On Saturday, October 27th, school children lead by Janice and George Weinmann marched in a stately procession through the Church of the Ascension. All were dressed as Civil War soldiers and some carried flags as their proud parents flashed cameras. This was the final component of the Greenpoint Monitor Museum’s Annual Road Show Award Ceremony.
The Museum is dedicated to the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship used in combat by the United States Navy. The Monitor played a pivotal role in the Civil War, helping the Union gain victory. The 16-year-old Museum operates as a road show, instructing Greenpoint’s youngsters about the Monitor’s importance. (The Museum eventually plans to build a physical facility on donated land on Quay Street at the Bushwick Inlet.) “We travel to schools to teach children through exhibits. Children then make projects about what they learned,” said Janice Weinmann, president of the Museum. Children with the most inventive projects receive an award.
Many proud families were in attendance for the event. The winning students represented four different campuses: PS 31 Samuel F. Dupont School, PS 110 The Monitor School, and Queen of Rosary Catholic Academy (both the Northside Campus and the St. Nicholas Campus).
“We’re actually from Queens, but we come all the way here so my daughter can go to PS 31,” said Anita Vargas. Her daughter, Hailey, won first place for the project she constructed with fellow student, Natalia Kliszcz. “Everyone in the class did a project about the Monitor. We had three winners per class [at PS 31], and they were the first place winners,” Vargas explained. “Their design was the only one to use a fish tank, and we’re so proud that Hailey and Natalia won.”
The ceremony began with a slide show, featuring photos from the Monitor’s 150th anniversary, the Museum’s visits to local schools, and the students’ many projects. A lively performance of Civil War-era hymns by church organist Karen Olszewski and Museum member Arthur Kirmss followed. Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a longtime supporter of the Museum, also stopped by to congratulate the winners.
Among the projects on display were Hailey and Natalia’s underwater replica of the Monitor; a bald eagle sculpture by Rebecca Achan of PS 31; a diary including excerpts from Civil War soldiers; and even a huge replica of the ship made entirely of Legos. “We had many wonderful projects this year, but unfortunately there were so many we couldn’t bring all them here,” Janice sighed.
The young soldier-scholars stood with heads held high as they received their laurels. “We wanted to give the children more than just a plaque,” said Janice. “So they get a book on the Civil War, and a frame and clipping about the Monitor and our 150th anniversary celebration. The children are so proud to receive awards,” she added. “Lots of parents come up to me and say this has inspired a love of history in their children that they didn’t have before.”
It was also fitting that the ceremony took place at the Church of the Ascension. “I’m a part of the church staff, and I’m also on the board of the Greenpoint Monitor Museum,” said Karen Olszewski. “The church is very involved with the Museum and we’ve also had the Monitor’s 150th anniversary here.”
Olszewski explained that the Church has connections to the Monitor dating back to the Civil War. “Thomas Fitch Rowland owned the shipyard where the Monitor was built, and he was a member of our church.” Olszewski said. Rowland helped build the church with funds from the Monitor’s construction. “He kept helping us [monetarily] again and again,” she continued. “The roof of the church even looks like a capsized ship!”
“We are the oldest church in Greenpoint,” declared Olszewski. Both the Church of the Ascension and the Greenpoint Monitor Museum stand testament to the neighborhood’s rich past. “We’re so glad to see students involved in learning about their community’s history. It’s a great time to be young, and be in Brooklyn,” The Church’s Reverend John Merz told the crowd, adding that he’s glad that organizations such as the Museum help children realize the pivotal role Greenpoint played in the Civil War.