64. Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Historic Marker number 64 is located at 200 Greene Street between Whitehead and Front Streets.

This impressive building stands at the corner of Truman Annex. It was constructed by the Navy in 1800 as the U.S. Naval Store House. An interesting aspect of the building was its dual use as a coal storage structure.

The top floor was retrofitted for storing large quantities of coal. This may not make sense unless you look at the layout and uses of this part of the island at the turn of the 20th century.

At the time of construction, the shoreline had not been expanded making the Custom House, Historic Marker #71, beachfront property. Mallory Square, in its present day configuration, was still part of the Gulf of Mexico.

The military might of the Navy was dependent on access to coal and fresh water to power its steam ships. Steam powered ships were faster and more reliable than any sailing ship of the day. With that in mind, the Navy stored large stashes of the precious material in strategic locations throughout the World. The practice was the backbone of naval superiority the country relied on.

Coal storage on the island consisted of large shoreline bins. Many a sailor spent his days filling the bins with coal from supply ships and then reloading the precious cargo onto outward bound steam ships. It was a dirty back breaking job but vital to a busy a busy port.

Eventually, large conveyer belts were suspended over the piers to deliver coal directly to ships. They were covered for inclement weather and in many cases looked like suspended barn structures hovering over the water.

The height of the warehouse coal storage and close proximity to the water would have meshed well with the established conveyor belt delivery system. Shortly after the building was completed the Navy began converting to diesel powered ships. Luckily for the integrity of the building, the coal storage may have never been used.

The Navy eventually used the warehouse as temporary storage for furniture and belongings of naval personnel that were transferring in or out of town to new assignments.

Today the building is best known as the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.