For more than six years, the historic 136 foot vessel Yankee has called Hoboken her home. But she lost her berth at Pier 25 at the Shipyard project last fall and has been tied up at the City-owned Maxwell Place Park pier near 12th Street since that time. Now, the City of Hoboken has ordered this historic vessel to vacate from Hoboken’s shores. Victoria MacKenzie-Childs, the current owner, will have the boat towed to its new home in Red Hook, Brooklyn on July 2.
The Yankee is one of the last vestiges of Hoboken’s maritime past and its loss is another blow to the memory of a very different waterfront that Hoboken enjoyed throughout most of the 20th Century. The ferry, in the past referred to as Machigonne, has served numerous functions since it was first built in 1907. The ferry began its service ferrying passengers between Portland, Maine and the Calendar Islands in Casco Bay. In World War I, the Machigonne was acquired by the US Navy and commissioned as the USS Machigonne. Following the end of WWI, the ship was decommissioned and resumed its status as a passenger ferry, this time ferrying passengers from newly arriving ships full of immigrants to Ellis Island. The story goes that many of these immigrants caught their first glimpse of the lower Manhattan skyline atop the deck of the ferry then known as the Hook Mountain.
After a series of ownership changes (including a second stint with the navy during WWII), the the boat was renamed the Yankee having had her steam propulsion replaced by a diesel engine. For several years, the ferry shuttled passengers between Providence and Block Island, Rhode Island — a popular summer vacation spot. After 1983, the ferry fell into disrepair and was occasionally vandalized. It was not until seven years later that Jim Gallagher purchased the ferry and began restoration on the aging vessel. Gallagher eventually sold the boat to new owners with the promise that the restoration work would be completed.
Victoria MacKenzie-Childs has lovingly continued that painstaking restoration work preserving so much of its historic value and adding her own whimsical features that reflect the MacKenzie-Childs company brand. Her restoration work was featured last year on a TLC television show where four renovated residences were competing for “best home.” After discussions with city officials, MacKenzie-Childs undertook the task of applying for nonprofit status with plans to open up the boat for tours and for small-scale events. But alas, it was all in vain for the Yankee was ordered to leave by the City with no public discussion about the loss of this historic asset.