September 3, 1924
Praises Work of Snug Harbor
Secretary MacDonald of Welfare Department Gives His Impression
of Seamen's Haven After Recent Visit There
Secretary George E. MacDonald
of the Board of Public Welfare has just returned from a trip to the Sailors' Snug Harbor
and gives the following interesting account of his visit:
"The home Sailors' Snug Harbor is
doubtless familiar to most Gloucester people. I had never visited the institution myself,
although I had several times recommended applicants to Rev. Mr. Russell
of the Fishermen's Institute, who is the efficient local agent for the Sung Harbor.
Recently the opportunity came to accompany an old friend to this home, which is
located on Staten Island, New York. Readers of the Times who are not familiar with
this institution may be interested to know a few of the things that I learned while there.
We made the trip on the new steamer New York,
by way of the Cape Cod Canal. While going through the Canal the steamer slowed down
to such an extent that it seemed to be drifting with the tide. The banks on each
side appeared to be not more than fifty feet distant. The passage of the night
steamer is an event to the people of Buzzard's Bay, who gathered along the shores,
cheering and waving their hats and exchanging facetious remarks with the passengers.
An endless chain of automobiles blew their horns, the steamer responding with three
loud whistles frequently repeated.
On arrival at New York we went to the office
of the Snug Harbor on Green street, where the usual form of examination took place and the
required papers were executed. We then took the steamer from the South Ferry to
Staten island, about 20 minutes' sail down the harbor, transferring to an electric car for
a 15-minute ride to the institution.
The Sailors' Snug Harbor was the gift of Robert
Richard Randall, a native of Scotland, who followed the sea most of his life.
About 123 years ago Mr. Randall purchased 20 acres of land in the
vicinity of Broadway. This land, which he used as a farm, is not the heart of New
York City. In his will, Mr. Randall provided that the income from
this estate should be devoted to the care of old and disabled seamen, regardless of creed
or color who had sailed under the American flag. The will was drawn by the famous Alexander
Hamilton, formerly secretary of the U. S. treasury, who was instructed by
his client to word the will so strictly that it could never be broken. So well did
the great lawyer succeed that I am told a Chinaman and a Japanese have been admitted,
though not even naturalized, because they had sailed under the American flag. An oil
painting of Alexander Hamilton hangs in the office of the Snug Harbor.
When Mr. Randall died, his
estate was established at $40,000. The trustees under the will invest in buildings,
real estate, and leases, and today the amount of the estate is said to be in the millions.
The Staten Island location was bought about
1830 and consists of 200 acres of land. The grounds are beautifully laid out with
lawns and flower gardens. There are a number of brick buildings, including the main
building, the hospital, the Governor's house, and separate houses for the help.
I called at the governor's office and inquired
abut the management of the institution. The official in full charge of the entire
food supply took me through the dining rooms, one capable of seating about 500, and the
other two nearly as large, although the average number of inmates is 750. Every
modern improvement is used for cooking and serving food. On looking over the menus
for one month I noticed that they had everything in season that can be purchased in the
market, fresh meat, chicken, vegetables, etc., in fact everything that can be procured in
a first class hotel. Except for a small summer garden, nothing is produced on the
place but hogs. About 25 hogs, weighing 200 pounds apiece, are killed every month,
which supplies the institution with pork. Seven hundred and fifty quarts of milk are
purchased each week, and 3000 dozen eggs a month, I was informed that the food alone costs
over $15,000 a month. It is estimated that the entire upkeep of the institution
amounts to at least $30,000 a month.
The inmates as a whole appeared to be happy
and contented, although I was told that like all institutions, there are always a few
chronic kickers. Even though they have the best of everything in the market and are
paid for any work they may perform, such as kitchen work or waiting on table, they still
find fault, which is the experience of every official who has charge of an institution.
Ruses are not too strict but are ridigly
enforced. I found that out for myself. While waiting at the gates for the
electric car on my return trip, I felt a tap on the shoulder and the gate keeper inquired,
"Have you a pass for your travelling bag?" Not knowing that I needed one,
especially having just come from the governor's office, I naturally said no. He
insisted that I must have one before I could take the bag away, even though it was my own
property. So there was nothing for me to do but return to the governor's office
where it caused quite a laugh, but he necessary slip was made out, rules being rules.
Seamen are fortunate in having such a splendid
home to retire to in their old age. The Sailor's Snug Harbor might almost be called
"The Seaman's Heaven."