News

N.J. Couple’s Garage Houses Historical Relics Of Sunken Italian Luxury Ship

Brass Bell, China From 'Andrea Doria' Among Items Art Kirchner Has Collected
The brass bell from the Andrea Doria. (credit: CBS 2)

The brass bell from the Andrea Doria. (credit: CBS 2)

DOVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Late July will mark the 56th anniversary of the sinking of the Italian luxury liner, Andrea Doria, off Massachusetts.

While the ship remains at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, CBS 2 recently discovered the ship’s bell sits in a New Jersey homeowner’s garage.

When CBS 2’s Lonnie Quinn reported recently on storm damage in Morris County, he met Art and Margie Kirchner.

A tree had fallen on their house and luckily it didn’t fall on the garage, which is actually a mini museum that houses the bell of the Andrea Doria. The ship sank on July 25, 1956, after another ship, the Stockholm, crashed into it.

“They collided in the fog,” Art Kirchner explained to CBS 2’s Dana Tyler on Tuesday.

The Stockholm had a reinforced bow and made it back to Manhattan, but the Andrea Doria sank, killing 52 passengers and crew.

So how did the bell make it to Dover, N.J.?

Art Kirchner, 66, is an avid scuba diver and a ship’s bell is a diver’s ultimate treasure so in 1985, Kirchner and his friends went for it.

It took them six days to find the brass bell weighing 170 pounds. They cleaned it up and for 27 years the possession has rotated among the group.

“It’s the third time I’ve had it,” Kirchner said.

Kirchner also has china from the ship’s first-class dining room.

“It’s some of the best china in the world,” Kirchner said.

There’s also a window, the brass frame of a clock from the promenade deck and a telephone.

Kirchner’s wife is not a scuba diver, but said the history is interesting.

“Our grandson, who is 6 years old, is so interested in it and it’s surprising to have someone that young be so excited about it,” Margie Kirchner said.

Art Kirchner has dived the Andrea Doria some 200 times. He has no plans to give up the sport anytime soon.

“Just to see the wrecks is just awesome and the marine life is phenomenal,” he said.

Kirchner said they used a 500-pound airbag to lift the bell to the surface. He also said another great find from one of his dives was a 20-pound live Maine lobster, which his family enjoyed eating.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…