The Seaport, Then and Now


New York City as we know it was born at the Seaport District. The economic growth of NYC in the first half of the 19th century was driven by the Port of New York’s position as an import–export exchange and cargo center for emerging American and global markets. The Seaport District on the East River in Lower Manhattan became a gateway for international shipping, maritime activities and the wholesale fish trade. South Street was known as the “Street of Ships” and it was the birthplace of the finance and print press industries. The rich economy gave life to Georgian, Federal, Italianate, Romanesque, and Greek revival mercantile architecture styles, built on cobblestone streets lit by some of the city’s first street lamps. 

New York’s business elite—men like Astor, Gouverneur, Lenox, Ogden, and Rutgers—who helped shaped the blueprint for the city, strolled the bustling wharves.“The city that never sleeps,” was coined for the Seaport and its 24/7 activity. After dark, the port was home to raucous pubs, brothels, and illicit fighting dens that made up the electric underbelly of the maritimeindustry (the fish market was allegedly controlled by the Genovese crime organization, reputedly one of the largest in the country). 

For millions of immigrants in search of opportunity, South Street was a point of debarkation, and the beginning of the American Dream. The Seaport’s original heyday lasted from the end of the American Revolution until the post-Civil War replacement of sail by steam, when conditions deteriorated as new steamships abandoned the piers for the deep-water ports of the Hudson River. By the mid-20th century, only the Fulton Street Fish market remained active, and it relied more on trucking routes than boat deliveries.

In the years since, there have been many attempts at reviving the Seaport District, but none managed to capture and preserve its historic charm while embracing the area’s future potential as a new community for New Yorkers. That’s all set to change as the Seaport begins unveiling its rebirth as a port of discovery for a new generation of local denizens. In place of shipping and trade, this colorful and dynamic neighborhood revolves around culture, thriving with dining, bars, eclectic retail, art, and entertainment, spearheaded by established and emerging names

"One of the most vibrant areas in Manhattan."

From the Pier 17 Rooftop concert venue to a Food Lab featuring residencies by the country’s best chefs; a Brooklyn ice cream institution to an iconic Italian luxury retail concept—plus a plethora of eating and drinking destinations that all benefit from a spot on the water with panoramic views of the New York skyline—this summer, the Seaport reestablishes itself as one of the most vibrant areas in Manhattan. Stay tuned for more exciting opening announcements throughout the year.