New Exhibit Explores How the Seaport Turned Manhattan Into a Powerhouse

11/30/2021 in
New Exhibit Explores How the Seaport Turned Manhattan Into a Powerhouse

Today’s Seaport is a vibrant plaza packed with boutiques and restaurants boasting waterfront views. Its origins, however, go much deeper, and are in some ways responsible for transforming New York into the global powerhouse it has become.

Starting December 4, you can explore that history via two exhibits at the Seaport Museum (12 Fulton Street) that look at the critical role the Seaport and South Street played in making New York the largest city in the nation.

For the ”South Street and the Rise of New York” exhibit, the museum pulled from its vast collection of art, artifacts and reproductions to show the role of the Seaport in the early 19th century. That includes aerial photos of New York Harbor and historical documents that show how the once-dubbed “great commercial emporium of America” became a major player in the trade of cotton and sugar — and enslaved people. 

Other highlights include an exhibit on Schermerhorn Row, a block of warehouses and offices on man-made land reclaimed from the East River between about 1797 and 1807. Visitors can also learn about the historic ships that came into the port and see a contemporary re-creation of one of the many printer offices that flourished in Lower Manhattan in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Tickets are free and you can make reservations here; admission includes access to all exhibitions at the Seaport Museum (tickets to tour the historic ships are sold separately). 

While you’re there, check out the second exhibit, a return of a pre-pandemic show that traces the history of Manhattan’s rise back 200 years: ”Millions: Migrants and Millionaires Aboard the Great Liners.” It also re-opens on Dec. 4. 

The exhibit was last on view before the shutdown, and returns to examine side-by-side the difference in how wealthy travelers in the early 20th century came to the United States compared to their third-class immigrant shipmates. It features original and replicated artifacts from the museum’s collection including ocean liner memorabilia, ceramics and luggage trunks. Visitors can see the luxury accommodations of the first-class passengers, compared with the stuffy lower decks afforded to those traveling in third class. 

“Even though First Class and Third Class sailed on the same ships, their journeys were worlds apart,” William Roka, former Seaport Museum Historian, said on the museum’s website. 

Tickets are free; reservations can be made here. Both exhibits are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  

photo: South Street Seaport Museum

Tags: Seaport Museum

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