The USS Briarcliff, a not so famous, but fine piece of
New York History, especially for those Naval Reservists
who trained and socialized aboard her during
the 1920's and 30's.
The Briarcliff was a wooden freighter, constructed
in 1919 at Portland, Maine
by Russel Ship Building Co, for the United States Shipping Board (USSB),
and was acquired by the Navy from the USSB on January 1st, 1922
in an "Incomplete Condition"
Originally she was designed to increase our merchant fleet during WWI
but before its steam engines and boilers were installed the war ended
and the ship was loaned to the Naval Militia.
Since it had neither engines nor boilers, it served as a floating armory and training
vessel at the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island, Pier 8.
The Briarcliff would have rotted in Maine if
it were not for the late Lt. Commander
"CHARLES R JACOBSEN"
who was looking for a home for his reservists, and helped acquire the ship for the training of the
"33rd FLEET MILITIA"
The Briarcliff served the 33rd division for 17 years, as an armory, training station,
drill hall, sports, and social events.
The vessel eventually started to leak, and from 1931 to 1938, required a
pump working day and night to keep her from sinking.
On November 25th, 1938 a snowstorm left the
ship almost submerged in her berth.
A decision was made to scuttle her.
The Briarcliff submerged in her berth after a heavy
snowstorm, November 25th, 1938
A story in the newspaper, Staten Island Advance,
described the boats sinking:
"The Briarcliff started to list forward and to port, as the water
rushed in to the hulk, then righted herself as the water went to stern and
then started to sink steadily at the stern"
"SHE WENT DOWN STERN FIRST"
The vessel was then raised and filled with large stones so that
it could be towed to sea and allowed to founder to the ocean
floor 25 miles off of Ambrose Light, December 30th, 1938.
The Navy Struck the vessel from their list the very same day.
The Briarcliff being towed to her final resting place
25 miles off Ambrose Light
Ambrose Channel, leading large vessels in and out
of New York Harbor to the South and East.
The Briarcliff was released 25 miles from the
end of this channel
The newspaper Advance in a subsequent editorial,
ships passing in this way:
"She Was Never A Pretty Ship, as ships go she was an ugly duckling
that never grew into a swan. The gawky deck housing that roofed her
drill hall and officers was almost un-nautical looking.
Her sheer line was awkward and her planks were warped and strung.
But the men and women of the 33rd Fleet, will think of her with a great
deal of affection now that she's gone to her grave"
Mr. Thomas Madden, a former Staten Island resident,
wrote to the Advance
to ask that the Briarcliff be remembered on this day, 41 years
after its sinking/1979.
A Quote from Mr. Madden:
"I served on her as a first class fireman in the US Naval Reserve,
and she was a good old ship, and because of her a lot of men received
training that helped them to better serve this country in the next
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE 33rd FLEET
Bob Knox-Storekeeper and Berger Lundun
preparing to leave on the ship
USS ELLIS to Cuba
September 10th, 1936
62 members of the fleet returning to pier 7 after a 14 day
cruise in southern waters, September 26th, 1936
Pictured left to right
Louis Perlman & Alex Carpicky
with Chief Bosns Mate, Val Schoenweiss,
and Frank Goodell, standing, learning
seamanship aboard the Briarcliff
The dedication of the new armory after the sinking of the
Briarcliff, Tompkinsville, SI, NY
October 27th, 1940
Flag raiser-Robert Knox, Yeoman-E Sheilds, Lt.Bennett,
Lt Commander John J Goller-Div Doctor, Lt. Commander JW Golinkin
33 division, Congressman James O'Leary, State Senator, Rae L Egbert
and Assemblyman Charles Bromann.
BY THE POWER OF THE INTENT
THE ABOVE SCRAPBOOK OF ORIGINAL PHOTOS
IS NOW IN THE POSSESSION OF THE FAMILY
CHARLES R JACOBSON
OBTAINED BY GREAT SOUTH BAY FROM A
BRIARCLIFF RESERVIST, FROM STATEN ISLAND
WHO WAS CALLED TO DUTY AT PEARL HARBOR,
AND SURVIVED TO COLLECT THE HISTORY
OF THIS VERY UNUSUAL VESSEL.
"THE WIRELESS STATION"