Wednesday, April 15, 2009
South Street Seaport Museum
New York City's maritime past is celebrated at South Street Seaport Museum, located in the 19th century waterfront district that today is home to six historic ships and exhibitions of maritime art and artifacts. Designated by Congress as America’s National Maritime Museum in 1998, South Street Seaport Museum sits in a 12 square-block historic district that is the site of the original port of New York City.
The area's cobblestone-paved streets surround a complex of restored 19th-century buildings along the East River at the southern tip of Manhattan island. From here it is possible to sail around New York harbor on a twin-masted schooner. The two block area of short brick buildings are a sharp contrast to the looming modern skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan. The port is as much an outdoor mall as it is a museum; galleries, housed in restored buildings, are in three locations within the seaport's borders, while the rest of the space is occupied by stores and restaurants. Except for South Street itself, the area is closed to automobile traffic, and the overall sense of the seaport is similar to other historic parks like Colonial Williamsburg.
The exhibit on board the Peking, one of the two tall ships at South Street, offers an impression of what life on an old sailing cargo ship was like. The galley, crew quarters, officer’s staterooms and captain’s cabin have all been restored to their original condition.
The onshore galleries feature a broad range of topics, everything from antique clocks to old charts, including the alarmingly inaccurate 16th and 17th century maps drawn by early European explorers. There is also a large assortment of model ships on display.
The best time to arrive is between 10:30 and 11:00 am.
The area sometimes smells bad because of the nearby active fish markets.
A visit to South Street will take at least half a day, excluding a harbor cruise.
There are exceptional views of the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge from this area.
Interactive map of South St. Seaport area: