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Sloop Clearwater Named to National Register of Historic Places
Designation Marks Founder Pete Seeger’s 85th Birthday & 35th Anniversary of Sloop’s Launch

PDF Click here for the National Register of Historic Places section on the Significance of the Clearwater.

PDF Click here for the National Register of Historic Places section with the Description of the Clearwater.

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PIER 40, NYC—May 13, 2004. The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has been added to the National Register of Historic Places for its national significance to the American environmental movement during the past three decades. New York State Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Bernadette Castro made the announcement this morning during a press conference at Pier 40, NYC. Appropriately, the designation marks the 85th birthday of the Clearwater’s primary founder, environmental activist and legendary folk singer/musician, Pete Seeger, who pledged in 1968 to “build a boat to save the river.” It also marks the 35th anniversary of the sloop’s launch.

Mr. Seeger’s idealist dream became reality when the sloop launched May 17, 1969 from South Bristol, ME. One year later, it sailed to Washington, DC to build momentum in Congress for passage of the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s most successful environmental laws. Originally built as a replica of mid-19th century sloops that sailed cargo along the Hudson River for commerce, the 108-foot tall masted tallship now delivers educational programs and a message about respect for the Hudson River. In the 35 years since its launch, more than 430,000 young people and hundreds of thousands of adults have sailed aboard Clearwater to participate in environmental education programs.

The sloop itself played the starring role in the days events, tacking across the Hudson throughout the press conference, and performing a magnificent “Hudson River Gybe” just as Commissioner Castro was presenting a certificate to Clearwater.

Pete Seeger, Linda Richards and Singers
Pete Seeger, Linda Richards, and the Poughkeepsie Day School Sloop Singers perform for the Clearwater.
The National Register of Historic Places, America’s official list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation, is administered by the National Park Service (part of the U.S. Department of the Interior), in collaboration with the New York State Historic Preservation Office. Official recognition on the Register of Historic Places helps highlight our region’s heritage and can enhance preservation, revitalization and tourism efforts. Benefits include eligibility for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

“The sloop Clearwater is a majestic symbol of the Hudson River and underscores the progress we have made to help safeguard New York’s waterways through environmental awareness and education, providing more opportunities for children and visitors alike to learn about and experience the Hudson River,” Governor George E. Pataki said. “For more than 35 years, this floating classroom has taught us not only about the importance of preserving the Hudson River for future generations, but has given us a glimpse into the River’s past, and the crucial role it has played in our cultural, environmental and economic heritage.” Clearwater Executive Director Andy Mele couldn’t be happier. “This important honor means our sloop has been granted the recognition it deserves, joining the ranks of other important icons,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that Clearwater is sailing on the Hudson and not perched forever atop a stone foundation. The river is our foundation, and our landscape is the landscape that defined America. Clearwater is a link binding America’s history, its sense of place, and its moral awakening to environmentalism. Today we honor the Clearwater, and recognize a group of forward-thinking, courageous people who came together to help build and sustain a national treasure that is truly America’s Environmental Flagship.”

Supporters from across New York State, the country and around the world gathered at a special celebration to toast the Clearwater’s newest accolade and to give special recognition to the group of friends who rallied around Mr. Seeger in the 1960s to build the sloop. Among those instrumental in helping Mr. Seeger fulfill his dreams include his wife Toshi Seeger and Vic Schwarz, who will bring along the copy of Sloops of the Hudson that spawned the idea to build a sloop. Sandy Saunders, founding president of Clearwater, Allan Aunapu, the sloop’s first captain, and Cy Hamlin, the sloop’s designer, attended the celebration hosted by Hudson River Park Trust at Pier 40 in New York City. Other founding honorees included Hal and Debbie Cohen, Stan Dickstein, Bob and Barbara Bielenberg, Terry Waivada, Helene Remer, and Don Presutti.

Pete Seeger, Andy Mele and Anne Osborn
Commissionner Bernadette Castro presenting the State Register certificate to Pete Seeger, Andy Mele and Anne Osborn.
Commissioner Castro, who serves as New York State’s historic preservation officer and whose office was instrumental in achieving the Clearwater’s National Register status, praised the Clearwater’s significance as a historic vessel. “Governor Pataki’s strong commitment to the preservation of New York’s exceptional historic treasures provide countless opportunities for communities to protect and enhance their local resources,” Commissioner Castro said. “Official recognition of the Clearwater is a lasting tribute to our heritage, the natural and cultural landscapes unique to the Hudson River Valley, and our ability to educate children in the interest of protecting our environment.”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin M. Crotty lauded Clearwater’s work. “This designation recognizes the important work being done by Clearwater and illustrates the tremendous progress we’ve made in restoring the Hudson River. Thanks to the unwavering commitment by Governor Pataki and the tireless efforts of environmental organizations like Clearwater, the Hudson is healthier than it has been in decades.”

Anne Todd Osborn, president of the Clearwater board of directors, is grateful to be a part of this important honor. “Saving the river is still Job #1 onboard Clearwater every day,” Ms. Osborn said. “Clearwater brings top quality science-based environmental education to more than 15,000 school children annually, and we provide a continuum of opportunities for their parents and neighbors to learn how to protect and improve the communities where they live. It’s very exciting to see that recognized by an important honor such as the National Register!”

Politicians, including U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey are also taking note. “The success of the Clearwater has enhanced, preserved and promoted environmental awareness,” Senator Clinton said. “This deserving distinction to the National Register of Historic Places is a testament to the hard work and determination of everyone affiliated with the sloop. I commend you.” Congressman Hinchey also had high praise. “The Sloop Clearwater’s designation to the National Historic Register is an important recognition of the invaluable contribution that our ‘Environmental Flagship’ has made over the past three decades to protecting and restoring the Hudson River, which has been named an American Heritage River. The sloop Clearwater is a national treasure that has inspired generations of citizens and served as a model for waterway protection efforts both nationally and internationally,” he said.

Founders and Early Supporters of the Clearwater
Some of the founders and early supporters of the Clearwater gathered for an evening celebration.
In the mid-1960s when the Clearwater project began to take shape, many American rivers were biologically dead or dying. Then the rivers began to catch fire—literally—and Clearwater’s arrival in New York Harbor was a nationally and internationally significant step toward change. Thousands of newspaper articles and photographs of the Clearwater brought the plight of America’s rivers to the public and helped build support for passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Established in 1966, the National Register identifies and documents—in partnership with state, federal, and tribal preservation programs—districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The sloop was added to the New York State Register of Historic Places on February 17, 2004.

The sloop Clearwater, America’s Environmental Flagship, has been sailing for 35 years and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 4, 2004. More than 430,000 young people and hundreds of thousands of adults have participated in Clearwater’s shipboard and land-based education programs and events. Members of this “Clearwater Generation” are active and informed—and they vote!


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