Library Tour - Chapter 4

Library Tour - Chapter 4

CHAPTER 4 – Ship Room   

Originally the Library Reference Room and following the 1988 renovation the Children’s Library, and even more recently a program space, the new Ship Room is now home to the Library’s Alfred S. Brownell Collection of Atlantic Ship Models donated during the 1950s and 1960s along with a naval architecture collection.

The new, nautically appointed Ship Room is available for rental to varied groups for meetings, special events and other occasions, and will also be used for library programming.

Alfred S. Brownell Collection on Maritime History

The Alfred S. Brownell Collection on Maritime History consists of 320 printed books, 550 blueprints and technical drawings, several prints and photographs and most notably, the 11 ship models of Atlantic Coast fishing vessels largely made by Mr. Brownell, which are displayed here in the Library’s newly renovated Ship Room.

Mr. Brownell gave his collection of ship models during the 1950s and the remainder of the Maritime history collection was presented to Providence Public Library in 1963. The collection is strong in books on ship model building and naval architecture, and there are also a number of scarce, early books on rigging and artillery as well as dictionaries of nautical terms.

PHOTO ABOVE: Under glass at Providence Public Library goes Alfred S. Brownell’s Eastport Pinkey. Looking on are librarians Clarence E. Sherman, left, and Stuart C. Sherman. (Providence Journal Staff Photo)

Brownell and His Collection of Atlantic Coast Ship Models

Mr. Brownell was a marine historian and one of the most highly regarded model boat builders in this country.

The distinct types of fishing craft were evolved as early as the Colonial times to meet the needs of men fishing in such diverse areas as the sheltered waters of Long Island Sound, the stormy ocean off the Maine Coast and the shallow oyster beds of the Chesapeake Bay.

The introduction of power in about 1900 marked the end of an era and it was for the reason that it seemed important to Mr. Brownell to produce this collection while the memory of these boats remained fresh and while a number of the originals could still be found. Many thousands of hours were required to prepare scale drawings and to produce each model. Basswood was used for the hull, white holly for the decks, pear wood for the planning and lemon wood for the masts. Anchors, rigging, blocks and other parts were intricately fashioned to scale with a host of woodworking and machine tools, some of which were  specially constructed.

The fishing fleet now permanently berthed in the Library’s new Ship Room consists of the following models, with the name of their builders.


Block Island Double Ender ~ Alfred S. Brownell

Chesapeake Bay Bugeye ~ Robert B. Easton

Chesapeake Bay Skipjack ~ Alfred S. Brownell

Colonial Fishing Schooner ~ Alfred S. Brownell

Eastport Pinky ~ Alfred S. Brownell

Friendship Sloop ~ Robert B. Easton

Gloucester Sloop ~ Alfred S. Brownell

Maine Pinkey ~ Alfred S. Brownell

New Haven Sharpie ~ Lester Rowe

Quoddy ~ Alfred S. Brownell

Tancock Whaler ~ Alfred S. Brownell


CHAPTER 5 -- Providence Journal Rhode Island Room

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