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South Street Seaport Historic District
South Street Seaport Historic District Review
Had this charming cobblestone corner of the city not been declared a historic district in 1977, the city's largest concentration of early-19th-century commercial buildings would have been destroyed. Today, the area is largely mobbed with tourists, and if you've been to Boston's Quincy Market or Baltimore's Harborplace, you may feel a flash of déjà vu—the same company leased, restored, and adapted the existing buildings, with the result being the blend of a quasi-authentic historic district with a slightly homogenous shopping mall.
At the intersection of Fulton and Water streets, the gateway to the seaport, is the Titanic Memorial, a small white lighthouse that commemorates the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Beyond the lighthouse, Fulton Street turns into a busy pedestrian mall. On the south side of Fulton is the seaport's architectural centerpiece, Schermerhorn Row, a redbrick terrace of Georgian- and Federal-style warehouses and countinghouses built from 1811 to 1812. Some upper floors house gallery space, and the ground floors are occupied by shops, bars, and restaurants. Cross South Street, once known as the Street of Ships, under an elevated stretch of FDR Drive to Pier 16, where historic ships are docked, including the Pioneer, a 102-foot schooner built in 1885; the Peking, the second-largest sailing bark in existence; the iron-hulled Wavertree; and the lightship Ambrose. The Pier 16 ticket booth provides information and sells tickets to the museum, ships, tours, and exhibits. Pier 16 is the departure point for various seasonal cruises.
To the north is Pier 17, a multilevel dockside shopping mall filled mostly with national chain retailers. The weathered-wood decks at the rear of the pier are a choice spot from which to catch sight of the river, with views as far north as Midtown Manhattan and as far south as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Pier 17 used to be the home of the Fulton Fish Market, which first opened in South Manhattan in 1807; starting in 1939 it was housed in the New Market Building, just north of the Seaport, but that closed in 2005 when operations were moved to a new 400,000-square-foot facility in Hunt's Point in the Bronx.
South Street Seaport Museum. Enter the main lobby of the South Street Seaport Museum at 12 Fulton Street for exhibits, walking tours, a fleet of eight historic vessels, and fantastic educational programs for children—all with a nautical theme. Recent shows in the museum's 3 floors of galleries included Timescapes, a 22-minute history of New York, a photo exhibit of street life called Street Shots/NYC, and an exhibit of watercolors entitled Romancing New York. 12 Fulton St., between Water and South Sts., 10038. 212/748–8600. www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org. $10. Daily 10–6.
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