(All images by Jonathan Henderson; abandoned Staten Island ferry Mary Murray prior to scrapping)
The Staten Island ferries are an iconic sight, shuttling passengers back and forth through New York Harbor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The first ferry was launched in 1817, and exactly 120 years later the elegant lines of the MV Mary Murray graced the waters.
(The abandoned ferry Mary Murray was moored near East Brunswick, NJ)
She entered service in 1937, named for one of the American Revolution’s most mythic female figures. According to the story, Mary Murray was a 50-something mother of 12 who treated British officers to a pleasant evening of cake and wine, all with the secret agenda of holding up the troops to allow American rebels the chance to escape to safety after a battle at Kips Bay.
(Eerie silence inside the empty passenger cabin which was once considered luxurious)
For around four decades, the 277-ft-long MV Mary Murray plied the waters of New York Harbor, seeing people to safety – much like her namesake. At the time she was launched, she was a revolutionary craft, costing more than $900,000 to build. She was state-of-the-art, a streamlined ferry that sported previously unheard of luxuries like a smoking cabin for female passengers only.
(Paint peels from the walls of the abandoned Mary Murray’s old urinals)
The years took their toll, though, and the ferry was ultimately decommissioned after some 45 years of active duty. An attempt was made to save the abandoned ferry and maintain her in at least a reasonable condition. She was first sold in 1975 to a former merchant mariner named George Searle. Searle had grand plans for the old ferry, hoping to turn her into a floating restaurant.
(Another passenger cabin on MV Mary Murray appears to have been thoroughly trashed)
But as time continued to pass and the abandoned ferry – then moored on the Raritan River near East Brunswick, New Jersey – fell into increasing disrepair, those proposals turned into something else: plans to sink her to create an artificial reef.
(All images by Jonathan Henderson; the abandoned Staten Island ferry Mary Murray was finally scrapped completely by 2012)
Nothing ever came to pass, however, and for years the abandoned Mary Murray sat half-beached up the ironically-named No-Name Creek along with a handful of other rusting, rotting hulks reduced to a shadow of former glories. In 2008, the Searle family finally agreed to that the ship was too far gone – and too much of an environmental hazard – to be retained, and began dismantling the once-grand, now-abandoned ferry for scrap.