South Street Seaport Museum

South Street Seaport Museum

South Street Seaport
South Street and Brooklyn Bridge (c.1900)
South Street Seaport
Location Bounded by Burling (John St.) and Peck Slips, Water St. and East River, New York City

Coordinates: 40°42′22″N 74°0′12″W / 40.70611°N 74.00333°W / 40.70611; -74.00333

Area 3.5 acres (1.4 ha)
Architect multiple
Architectural style Greek Revival
Governing body private
NRHP Reference #


South Street Seaport Historic District
Location Roughly bounded by East River, Brooklyn Bridge, Fletcher Alley, Pearl, and South Sts., Manhattan, New York City, New York
Area 41 acres (17 ha)
Architectural style Greek Revival, Romanesque
NRHP Reference # 78001884[1]
Added to NRHP December 12, 1978
Added to NRHP October 18, 1972

The South Street Seaport is a historic area in the New York City borough of Manhattan, located where Fulton Street meets the East River, and adjacent to the Financial District. The Seaport is a designated historic district, distinct from the neighboring Financial District. It features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan, and includes the largest concentration of restored early 19th-century commercial buildings in the city. This includes renovated original mercantile buildings, renovated sailing ships, the former Fulton Fish Market, and modern tourist malls featuring food, shopping and nightlife, with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. At the entrance to the Seaport is the Titanic Memorial lighthouse.


By the late-1950s, the old Ward Line docks (Pier 15, 16, and part of 17) were mostly vacant. South Street Seaport Museum was founded in 1967 by Peter and Norma Stanford. When originally opened as a museum, the focus of the Seaport Museum conservation was to be an educational historic site, with shops mostly operating as reproductions of working environments found during the Seaport's heyday, 1820 to 1860.

Designated by Congress in 1998 as one of several museums, which together make up "America's National Maritime Museum", South Street Seaport Museum sits in a 12 square-block historic district that is the site of the original port of New York City.[2] The Museum has over 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2) of exhibition space and educational facilities. It houses exhibition galleries, a working 19th-century print shop, an archeology museum, a maritime library, a craft center, a marine life conservation lab, and the largest privately owned fleet of historic ships in the country. Included in this fleet are:

¹ During favorable weather, these vessels take the public out into New York City’s waterways.
² These vessels have been designated National Historic Landmarks by the National Park Service.
³ These vessels have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.

The original intent of the Seaport development was the preservation of the block of buildings known as Schermerhorn Row on the southwest side of Fulton Street, which were threatened with neglect or future development, at a time when the history of New York City's sailing ship industry was not valued, except by some antiquarians. Early historic preservation efforts focused on these buildings and the acquisition of several sailing ships.

Almost all buildings and the entire Seaport neighborhood are meant to transport the visitor back in time to New York's mid-19th century, to demonstrate what life in the commercial maritime trade was like. Docked at the Seaport are a few historical sailing vessels, including the Flying P-Liner, Peking and museum ships. A section of nearby Fulton Street is preserved as cobblestone and lined with shops, bars, and restaurants.

The Bridge Cafe, which claims to be "The Oldest Drinking Establishment in New York" is in a building that formerly housed a brothel.

The Seaport was heavily damaged in 2012 in Hurricane Sandy as tidal floods (seven feet deep in places) inundated much of the Seaport. Many of the businesses closed and the remaining businesses suffered from a severe drop in business after it. The South Street Seaport Museum re-opened in December 2012. The Howard Hughes Corporation announced they will tear down the Seaport's most prominent shopping area – Pier 17 – starting in the Fall of 2013. They will replace it with a new structure by 2015.[3][4]


In 1982, redevelopment began to turn the museum into a greater tourist attraction via development of modern shopping areas. The project was undertaken by the prominent developer James Rouse and modeled on the concept of a "festival marketplace," a leading revitalization strategy throughout the 1970s.[5] On the other side of Fulton Street from Schermerhorn Row, the main Fulton Fish Market building, which had become a large plain garage-type structure, was rebuilt as an upscale shopping mall. Pier 17's old platforms were demolished and a new glass shopping pavilion raised in its place, which opened in August 1983.

The Seaport itself now operates primarily as a mall and tourism center, built on Pier 17 on the East River. Visitors may choose from among many shops and a food court. Decks outside allow views of the East River, Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights. The Seaport is currently owned and managed by The Howard Hughes Corporation, and formerly by General Growth Properties, who acquired the Seaport's longtime owner The Rouse Company in 2004. In 2010, while exiting bankruptcy, General Growth spun off some of its properties, including the Seaport, to form a new company called The Howard Hughes Corporation.


South Street Seaport is currently served by the M15 New York City Bus route. New York Water Taxi directly serves South Street Seaport on Fridays, weekends, and holidays during the summer, while other New York Water Taxi, NY Waterway, and SeaStreak ferries serve the nearby ferry slip at Wall Street daily. The Fulton Street station complex (2 3 4 5 A C J Z trains) is the closest New York City Subway station. A new subway station (named "Seaport") has been proposed as part of Phase 4 of the Second Avenue Subway, but has not been funded as of 2010. Although this station will be located only 3 blocks from the Fulton Street station, there are no plans for a free transfer between them.[6]

In popular culture

  • The original Sub Pop version of Nirvana's In Bloom video was filmed here in 1990. The video features Kurt, Krist and Chad clowning around inside the South Street Mall as well as Wall Street. The seaport is also a crucial location in the movie I Am Legend, and was used in The Adjustment Bureau as well.
  • The venue is home to the Seaport Music Festival each summer.
  • In the video game Crysis 2, Pier 17 was featured as a multi-player map.[7]


See also



External links

  • Official Site
  • South Street Seaport Museum
  • Interactive Map of the Seaport – Seaport Cultural Association
  • A digital history of South Street Seaport by Fordham University students
  • Video profile of the historic Fulton Ferry Hotel at South Street Seaport
  • Image gallery

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