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The South Street Seaport Museum

Updated on January 24, 2013

A Time Machine To Old New York

The South Street Seaport is one of the few areas left in New York City that can transport you back in time 200 years to Old New York, a place where there were many Taverns, Tall Sailing Ships, Sea Captains, Counting Houses and Pirates.

South Street Seaport
photo © by Judy Ferony

The Pirates have given way to Tourists, the Counting Houses to Trendy Boutiques and the Sea Captains to Entrepreneurs. The Seaport Area was hit hard by Super Storm Sandy, I wrote this Lens to raise awareness in hopes that people will open up their hearts (and wallets) and donate their time and / or money in helping the museum to get back on it's feet, I'd hate to see this museum close it is truly a NYC treasure.


Mayor Mike Bloomberg at the Reopening

Schermerhorn Row The Seaport's Architectural Centerpiece

On the South side of Fulton Street between South Street and Water Street sits the architectural centerpiece of the South Street Seaport Museum, 12 Georgian-Federal-style red brick commercial buildings, on lots bought in 1793 (out of speculation) by Peter Schemerhorn a ship chandler who bought water lots and filled them in. It was actually a law back then that if you bought waterfront property you had to build 200 feet out into the water; timbers were laid down in a crosshatch type of pattern called cribbing which enabled the builders to construct buildings on these floating platforms. About 800 feet around the tip of Manhattan is landfill, they would use rubbish, or sink boats that were no longer in service (and fill them with rubbish) or fill from construction sites; as a matter of fact when they were building the present day South Street Seaport we've come to know and love, the architects and engineers decided to keep the landfill in place; they found that it was stable and able to bare the load of the new build. The site of the World Trade Center was actually in the Hudson River when plans for The Twin Towers were first conceived. Most of the buildings that make up Schemerhorn Row were where the cargo was unloaded and the second floor was used as counting houses, this was where all the merchandise would have been cataloged (or counted). Most of the waterfront buildings were counting houses, taverns and homes of ship captains.

If it weren't for the efforts an activist couple, Norma ans Peter Stanford, the Schermerhorn Row would have fallen prey to (what some call) progress. In the 1960's much of Lower Manhattan was experiencing a rebirth; skyscrapers were replacing much of the existing buildings; projects like The World Trade Center were under way. It was saved by the Stanfords who rallied other people who were passionate about preserving this last standing block of New York City maritime history; they got so many people involved that it became unthinkable to knock down the Seaport.

Super Storm Sandy Hit The Seaport Area Hard

Sandy's storm surge was recorded at over 13 feet in some areas, although it was classified as a Tropical Storm it's wind and storm surge was equal to a Category 3 hurricane; it's going to take a long time for that area to get back on it's feet. I hope that you will go to their website and donate some money if you can or volunteer your time if you live in the area.

Read a New York Times story on South Street Seaports recovery efforts here. If you have some extra money and you can afford a donation, this is a worthy cause. I hope these guys get the help they need, this is my favorite part of the city and the South Street Seaport Museum (and The Museum of the City of New York) are a NYC treasure. This city has so much history and there are few places that are left to tell the story; most have been lost to modernity, NYC is one of the few cities that tends to throw it's history under the bus.

Heavy Buoys Moved by Sandy

Circleline Booth Flooded

Flooded Museum Lobby

Pier 16 Flooding

Gift Shop Area Totally Trashed

Bring Back Sweets Hotel and Restaurant

Rebuild It Bigger and Better

The remains of some of Sweet's Hotel still can be found at 4 Fulton Street (the last building belonging to the Museum on that block); although the Restaurant and Hotel actually occupied 2, 4 & 6 Fulton Street in the 1860's, and was in operation up until World War 1. The remains of the hotel are located at 4 Fulton Street just the way it when it went out of business (albeit run down, you can still get an idea of what it was like). So perhaps the museum can bring back that part of the Seaport as well.

Bowne & Co. Stationers - The Print Shop Is Open

Bowne & Co. Print Shop
photo © by Judy Ferony

... the South Street Seaport Museum is still closed as of November 26th, 2012 :-(

Here's your chance to say "Hi". - Thanks for visiting my South Street Seaport Museum Lens!

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    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      Great lens!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      One more great lens, poignant. Blessed.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @chezchazz: Sure is, the Museum and Fraunces Tavern seem to be back up to speed (a recent development, so that's good news) but many of the buildings and small businesses aren't and I suspect that many will go out of business; the insurance companies aren't going to keep on insuring them (or will really charge them a high rate) if they don't stop putting the guts of the buildings in the basements (which are well below sea level).

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 4 years ago from New York

      Very sad to see the destruction of the South Street Seaport area. I have many fond memories of time spent there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Excellent pictures to bring the damage of Sandy home to us all, thanks for a great look from your view of your South Street Seaport Museum! I like how you have ownership in your heart.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 4 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      The South Street Seaport Museum looks like a fascinating place. I hope the damage from Sandy will be fully repaired - your photos certainly illustrated the power of storm Sandy and the damage and destruction left in the wake of the storm - awful!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      @kabbalah lm: They just reopened a couple of weeks ago. Most of the building down in lower Manhattan were hit bad by Sandy; hopefully they'll learn from this and stop putting all the systems that keep the buildings running in the basements. The insurance companies need to stop insuring them if they don't change the way they operate.

    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 4 years ago

      I need to go to this museum next time I'm in NYC

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      I love NY, blessed.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

      It is so sad how Sandy made a mess of it all. Thanks for sharing. I hope it will one day be repaired.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @darciefrench lm: Actually it's like a ghost town down there; many of the businesses wont be coming back, and it was just on the news that there are doubts that the actually Seaport is structurally sound. The Seaport Museum is getting back on it's feet and should be opening soon (the print shop is opened), Fraunces Tavern just now is getting their gas and electric back and will be opening (if not opened already). They were going to re-do the pier the Seaport is on next year but now the insurance company might not insure them if they don't make the new plans more storm-proof. So it's still not back to pre-Sandy conditions down there. Thanks for your participation on my Lens/es.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 years ago

      Sandy did quite the job on this seaport - hopefully things are righted now?

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      @Anthony Altorenna: Indeed, there's not too many places that allow a glimpse into NYC's nautical history left in Manhattan (there are a few in the outer boroughs).

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is horrific. Hopefully, the Seaport gets rebuilt quickly, and will be better than ever!