In the 19th century, barges piled high with just-dug oysters would dock along Manhattan and sell their wares to hungry New Yorkers directly from their decks. Alex Pincus wondered why there wasn’t a modern-day version of those oyster barges, and so set out in search of a site with his brother Miles (the two have teamed up before: they founded the Atlantic Yachting school on the Upper West Side).
Enter the Sherman Zwicker, a 142-foot-long wooden schooner built in 1942 that made laps between the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and South America before becoming part of the Maine Maritime Museum. The Pincus brothers secured the ship, and then a dock. Striking a deal with the Hudson River Park, they signed a one-year lease to park at Pier 25 near Tribeca (past the miniature golf course and beach volleyball courts), and dove into designing a hybrid destination: a not-for-profit historical museum buoyed by a for-profit restaurant.
Thus reborn, the Sherman Zwicker began welcoming visitors last week. Her deck now features Grand Banks, an open-air oyster bar and seafood restaurant run by Mark Firth of Diner and Marlow & Sons fame. Down below in the hold – a space big enough to store 320,000 pounds of catch – an unconventional museum, designed by innovative New Draft Collective, mixes archival materials and new creations. An illuminated display of 150 pounds of salt shows how cod was preserved, while a sculpture made of rope celebrates its medium – still vital, not made obsolete by technology (and the inspiration for my fringe-top pairing).
Beyond vittles and visuals, the Sherman Zwicker will host talks and lectures during its residency through the end of October. Last week, Paul Greenberg, author of “American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood,” spoke about the risks of world-wide fisheries over plates of wild salmon. Such chic food for thought.