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Visiting Day at the U.S. Lifesaving Service

Origin United States, Pennsylvania
Period 19th Century
Materials Oil on Panel
Dimensions
W. 12.2 in; H. 5.5 in;
W. 30.99 cm; H. 13.97 cm;
Condition Excellent.
Creation Date Circa 1860's
Description Although suggesting a yacht or boating club due to its prime waterfront location, this panoramic view by Philadelphia artist Xanthus Smith, most likely shows a US Lifesaving Service facility in one of the mid-Atlantic states.

Originating in the mid-1800’s, the U.S. Lifesaving Service’s earliest buildings were strictly utilitarian, but as the Service grew, so did the size of the stations. By the 1880s, they were becoming more fashionable and usually were made up of two or three structures as shown here. The main building contained the offices and berthing area for the crew and usually featured a lookout tower on the roof. Smaller buildings housed classrooms and medical facilities. Some were built to resemble a Swiss chalet and one was even designed with a clock tower. Noted architect A. B. Bibb designed stations like this one that looked much like beach resort homes with lookout towers. The stations were usually located near the approaches to major ports and were maintained by the United States Revenue Marine (later renamed the United States Revenue Cutter Service). In 1915 the service was merged into the United States Coast Guard.

The large main building features a smaller carriage house in back and a smaller building next to an Eagle topped flagpole flying the American ensign. At the base of a small pier, two surf-boats hang in davits next to a boathouse which would have housed additional rescue gear. A figural sculpture holding a drawn bow adorns the boathouse roof. On the small foreground lawn are seen three cannon-like Lyle guns on wheeled carriages. These line-throwing guns shot a projectile up to 600 yards. The projectile carried a small messenger line by which the shipwrecked sailors were able to pull out a heavier hawser.

In the background, there is a sidewheel passenger steamer in mid channel, while in the foreground two figures in a Gaff-Sloop with red pennant & the American ensign are shown. Three figures in a black hulled pulling boat are astern of the sloop while two additional figures stand by at the end of the dock where a second gaff sloop is tied up with its sails slack. The scene suggests a holiday or visitor’s day at the facility, with figures in both uniform and civilian dress prominently featured.

After much research we were unable to pinpoint this location. If anyone recognizes these buildings/inlet, please contact us. We'd like to narrow down the exact facility.
Framed Size: 11 9/16 x 18 1/8 Inches
Styles / Movements Hudson River School, Other , Realism
Incollect Reference Number 257698
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