Located at the very southern tip of Manhattan, South Street Seaport lets visitors relive New York City’s maritime past with a fascinating museum, restored 19th century buildings, and a varied collection of authentic sailing ships. The popular site also includes a modern tourist mall along the pier, featuring shopping, a variety of restaurants and popular nightspots.
History of South Street Seaport
During the 19th century, South Street Seaport was a working pier from which the city’s fishermen would depart each morning and where they would return with the day’s catch each afternoon. At the time, most New Yorkers lived in the lower part of Manhattan and a market grew up around the docks. Eventually, it included a produce and grain market as well as many general merchants. By the end of the century, however, cargo ships had grown too large for the docks at South Street and the fishing fleet — and the market — moved up the Hudson River. The area languished for decades.
The South Street Seaport that we see today was the brainchild of New York philanthropists, Peter and Norma Stanford. The initial idea was to save a block of 19th century Federalist-style warehouses, known as the “Schermerhorn Row.” The plan was to create a living museum where residents and visitors could learn about life in 19th century New York. The area began modestly in 1967, then grew slowly. Pier 17 was added in 1983. The area now includes shopping, nightclubs, and an amusement pier with a variety of carnival rides. During the summer months, street entertainers — clowns, jugglers, mimes, and musicians — gather at the Seaport to perform for the crowd.
The Maritime Museum
The twelve-block South Street Seaport Museum is an open-air restored area, featuring cobblestone streets, authentic 19th century warehouses converted into shops, workshops, and restaurants, and costumed guides to tell the story of life at the Seaport. Adjacent to the warehouses are a host of striking sailing ships, permanently moored at the Seaport. In addition to shopping and dining venues, some of the warehouse buildings feature changing exhibits about the sea and the history of lower Manhattan. Admission to the museum is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $6 for children between 2 and 17 years of age. Children under 2 are admitted free.
Eight authentic 19th century ships grace the harbor at South Street Seaport. They range from the four-mast 377-foot long ”Peking” to the 112-foot lightship ”Ambrose” to the 52-foot 19th century tugboat, the ”W.O. Decker”. Visitors of all ages will delight in exploring these well-preserved relics of New York City’s seafaring past. South Street Seaport has the largest permanent collection (in tonnage) of historic ships of any site in the world.
Visiting South Street Seaport
South Street Seaport is a short walk from New York City’s financial district and is easily reached via taxi, subway, and bus from other parks of the city. South Street Seaport is open all year. Museum hours change during the season, but the facility is open late at least one day each week. In addition to the Tall ships and the Maritime Museum, visitors can tour the cobblestone streets and restored buildings as well as explore the shops and restaurants along Pier 17. Sightseeing cruises depart from the boardwalk at South Street Seaport for tours of New York Harbor and the East River. You can also enjoy a clear view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Seaport’s boardwalk.
Location: near New York City’s Financial District
Click here to visit South Street Seaport official website.
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