Fran Rowan (shown seated at left with Umana students) is a longtime Eastie activist and saviour of the Atlantic Works building, a former shipbuilding facility with an illustrious history as described here (courtesy fo the East Boston Main Streets web site:)
The Atlantic Works on (Noddle's) island had built iron steamships for Russia, Egypt, Paraguay, China, and the East Indies; the monitor warships Nantucket and Casco; the turrets of several other iron clads; the engines for many American frigates; and entire fleets of ferry-boats and tugs. Other neighboring shipyards and works have done their share in creating that famous American marine which once was the wonder of all maritime nations.
Some of the finest ships that ever sailed were constructed here by Donald McKay, vessels beautifully finished and furnished, and built for great speed. The Flying Cloud, 1,700 tons, made the passage to San Francisco in 89 days, being the quickest ever known. The Sovereign of the Seas, 2,400 tons, was the longest and sharpest clipper ever built, and once made a run of 430 geographical miles in 24 hours. The Empress of the Seas held high rank among the famous clippers of the same epoch. The Great Republic was the largest wooden sailing ship ever built. Her 4,556 tons included 1,500,000 feet of hard pine, 336 tons of iron, and an immense amount of white oak. She sometimes made 19 knots an hour, under full sail; and went from New York to San Francisco in 91 days.
Between 1848 and 1858, more than 170 vessels were built at East Boston; of which 99 exceeded 1,000 tons each, and 9 were above 2,000 tons. These were the famous racers, which swept around Cape Horn, and up through the South Seas, crowded with the Argonauts in search of El Dorado [lost treasure]. Others belonged to the Liverpool packet-line, and made regular trips across the Atlantic for many years, exciting the keen and jealous admiration of our British cousins.
Students are facinated by Fran's personal history and marriage to Jim Rowan, longtime aide to Tip O'Neil. Thanks to her divine inspiration and hard work, Atlantic Works was saved from demolition and still stands as a thriving artists' cooperative. Fran has arrange for some of the space with its original wooden walls and beamed ceilings to be used to display student work and artifacts gathered for the East Boston Historical Societylaunch event in January. Thank you Fran!