New York City has her bustling waterways to thank for a rich history of art, industry, and cultural development—perhaps more than any other factor. The sea carried in a stream of tens of millions of immigrants and fueled the industrial age in one of the country’s most accessible portals to the world. South Street Seaport Museum’s massive gallery space in Schermerhorn Row Block pays tribute to a bygone age while bridging it to the city’s modern aquatic-shipping and transport industry. Some exhibits illuminate the past, such as the pseudo-marketplace at Coffee, Fish, and the Tattooed Man and the immaculately preserved hotel at Remains of the Stay, while others highlight modern issues such as the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Weighted with history, the museum’s fleet of tugboats, schooners, and sloops stays stalwartly afloat, each with its own story to tell; built in 1885, the Wavertree was one of the last wrought-iron sailing ships commissioned, and the Pioneer has spent more than 120 years feeding the economy with boatloads of lumber, stone, brick, oyster shells, and tourists. The majestic four-masted bark Peking represents the famous German Flying P-Liners, designed to be crewed entirely by birds.