South Street Seaport Museum
announces first Post-Hurricane Sandy Exhibition
Street of Ships: The Port and Its People
In celebration of the unparalleled restoration currently underway in the South Street Seaport Museum’s flagship, the museum announces its first post-Hurricane Sandy exhibition, Street of Ships: The Port and Its People beginning on March 17, 2016, open Wednesday – Sunday 11am-5pm, at the Museum’s main lobby, 12 Fulton Street.
Street of Ships: The Port and Its People showcases works of art and artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collections related to the 19th Century history of the Port of New York. The exhibition examines the decisive role played by the 19th Century Seaport at South Street – long known as the “Street of Ships” – in securing New York’s place as America’s largest city and its rise to become the world’s busiest port by the start of the 20th Century. The centerpiece of the exhibition examines the life and current restoration of the Museum’s 1885 full-rigged sailing cargo ship, Wavertree; an archetype of the impressive sailing ships that once called at South Street and made New York a hub of global trade. The exhibition lays the groundwork for Wavertree’s return to the Seaport in July 2016 after the completion of a 15-month, $13 million city-funded restoration, the largest of its type in more than a generation.
Captain Jonathan Boulware, Executive Director of the Museum, exuded enthusiasm for the exhibition and for the return of Wavertree. “In the three years since Hurricane Sandy, much has been done to move this important New York institution forward. But nowhere is that work more evident than in the $13 million restoration of our flagship Wavertree. It’s a project unlike any undertaken in a generation. When she returns this summer, Wavertree will truly be a ship worthy of New York. This exhibition draws from the history of the Seaport, the birth of New York, and the people who have made both the district and the Museum thrive. We’re absolutely thrilled to finally be bringing artifacts from the collection forward to the public for the first time since Sandy.”
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In the early 19th Century, New York was just one among many cities competing for American commerce and trade, but by 1860 the Seaport at South Street was a center of world trade, linking New York to Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean, South America, and beyond. Manhattan’s population exploded from a mere 60,000 to nearly 1 million. South Street became known as “the Street of Ships,” its waterfront lined with sailing ships laden with goods from all over the world, creating a forest of masts from the Battery to the Brooklyn Bridge. The sheer volume of these vessels conducting world trade in New York directly fueled the economic and cultural development of the city. Bursting with the energy of global commerce, entrepreneurs at the Seaport developed better ways to trade.
Several 19th Century individuals and companies working at the Seaport exemplify the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that New York continues to be known for today.
Peter Schermerhorn built what is conceivably New York’s first world trade center. The Black Ball Line changed the nature of shipping by introducing the world to the ocean liner, ships with set departure schedules. Abiel Abbot Low mastered the fiercely competitive trade with China in the 1840s. The Collins Line challenged the set standards of steamship travel with its luxurious and fast transatlantic steamers.
Even while the means of shipping evolved through the 19th Century, the humble sailing cargo ship remained the mainstay of global commerce. Wavertree, built in Southampton, England, circled the globe four times in her career carrying a wide variety of cargoes. She called on New York in 1895, as one of hundreds like her berthed in the city. In 1910, after thirty-five years of sailing, she was caught in a Cape Horn gale that tore down her masts and ended her career as a cargo vessel. She was salvaged and used as a storage barge in South America before being acquired by South Street Seaport Museum in 1968.
Wavertree is currently at Caddell Drydock and Repair in Staten Island undergoing a multi-million dollar city funded stabilization and restoration project. She is set to return to South Street in July. Her main deck is being restored and a new ‘tweendeck (the deck between the cargo holds and the main deck), which was originally removed from the ship in the 1930s, is being reinstalled. This latter project will create a large indoor area of the ship that will be utilized by the Museum for year-round programming. Wavertree’s restoration will provide a new and improved programming space, along with a vital living laboratory for STEM and other education programs. Extensive rigging restoration includes replacement of 16 massive wooden masts and yards, reserving of more than three miles of wire, and new running rigging that will permit the setting of sails. Objects, images, and video of this massive undertaking, one of the largest historic ship restorations in recent history, will be part of the exhibition, as well as images and objects from Wavertree’s life as a commercial sailing ship.
This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Theodore W. Scull and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs with additional support provided by Susan Kayser & Duane Morris LLP in memory of Salvatore Polisi
Admission is free for SSSM Members. Tickets are $12 for adults; $8 for seniors (65+), Merchant Mariners, Active Duty Military, and students (valid ID); $6 for kids (ages 6-17) and free for children ages 5 and under. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org.
The exhibition is on view through 2016 at the South Street Seaport Museum.
ABOUT SOUTH STREET SEAPORT MUSEUM
South Street Seaport Museum is a non-profit educational and cultural institution located in the heart of the historic South Street Seaport district—the original port—in New York City. Founded in 1967, the South Street Seaport Museum preserves and interprets the history of New York as a great port city.
Designated by Congress as America’s National Maritime Museum, the Museum houses galleries and performance spaces, working nineteenth century print shops, a maritime library, a maritime craft center, and a fleet of historic vessels that all work to tell the story of “Where New York Begins.”