Did you know…that the Yankee Ferry is one of the last surviving Ellis Island ferries?
Built in 1907, the Yankee Ferry was created as a luxury steamboat for the Casco Bay Lines in Portland, Maine. Originally deemed the Machigonne, the name given to Portland by the natives who first settled there, the $75,000 luxury ferry once represented a rarity in nautical travel, adorned with red carpets, Spanish leather, mahogany staircases, and gleaming brass fixtures.
Until 1917, the upscale cruiser ferried passengers to Maine's Calendar Islands, after which the United States Army appropriated the ship and replaced its amenities with artillery, including cannons and machine guns, to patrol the Boston Harbor during World War I. The Hook Mountain, as it came to be known, remained in active military duty until 1919, when it was adopted to serve as a Provincetown-Boston Ferry.
In 1921, the ferry relocated to the New York Harbor and became an Ellis Island transfer boat, shuttling passengers between Ellis Island and Lower Manhattan. During its eight-year stint, the boat transported thousands of early-20th-century immigrants to the United States. In 1929, the ferry took on another historic role, operating under the McAllister Navigation Company as one of the earliest Statue of Liberty tour boats.
Again called to duty by the U.S. Navy to transport troops around Philadelphia and the Delaware River during World War II in 1942, the aging ferry was officially christened the Yankee in 1947 and retired to Block Island, Rhode Island. Run by the Interstate Navigation Company, the ferry ran regular shuttle routes between the island and Providence for the next 36 years.
After a series of owners -- and a series of mishaps, including a near fatal collision with an oil platform along the shore of Long Island -- the historic, and then dilapidated, vessel was abandoned and sent to a New London, Connecticut, boatyard for scrap in 1983.
In 1990, antique dealer Jimmy Gallagher saved the tattered -- and by then vandalized -- Yankee and towed it to Lower Manhattan's Pier 25 in Tribeca. Over the next 13 years, Gallagher lived on the boat, working to restore it to its near original condition. His labor earned the fragile, 137-foot ferry an entry on the National Historic Register before it was sold in 2003.
Today, cared for by current owners Richard and Victoria MacKenzie-Childs, the Yankee remains under constant renovation and supervision. As of April 2005, the Yankee retains its residence at Tribeca's Pier 25 near North Moore Street, but its owners are eagerly searching for a new downtown home for the ferry once the development of the Hudson River Park, which will encompass the older pier, displaces the ferry from its current location.