(This piece is part of a three part series. Be sure to read the first two sections as well: Part One, Part Two)
When John G. Alden commissioned the shipwrights Goudy & Stevens to construct the Clara Brown, he was making more than a shrewd business decision to go with a firm known for making sturdy and durable fishing ships. He was making the personal decision to go with a builder that would make his vessels affordable, without sacrificing any of the quality customers came to expect from Alden Designs.
That affordability made Alden's designs popular with all parts of the economic spectrum. It is true that some of his vessels starred in movies, one was owned by General George S. Patton, and another was the flag-ship of the US Naval Academy, but a majority of his owners were men like W.R. Christofferson; someone with a passion for sailing some of New England's many lakes, but unable to afford one of the yachts typically designed by Boston and New York firms.
It is this part of Alden's legacy, bringing sailing to people who may not have been part of the upper echelons of society, that Pierre Wallinder is trying to embody in his Sail Buffalo Sailing School.
The Sail Buffalo Sailing School
The Sail Buffalo Sailing School
The Sail Buffalo school began in 2005 as a service for the Cadets & Staff at the Maritime Academy. Beginning part of the Cazenovia Resource Center's expansion into sailing as part of their wellness program initiatives. Run by Pierre Wallinder, the school prides itself in offering an inexpensive service to the community.
|The Clara Brown, berthed next to the floating classroom.|
The "Floating Classroom" for the school, a barge named the Francis Folsome Cleveland after Buffalo's only first lady, rests on 6,400 pop bottles and uses old canvas sails for the ceiling. Sailing related memorabilia hangs from the walls, and a picture of Mrs. Cleveland firing a rifle hangs above the entranceway.
This summer the program had 500 registrants, 260 of whom were returning members. The school offers two main programs; an adult sailing safety course and certification, as well as a Nautical Day Camp, open to teens aged 12-18, which runs in one-week sessions throughout the summer 9-4 daily, with an open kids program on Thursdays 11-3. Participants in the program learn the basics of sailing, and "graduate" at the end of the week, officially declared by Mr. Wallinder as "Future Sailors of Buffalo."
During the Thursday kids program, the affiliation with Cazenovia is very important, as Sail Buffalo is able to bring in speakers from many different organizations and parts of the city, including Modern Corporation to talk about recycling. The partnership with Cazenovia, as well other affiliations with groups like Salvation Army, have allowed many individuals participate at no cost at all.
The Cazenovia Resource Center came into being a year after the Cazenovia branch library closed in South Buffalo in 2005. Council Member Michael P. Kearns, along with other organizations in the South District, reopened the site in 2006, and after receiving a grant in 2007, the Center features a full library, a fully-modern computer lab as well as classroom space and handicap access.
Just as important as the facility, however, are the programs that are offered through the center. From a "Read to Success" program, to programs geared to health and wellness, including subsidized tennis lessons for families, Cazenovia's goal has been to promote emotional and physical wellbeing. Understanding sailing's invigoratingly therapeutic properties lead Mr. Kearns to reach out to funders and Mr. Wallinder to set up a sailing school affiliated with the center..
Though the school is a Maritime Charter School partner, Mr. Wallinder understands that his program's importance lies not just in the sailing skills learned, but the life skills and emotional benefits gained while sailing. His passion for sailing spreads to his children, all of whom are instructors at the school, and his oldest son Nick attends the SUNY Maritime school in the Bronx, where he hopes, like John G. Alden before him, to translate that passion into Naval Architecture design.
With the Alden-designed Clara Brown as a flagship, the Sail Buffalo School and Cazenovia Resource Center are looking at plans to expand not only the facilities of Mr. Wallinder's school, but at the possibility of a museum and education center on the outer harbor dedicated to Mrs. Cleveland, John G. Alden, and the history of boating around the world and in Buffalo. As plans progress, the goals are not just to increase the capacity of the sailing school, but to add to the already significant efforts attempting to make the Outer Harbor a more popular Buffalo destination.
Projects like the Clara Brown are very important to Preservation Studios. This sailboat represents more than a piece of history, and it's more than even just an example of a great designer's work, even though it clearly is both of those things.
The significance of the Clara Brown lies in the passion that fueled John G. Alden, a passion he filled all his designs with, but more importantly, that today drives Pierre Wallinder's commitment to sailing and to his students. It lies in what the sailboat means to the Sail Buffalo School, and to the Cazenovia Center, and in turn, how it helps them better serve the sailing and greater Buffalo community. The significance of this project is not about creating a landmark, but recognizing how important these landmarks are to the communities and people they belong to.
At the end of the day, that is what is at the heart of all preservation efforts; saving and protecting structures and places that not only define an area, but people as well. It is about ensuring that those identities aren't lost, and that more importantly, ensuring these landmarks remain to help shape future identities as well.
The Clara Brown heads to its National Register hearing later this month, and while Preservation Studios has the utmost confidence that it adequately meets Criterion C as a significant example of John G. Alden's work, we're more excited that it meets our own criteria for what makes a project important to preserve.