The 108th Anniversary of the General Slocum Steamship disaster is this Friday, June 15, 2012.
The Ladies' Aid Society (Frauenhilfsverein) of St. Mark's Church had chartered a boat for its annual picnic in rural Northern Queens, traveling from the Lower East Side aboard the General Slocum. Almost all the women and children of the parishioners went aboard the steamship for an inspired summer day outing. Around the site of the "Awakening Asylum" sculpture at hell's gate, the boat caught fire and over 1000 parishioners perished during a 25+ minute drama of a quickly spreading fire, failing flotation devices, and terrifying currents (until the final crash upriver on N. Brother Island).
The St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran community was so devastated by the disaster, that the precious few survivors moved uptown to establish Yorkville. In 1946 then St. Mark's merged with Zion after most of the remaining congregation had left the Lower East Side. Zion St. Mark's church (339 East 84 Street, between First and Second Avenues) continues to deliver services in German (and English). The community so hurt by the extreme loss of the event (echoing for generations) is dwindling. The youngest (miraculous) survivor, Adella Wotherspoon, died in 2004 at age 100– also becoming the oldest survivor.
For more information, my studio's announcement is online.
For more on the disaster in the context of Maritime history, admission and parking are free at the Maritime Museum in the Bronx (Throgg's Neck, SUNY)!