Discovered in 1967 during excavation for the building of the World Trade Center, this ancient 11-foot anchor at one time lay buried in mud near the Ship ‘TIJGER’ keel for more than 300 years. In 1999 members of Union Electrician Local #3, anxious to preserve the historic but deteriorating anchor with cooperation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, brought the anchor to the National Maritime Historical Society headquarters in Peekskill, NY.
THE STORY OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ANCHOR
Ships began trading to and from New York Harbor 400 years ago when Henry Hudson charted this area of the New World looking for a trade route to China. Word of the bounty of the Hudson River gave enterprising Dutch merchants good reason to test their ships and courage to navigate the wide Atlantic Ocean. Adrian Block’s Ship TIJGER left Amsterdam in 1613 but she never made it home. Loaded with beaver pelts, the Ship TIJGER went up in flames, leaving her captain and crew stranded in Native American territory. Ten years before the Dutch West Indies Company brought settlers and supplies to found New Amsterdam, Adrian Block wintered on Manhattan, built four dwellings and a ship to replace the TIJGER.
The blaze of the Ship TIJGER somewhere on the Hudson River might easily have remained a mystery were it not for the work of a different “explorer.” In 1916 James A. Kelly, an excavation foreman, led a subway construction crew of men and mules to dig a tunnel at the corner of Greenwich and Dey streets, formerly the bank of the Hudson River in Dutch New Amsterdam. There he discovered the charred skeleton of a ship. Among the ashes were fragments of ceramics, clay pipes and a Dutch axe head. Unable to pull the entire ship out of the sand, the crew cut off the front 8 and 1/2 feet and moved the massive oak timbers to a seawater tank at the New York Aquarium. In 1943 Kelly again “saved” the keel when the Aquarium was being demolished. He then had it transferred to the Museum of the City of New York. Archeologists and historians from 1916 to 2005 were convinced this was the burned remains of the Ship TIJGER.
More than fifty years later, in 1967, digging began at Greenwich and Dey streets to build the World’s tallest buildings, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Of course James A. Kelly was there – looking for the rest of the Ship TIJGER. This time, however, an ancient 11-foot anchor was hoisted up out of the mud, in the same area where the burned keel had been found in 1916. Then a swivel cannon marked VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) was raised. Why were the anchor, keel and cannon all found on a landlocked site that became the World Trade Center? Construction workers later chained the 500-pound ‘World Trade Center Anchor’ to a standpipe in the sub-basement of Tower Two, where it survived the 1993 terrorist bombing. In 1999, two years before the Twin Towers burned in the attacks of September 11, 2001, the anchor was moved offsite for study. The cannon was bought and sold a number of times among collectors before the Museum of the City of New York purchased it in 1974. Archeologists now do not agree on the dating of the keel or the anchor.
Preliminary research by conservator Gary McGowan suggests that the anchor is a wrought iron bower anchor (deployed from the bow of a ship) manufactured between 1790 and 1815, probably from an English Ship of about 225 tons.
In 2010 the World Trade Center anchor was on display at India House in New York City as part of SHIPS, EXPLORERS AND THE WORLD TRADE CENTER: 400 Years of Lower Manhattan Memories.