The daily bustle at the Fulton Fish Market, 1936, photographed by Berenice Abbott (NYPL)
PODCAST The glory of early New York came from its role as one of the world’s great ports. Today the South Street Seaport is a lasting tribute to that seafaring heritage, a historical district beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that contains some of New York City’s oldest buildings.
But there are many secrets here along the cobblestone streets. Schermerhorn Row, the grand avenue of counting houses more than two centuries old, is built atop of landfill. Historic Water Street once held a seedy concentration of brothels and saloons. Not to mention a very vibrant rat pit! And the Fulton Fish Market, the neighborhood’s oldest customer tradition, once fell into the river.
The modern South Street Seaport, a preservation construct of concerned citizens, become popular with tourists during the 1980s but saw severe damage during Hurricane Sandy. It’s now the subject of some potentially dramatic changes. How much of an adherence to the traditions of the past will determine the Seaport’s future?
ALSO: The FDR Drive — How it almost went below the Seaport!
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A painting of the Empress of China, the vessel probably most responsible for the growth of New York’s trading power. (Courtesy nyhistorywalks)
Peck Slip, providing ferry service to Brooklyn. The very first ferry service to Brooklyn was launched from this spot over two hundred years before the era depicted in this image. (NYPL)
South Street, circa 1892, via stereograph (courtesy Library of Congress)
A different world: The glory of South Street in 1890 and 1900, respectively, still a non-stop churn of unloading, delivering and transport, even as the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance marks big changes to come for the neighborhood. (courtesy NYPL and Library of Congress)
The Fulton Fish Market, as photographed by Berenice Abbot, November 26, 1935 (NYPL)
Fulton and Water Streets, 1975 (Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York)
Richard Haas’ trompe l’oeil excellently masking a Con Edision substation. (Museum of City of New York)