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Landship Recruit: 1917

Landship Recruit: 1917

New York, 1917. "Landship Recruit on Union Square." The U.S.S. Recruit, a wooden battleship erected by the Navy, served as a World War I recruiting station at Union Square from 1917 to 1920, when it "set sail" for Coney Island. This is the first in a series of photographs depicting life around and aboard the landlocked boat. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


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USS Recruit San Diego

There was/is a USS Recruit at the former San Diego training center. She is essentially concrete, on land and I trained on her.

I'll bet the Army

never built a replica of WWI trench warfare as a recruiting tool.

Just south of Union Square Park

is a modern building housing Whole Foods, Filene's Basement, and DSW. Each store has large picture windows, and having stared out them many times myself, watching activity in the park, I have to guess that where that building stands now was also the vantage point from which this photo of the Recruit was taken.

Which means if any of your NY-based readers are so inclined, they could take a photo of the area from that building to show us how similar the view is today. I'd happily do it myself if I still lived in New York.

Missing Building

The "House & Garden" Travel building is gone now, a much shorter building is in its place. The photo is facing the northeast, the USS Recruit must have taken up the entire park.

The WW2 version of the USS Recruit was a minesweeper (AM-285). There is also a USS Recruit which was a commissioned US Navy vessel (TDE-1) from 1949 to 1967, despite also being built on land like its namesake. It remains in place in San Diego, next to the Harbor Drive bridge over San Diego Bay.

S. Cottle & Co.: New York, Silversmiths 1877-1920

Oops, you are correct

My brain was a little fried when I wrote that about the Flatiron. I hold by the rest, though -- all the buildings visible in this photo remain, though the Empire State Building would now be visible in the background.

Landship Recruit in Wikipedia

I was so fascinated about this photograph that I started researching the Landship Recruit. JSTOR had nothing and Google was pretty sparse, so I cobbled together what I could and made a Wikipedia page. Take a look and add to it if you are so inclined:

[As you note at the end, there are a number of articles about the Recruit in the NY Times archive from 1917 to 1920. At least six that I can find. - Dave]

A boat in the park

Some comedians joke about how men flock to building sites and here we have that cliche demonstrated.

However this time, at least, it makes sense to me, a boat developing right in the middle of Union Square Park?? Wow!


Union Square

You might be thinking of Madison Park and 23rd st, instead of Union square and Union Square Park at 16th street. They are only a 5 or 10 minute walk apart, easy mistake.


Vantage Point

The Flatiron building is at the southwest corner of Madison Square Park at 23rd Street, not Union Square at 14th.

Union Square

The tall tower in the center background is the Metropolitan Life Tower that we saw a few weeks ago in another early photo. The building directly in front of it closest to the park is 33 East 17th Street, which houses a huge (for Manhattan) Barnes & Noble on its lowest three floors.

That northern end of Union Square hosts a farmer's market, the Greenmarket, that attracts local farmers as vendors. It is quite popular and has great fresh produce, flowers and other products. It is well attended.

However, a local restaurateur is attempting to build a high-end eatery there and has run into massive local resistance, putting the project is on hold.

Union Square is a gathering place for young people, artists, anarchists, political activists, kooks and interested bystanders. It doesn't get as many tourists as it should but it is a tremendous NYC attraction.

Water Tower

Can anyone decipher what's written on the water tower to the left of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building?

[Meyer something. Or maybe not. - Dave]

Union Square

This photo was probably taken from the Flatiron Building. If you were to stand in the same window, the image would be almost perfectly unchanged, with the exception of the Empire State Building poking up in the background.

Clever recruitment tool

Standing next to a (presumably) life-sized wooden mockup of a battleship probably wowed more than a few citizens into sailorhood. Pretty clever idea for recruitment.

[Plus, as we shall see, there was dancing and free medical checkups. - Dave]

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