Monitor's ship finally comes in

The Brooklyn waterfront will be site for future Greenpoint Monitor Museum.
Painting depicts battle involving the Civil War ironclad Monitor.

For seven years, the Greenpoint Monitor Museum has existed largely in the hearts and minds of a Brooklyn couple - but all that may change soon.

The museum, which has only a Web site and two fervent founders, made a huge leap closer to reality yesterday when a Texas-based oil company announced it would donate a waterfront plot in Greenpoint for the museum's future site.

"We were a museum without a home, but not without a purpose," said co-founder Janice Lauletta-Weinmann.

Since New York State officially recognized the museum in 1996, Janice and husband George Weinmann have traveled to schools to teach children the history of the famed Civil War ironclad Monitor.

But all along they've pined for a piece of land on the Bushwick inlet in Greenpoint - near where the Monitor was constructed and launched in 1862 - to be the permanent home for a Monitor museum.

That they finally got their wish after approaching Motiva Enterprises five years ago, a Houston-based refining company affiliated with Shell, seemed almost too good to be true to the Weinmanns.

"This is a Christmas miracle; who would think we'd get this waterfront property for free?" said Lauletta-Weinmann, who added that a Monitor museum in Greenpoint has been her dream for decades.

The Civil War buff has already received the property deed for an acre of land on the East River shore near Quay St. in Greenpoint, which is the Monitor's original launch site.

Motiva spokesman Shawn Frederick said his company was motivated by a desire to respect the inlet's historical significance. Besides, he said, the property wasn't being utilized, anyway.

"I would imagine any waterfront property is worth considerable value, but we've been inspired by the Greenpoint Monitor Museum's commitment to preserve the history of the Monitor," said Frederick.

The Monitor is famous for a grueling March 1862 battle with the Confederate ship Virginia - both were armor-plated ships - and the battle marked a change in maritime warfare thereafter.

The Monitor came to rest 16 miles off the North Carolina coast on Dec 31, 1862, after a fierce storm - a spot later designated the Monitor Sanctuary.

Lauletta-Weinmann said she expects that artifacts recovered from the ship will be displayed in the museum. As to how much money the museum will cost to build, she said that would be determined later.

"We're not looking for anything grandiose," she said. "Just something we can honor the men who served on the Monitor."

Originally published on December 23, 2003