the Centennial Memorial Committee, Helo98@aol.com.

Sun., June 13, 11 a.m. — Memorial worship service in German at Zion St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 339 E. 84th St. Church historian Cathy Jolowicz will be available to help the descendants research family history and translate documents. For information, contact the church at 212-288-0600.

Tues., June 15, 12 noon — Memorial service for the Slocum victims and families at Seafarer’s and International House’s Nordgren Chapel, 123 E. 15th St. For information, contact Noreen Fleming at 212-677-4800 (ext. 1218), or nfleming@sihnyc.org.

Tues., June 15, 6 p.m. — Cocktail reception followed by Patrick Tull’s performance of “Hero of the Slocum,” based on Eric Blau’s book of the same name (Mosaic Press, 1997). It’s a fictionalized account of one passenger’s lifelong torment for having survived. Then, an art auction of one of four reproductions of the W.K. Gilbert painting “Steamboat General Slocum,” signed by Adella Liebenow Wotherspoon, the youngest Slocum survivor (she was six months old) and the last; she passed away on Jan. 26 at the age of 100. At the Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park S. Tickets are $75. Proceeds to benefit the mission programs and services of Seafarers and International House, an ecumenical Lutheran mission (Swedish by origin), “dedicated to the welfare and special needs of seafarers and sojourners.” Many of the descendants will be lodging here. Contact Noreen Fleming.

Tues., June 15, 10 a.m. — Opening of the exhibit “The General Slocum and Little Germany,” at the New-York Historical Society, 2 W. 77th St., 212-873-3400, www.nyhistory.org. Historical objects, including the Slocum’s ship lantern, family scrapbooks, period photographs and memorabilia from survivors, such as the dress worn to the first annual memorial service by Adella Liebenow Wotherspoon, the shoes of her drowned sister and materials from her parents’ testimony at Captain Van Schaick’s trial. Photographs show the unseaworthy life preservers failing a water test, the burning hulk of the paddle wheeler and the scorched lifeboats still attached to the deck. Through Aug. 22.

Also on Tues., June 15, at N-YHS — Premiere of “Fearful Visitation: The Great New York Steamboat Fire of 1904,” a documentary film by Hank Linhart and Phil Dray. It will air later in June on WNYC television. Check your local listings.

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