Driving along Staten Island’s North Shore from St. George to Mariner’s Harbor one passes a string of marine industries: tug boat companies, dredging companies, marine electric companies, dry docks… ending at the sprawling Howland Hook container ship terminal. The marine industry has thrived along the shore of the Kill Van Kull since the days of sail. At points along the drive views of it’s early history can still be seen in the ruins of old wooden piers dry docks.
Many of the current marine businesses are hidden behind high walls and fences, visible only through their driveways. Driving by, one can occasionally catch a glimpse of a large propeller sitting in a yard or a ferryboat in dry dock but most of the work of the modern marine industries is hidden from public view. A new book seeks to change that. Readers can get a comprehensive overview of the past and present operations of New York Harbor’s oldest dry dock in Caddell Dry Dock: 100 Years Harborside.
Written by Erin Urban, with contemporary photographs by Michael Falco, the book has two main parts. The first is a history of the dry dock tracing Caddell’s origins from the immigration of John Bartlett Caddell, a Nova Scotia shipyard worker in the late 1800s. J.B., as he was known, founded his ship repair business in Brooklyn in the first years of the twentieth century and moved it to it’s present location at Richmond Terrace and Broadway on Staten Island in 1916.
The text follows his company’s transformations along with the evolution of the shipping industry. In the early days much of the work was on wooden schooners with Caddell investing in “shares” of their voyages. During prohibition rum-runners and Coast Guard ships would often sit side-by-side in the dry docks while the Caddell staff made sure the two crews did not meet. Today their work focuses primarily on large modern vessels but they still service the old sailing ships when the occasion arises – like the Peking and Wavertree from South Street Seaport.
The second section of the book contains Michael Falco’s large beautiful photographs of the Caddell workers and some of the 300+ ships they refurbish annually. See an online exhibit of some of his photos here. Caddell Dry Dock: 100 Years Harborside is a must-read for anyone interested in Staten Island history or New York Harbor.
Photographs by Michael Falco from Caddell Dry Dock: 100 Years Harborside. Copyright 2009 by the Noble Maritime Collection. Used with permission.