September 16, 2012

Views from the Porthole: A Walk to the South Street Seaport

Update March 2013. Much of this are was profoundly affected by Superstorm Sandy in late October 2012. Read this post from March 3, 2013 assessing the storm's impact on the South Street Seaport.

For anyone who regularly walks down to the South Street Seaport and the East River, it's obvious that the entire area has experienced a rejuvenation over the past few years, especially on the weekends. After the closing of the Fulton Street Market a few years ago, the seaside neighborhood looked rough around the edges, but now, thanks to the New Amsterdam Market (Sundays) and the artisan stalls that have opened up across the street on South Street, weekend strolls can include lots of entertainment and food shopping.

South Street Seaport
From the deck of the lightship Ambrose, a view of Lower Manhattan (plus students of Trapeze School)

New Amsterdam Market
fresh food from local food merchants at the New Amsterdam Market

South Street Seaport: Trapeze School
Trapeze School in action


The Trapeze School has also set up shop on wires above Pier 16, making an excursion abroad the lightship Ambrose even that more fun. Several new restaurants have taken up residence in the neighborhood. The upgrading of the East River Waterfront Esplanade, including the two-level modernist pier at Pier 15, contributes to the overall vitality of the seaport.

South Street Seaport
Pier 15 and the East River Waterfront Esplanade

The South Street Seaport Museum at 12 Fulton Street, revitalized under the management of the Museum of the City of New York, boats some sixteen galleries on Schermerhorn Row. The museum's exhibitions encompass a myriad of media - folk art, moving images, fashion, and still photography - to tell the story of New York at sea. The venerable Bowne & Co. Stationers on Water Street, also under the aegis of the museum, is keeping the craft of letter-printing alive with a weekly workshop series. Stop into Bowne & Co. and ask master printer Robert Warner for more information on the workshops.

South Street Seaport Museum
entrance, South Street Seaport Museum, 12 Fulton Street

South Street Seaport
Bowne & Co. Stationers, 211 Water Street

Access to the lightship Ambrose is included with museum admission. Learn about the history of the Ambrose channel and how this ship functioned as a floating lighthouse for boats entering New York Harbor. The ship's portholes provide intriguing glimpses into the revitalized seaport. Image yourself a stowaway from a previous time and these sights would be your first impressions of the New World.

South Street Seaport
The red-hulled ship is the Lightship Ambrose.

View from the Porthole: South Street Seaport
From a porthole on the Ambrose on Pier 16

View from the Porthole: South Street Seaport
From a porthole on the Ambrose on Pier 16

View from the Porthole: South Street Seaport
From a porthole on the Ambrose on Pier 16

View from the Porthole: South Street Seaport
From a porthole on the Ambrose on Pier 16

While the seaport no longer functions as a premiere port for merchant ships, boats do go a-sailing from here for your recreational pleasure, like Circle Line's Zephyr speedboat and Manhattan by Sail's large masted Clipper City. Cruises of 90 minutes or so to distant islands - well, Liberty Island, for example - can requite those with a longing for the sea but who quickly change their minds and wish for dry land again.

Circle Line's Zephyr at South Street Seaport
The Circle Line's Zephyr Statue of Liberty Express

Resources:
• South Street Seaport Museum
12 Fulton Street
Open 7 days a week 10:00am–6:00pm
General admission: $10

• The South Street Seaport
• Circle Line's Zephyr Express
• New Amsterdam Market
• Trapeze School


View South Street Seaport in a larger map

Event note: At the South Street Seaport Museum, Friday, September 28, a book talk with John Maxtone-Graham, author of Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner. 6:30-8:30 pm, 12 Fulton Street, $20, $15 for museum members. Reservations required.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. View the whole set on Flickr WOTBA.

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