Before there was any hype at Silo City, there was 'Swannie' Jim and his boat. Swannie has been helping to take care of the Silo City site ever since Rick Smith first purchased the property. In his spare time, in-between cleaning out the silos, Swannie began to piece together the seaworthy craft of his dreams. It was an admirable project that took up much of Swannie's spare time. The pure passion behind the initiative - one man building a sizable ship - was enough to get the craft to a state of near completion. Then, as Silo City began to evolve, Swannie found himself spending less and less time on building his ship - a tall ship replica of the sloop Trippe.
As years passed, Swannie's incomplete boat sat at Silo City, just waiting for Swannie to return. Eventually some friends realized that Swannie was not going to get back to working on the Trippe, and a plan was needed that would see the ship to completion. In stepped the Buffalo Maritime Center to deliver the ship from Silo City to its new home in Black Rock (see images). At this point, the Trippe is in safe hands, and is waiting to be worked upon once more. I asked Chris Andrle at the Maritime Center about the future of The "Swannie Jim" Boat and this is what he had to say:
"The "Swannie Jim" boat is in the shop but no work is being done until funding is available. Kevin McCarthy is leading that project. He is attempting to assemble a consortium of local history related groups including the Maritime Center, Friends of the Cotter, Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society, and others. The plan is to turn it into a tall ship, a replica of the sloop Trippe, the smallest ship in Perry's fleet at the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie."
Here is a little about the Trippe as provided by the Buffalo Maritime Center:
The Trippe was originally a merchant ship called the Contractor, 64 tons, built at Black Rock during the winter of 1802-1803 by Porter, Barton & Co., the company that had a contract to supply the military posts on the upper Great Lakes. She was built under the superintendence of Captain William Lee who captained her until 1809 and afterwards by Captain James Beard. Described variously as a sloop or schooner, she was one of the earliest American built ships on the upper lakes.
On June 1, 1812, Captain James Sloan "...got my effects down to Detroit and shipped them on the sloop Contractor, Captain James Beard. We came to anchor in Buffalo bay about the 20th of June, 1812. The Captain went ashore and when he returned he said it was reported that war had been declared. The official declaration came a few days after. The sloop was laid up in Scajaquada Creek and was one of Commodore Perry's vessels in the action on Lake Erie.
In 1812, the Contractor was purchased at Black Rock from Porter, Barton & Co. by the U.S. Government. She was armed and renamed the Trippe, and commanded by Lieutenant Holdup under Perry during the Battle of Lake Erie. She likely carried one long eighteen-pounder.
After the Battle of lake Erie, Trippe was sailed to Buffalo where on October 25, she was driven ashore by a storm on the beach near Buffalo along with the Sloop Little Belt and schooner Ariel where they were all burned by the British on December 19 when they burned Buffalo.
Buffalo Maritime Center
90 Arthur Street
Buffalo, NY 14207-2046