Nestled in the heart of Kingston, New York, Rondout Creek once hummed with the activity of a thriving maritime industry. Today, it stands as a tranquil haven and a living museum of history.
Nestled in the heart of Kingston, New York, Rondout Creek once hummed with the activity of a thriving maritime industry. Today, it stands as a tranquil haven and a living museum of history, home to some of the region’s most venerable yet forgotten boats.
Among these maritime relics lies the once-mighty fleet of the Cornell Steamboat Company. A titan of the Hudson River’s towing business in the 19th century, Cornell’s boats were once the lifeline of trade, ferrying goods across the bustling waterway. Boasting over 60 vessels at its peak, the company witnessed a gradual decline with the closure of the Delaware & Hudson Canal and the rise of railroads and improved highways. Today, the remaining vessels serve as nostalgic reminders of a glorious past, their weathered wood and rusting metal narrating tales of yesteryears.
But the creek’s treasures aren’t confined to commercial shipping. The vessel Lila Acheson Wallace, christened in 1973, stands as a symbol of compassion. Named after the philanthropist and co-founder of Reader’s Digest, this special boat was part of The Floating Hospital, providing healthcare to New York City’s medically underserved communities. Its history is rich, having found homes at various piers before settling in Brooklyn and eventually becoming a land-based facility in 2003.
Rondout Creek’s unique blend of decay and grace draws admirers from all walks of life. Far from being mere remnants of a bygone era, they are invitations to reflection and discovery. Efforts to preserve and even restore some of these boats resonate with Kingston’s ambitious celebration of its rich maritime heritage. In their silent majesty, they beckon visitors to set sail on a journey of exploration and appreciation. The creek may be quiet, but its stories continue to resonate, whispers of history lapping at the shores of the present.