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Shipbuilding on the Bronx

Hunts Point Riverside Park was recently the scene of the festive launch of the Water Penny into the Bronx River.  Built by the students and staff of Rocking the Boat, the Water Penny is an exact replica of a Dutch boot tender, the boat that accompanied Adriaen Block on his 1614 voyage of exploration up Long Island Sound. Making his way through the treacherous currents of the East River in his Manhattan-built vessel the Onrust, Block passed by the mouth of the Bronx River just a short distance from where the new Water Penny made its first splash. The Dutch explorer missed his chance to beat Jonas Bronck in putting his name on the river then known as the Aquahung, and instead sailed on up the Sound, where the name of Block Island commemorates him.

All this brings to mind an early example of colonial shipbuilding on the Bronx River, which was navigable for small vessels as far up as West Farms. An old bill of sale dated 30 November 1676 tells of a good puick, or ship, Susannah that shipwright John Leggett built in Broncks River near Westchester, together with masts, lay boat and other materials.

Leggett sold the Susannah to the New York merchant Jacob Leysler, suggesting that it might have been intended for shipping flour and lumber from the first mills being built on the Bronx River at West Farms.

Stephen Paul DeVillo


About the Bronx River Alliance

The Bronx River Alliance is a coordinated voice for the river that works in partnership to protect, improve and restore the Bronx River corridor so that it can be a healthy ecological, recreational, resource for the communities through which it flows.

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