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Manhattan, New York City Travel Guide

Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century pictures of South Street show sloops, square-riggers, clipper ships, and many other classes of vessels docked right next to the street, which formerly abutted the East River. The Fulton Fish Market, NY’s primary seafood wholesale market, and a large part of the neighborhood’s his­tory, moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx in 2005, after a tenure here of more than 170 years. It’s gone now, as are Sweet’s and Sloppy Louie’s restaurants (however, the old Paris Bar and Grill at South Street and Peck Slip still stands as it has since 1873, as does the oldest NYC restaurant, the Bridge Cafe, at Water and Dover Streets, dating back to 1794).

New York City’s preeminence as a world ­class seaport is in the past, but remain­ing here are a trove of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century buildings, Belgian ­blocked streets, and, of course, the South Street Seaport Museum at Pier 17 that in­cludes sailing ships refitted as water-borne museums and training centers, such as the Wavertree (built in 1885), the Peking (1911), the Pioneer (1885), the Lettie G. Howard (1893), and the Wo. Decker (1930).

If Pier 17′s touristy vibe is a bit much, stroll the streets of the immediate seaport area, Pike Slip, Beekman, Water, and Front Streets, many of which have been marvel­ously re-bricked, and see the ancient build­ings, some of which go back to the 1790s

(the Ioseph Rose House at 273 Water Street was built in 1773, making it the third-oldest building in Manhattan). An indispensable guide to the area is Ellen Fletcher’s Walking Around in South Street, published by the South Street Seaport Museum; contact the Museum at (212) 748-8590 or visit www. southstseaport.org.

SUBWAY: 0 or ® to Fulton Street BUS: M9 on Pearl Street; M22 to Frank­fort Street

9 Lightship

Pier 17, South Street Seaport

One of NY’s few remaining floating light­houses, or lightships, the Ambrose (LV87) (the nomenclature differentiates it from two other lightships named Ambrose), served the Port of New York, the Coast Guard, and Fort Hancock, New Jersey (as an examination ship) from 1908 to 1966. It was one of three such lightships patrol­ling the Ambrose Channel, the southern entrance to New York Harbor off the coast of New Jersey. Lightships were employed where the seabed was sandy or otherwise inhospitable for construction of a light­house, but by the 1960s and 1970s, most lightships had been replaced by automated towers. According to Lighthouses of New York author Iim Crawley, in 1921, the Am­brose (LV87) was the first lightship to use a radio fog beacon. In 1968, the Ambrose (LV87) was permanently docked at Pier 17 and has served as a floating museum ever smce.

10 Titanic Memorial Water and Fulton Streets

New York City has formal, informal, and completely accidental homages to those who died in the sinking of the R.M.S. Ti­tanic on April 15, 1912. On the corner of Fulton and Water Streets stands the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, dedicated exactly one year after the sinking and originally placed atop the Seamen’s Church Institute, a former fourteen-story building at South Street and Coenties Slip. In 1967, the Sea­men’s Institute moved and the’ building was later demolished. The lighthouse, for­tunately, was preserved and by 1976, it had been installed at its present location. The

tall pole at the apex originally had a metal ball that, when signaled by a telegraph at the National Observatory in Washington, nc, would drop at noon daily: that fea­ture is currently being restored.

11 Schermerhorn Row

Fulton Street, between Water and South Streets

Ship chandler (an entrepreneur supplying onboard equipment) Peter Schermerhorn Jr. built this row of Georgian buildings on Fulton Street, between Water and South Streets, between 1810 and 1812. However, he first had to fill in the land: Front Street, as its name implies, was the approximate original shoreline. The original Fulton Ferry, which ran between Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Fulton Streets, began to sup­ply potential customers in 1814, and, in that year, the first store fronts appeared on what would come to be called Schermer­horn Row. The mansard roofs and dormer windows near South Street were added in the 1860s; many additions have been made over the years. Schermerhorn Row was restored in 1983 as part of the Historic District construction. The South Street Seaport Museum has recently opened Schermerhorn Row’s upper rooms as gal­lery space.

12 Excelsior Power Company Edens Alley at Gold Street

Gold Street weaves through lower Man­hattan, reminding us that this part of the

city was built long before the automobile. It was named for a flower, the celandine, called “gouwe” by the Dutch. The British, who had a talent for boiling down Dutch names for easier pronunciation, eventually Anglicized the name to Golden Hill.

At 33 Gold Street, just south of Fulton Street, architect William Grinnell con­structed the Excelsior Power Company building in 1888. Its huge, gorgeous blue­green cast-iron sign with its intricate let­tering has been pretty much undisturbed since. The building originally housed coal­fired electric generators.

Next to the cast-iron sign, a 19l0-era wall-bracket lamp, with original metal scrollwork and incandescent luminaire, can still be found. Opposite the building, note the tiny, brick-paved alley that dog­legs around to Fulton Street. Until 1842 (no one knows when it originally appeared), it was known as Eden’s Alley, but between 1842 and 2000 it was called Ryders Alley. In 2000, a compromise of sorts was reached when the portion facing Gold Street was re-designated as Edens Alley and the por­tion facing Fulton Street retained the Ry­ders name.

Ben and ... George? Nassau Street, south of John Street

By some accounts, this building at 63 Nas­sau Street was built in the 1860s by an early giant of cast-iron architecture, Iames Bo­gardus (1800-1874). His use of cast-iron to cover building exteriors later led to steel-frame construction. In the Soho area, you’ll find dozens of distinctive buildings with such cast-iron cladding. A short street near Fort Tryon Park in far upper Manhat­tan is named for Bogardus, far from his ar­chitectural innovations.

Of note here are the patriotic depictions of Ben Franklin. The empty spaces between the two Franklins used to contain two sim­ilar portraits of George Washington.

Fulton Street, east of Nassau Street

At 127 Fulton Street you will find the Keuffel & Esser Building. It was built in 1893 by the architectural firm DeLemos and Cordes, who went on to create the Siegel-Cooper and Macy’s department store buildings farther uptown. Above the  ground-floor storefront here, you can see the cast-iron detailing: renderings of draft­ing implements and for some reason, a winged wheel.

Established in 1867, Keuffel & Esser is a company that manufactures compasses, transits, surveying equipment, and other instrumentation-and it is still going strong. The company built the magnificent Clock Tower Building on 3rd and Adams Streets in Hoboken in the 1890s, as well as this distinctive Fulton Street exterior.

15The 18905 Meet the 19705 Fulton Street, east of Broadway

On Fulton Street, just east of Broadway, is an original chiseled “Subway” sign in­stalled in the 1930s when the IND opened its Broadway-Nassau Station (the IND complement to the Fulton Street subway complex). Close by are several historical artifacts all rolled into one: an angular 1970s modern front was grafted onto what

looks like an 1890s Beaux Arts building! At one time, no doubt, the two lamps at the top lit up. The “facsimile” and “type­writer” ads look quaint as we head into the middle of the first decade of the twenty­first century.

Known as the lower West Side before the 1960s, these Manhattan neighbor­hoods have gone from farmland (1700s) to fashionable residences (early 1800s) to sweatshops hidden behind gorgeous cast­iron fronts (late 1800s). Later, light in­dustry (cardboard, tool, and die makers) occupied these blocks until the mid-1900s, when artists began to occupy the area’s spacious lofts. In the 1960s, Soho resi­dents beat back a Robert Moses proposal to build an expressway over Broome Street that would have connected the Manhattan Bridge to the Holland Tunnel. Since then, real estate has been on an upswing, with fashionable restaurants and galleries lin­ing West Broadway, Spring, and the rest of the area’s streets. Best of all, the mag­nificent cast-iron fronts have been mostly preserved. Many of them now contain ex­pensive luxury apartments.

SUBWAY: to Chambers, Franklin, or Canal Streets; or  to Chambers or Canal Street;  or  to Spring Street;  or  to City Hall, Canal Street, or Prince Street.

BUS: M6 to Broadway and Sixth Avenue; M20 to Hudson and Varick Streets; M21 to Spring Street or Houston Street and Sixth Avenue; M22 to Chambers Street

G16The Strange Medallion of Harrison Street

Harrison Street, west of Greenwich Street

There’s a pedestrian overpass spanning two sections of Independence Plaza above Harrison Street, just west of Greenwich Street. The bridge carries a highly stylized medallion that recollects a lost highway, waterfront, and railroad.

In 1974, Independence Plaza, a large residential complex, rose on land formerly occupied by the Washington produce mar­ket. At the same time, the West Side High­way (officially called the Miller, after the Manhattan borough president when the road was built in the early 1930s) was fall­ing apart due to neglect. The section of the road spanning Harrison Street was closed in 1973 and demolished by the mid -1980s.

The highway originally featured Ma­chine Age-style entablatures above every cross street, featuring a highly stylized eagle, as well as signs denoting the cross street (and the pier opposite the cross street). The Harrison Street frieze denotes Pier 23, which was owned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, now a part of CSX. It was saved and placed on this overpass when Independence Plaza was built.

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