Sea History 125 - Winter 2008-2009

Page 26

The trustees of Snug H arbor were hesitant to spend m o ney on the Manhattan property because they needed it for the upkeep and maintenance of Snug H arbor. "In the 1930s and 1940s the city's changing patterns of growth-and a gradual lessening in the quali ty of the Washington Square buildings themselves-caused the property ro decline in rental value," acco rding to Sailors' Snug Harbor 1801-1976, by Barnett Shepherd. The res ident population at Snug H arbor had also declined . W ith the advent of social securi ty and pensio ns, sailors had more independence and Snug H arbor wasn't th eir on ly option for retirement. By 1945, the population had dwindled to 375, about half what it had been a decade earli er. Already by 1943, burdened by escalating costs and a decreasing population, the trustees had hired a firm to com e up wit h a pl an for the future of Snug Harbor. By 1948, a managem ent survey was undertaken to id entify cost-saving meas ures, calling for the sale of some of the Staten Island land to raise money to refurbi sh the buildings. In 1949 the trustees cons idered charging the m en a fee to stay at Snug Harbor. After protests from many of the residents, the fee idea was dropped. Instead , rhe trustees embarked on a plan to modernize rhe buildings ar Snug H arbor. Many buildings we re no longer being used and wo uld be closed . 1l1ree buildings were initially torn down, but rhe public paid no attention to the destruction until the Randall Memorial C hurch, the on e modeled after Sr. Paul's Cathedral in London, was on the chopping block. The trustees estimated that repairing rhe aging building would cost about $56,000 . Some people fought rhe demoli tion, bur after a year of debate, the buildin g was torn down. Then, in 1965, a plan was

(top left) The Randall Memorial Church, built in 1899, and the Snug Harbor Music Hall, the second oldest music hall in the country. (middle left) The famous ''front five" buildings at Snug Harbor, the first National Historic Landmarks ever designated in the United States. (bottom left) The grave ofSailors' Snug Harbor founder, Robert Richard Randall. 24

SEA HISTORY 125, WINTER 2008-09