In celebration of the unparalleled restoration currently underway on its flagship, Wavertree, South Street Seaport Museum has announced its first post-Hurricane Sandy exhibition, Street of Ships: The Port and Its People. The exhibition will debut on 17 March 2016, and will be open Wednesday–Sunday 11am–5pm in the museum’s main lobby at 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, examining the decisive role played by 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 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, laying the groundwork for Wavertree’s return 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.”
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.
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. The story of her journey from Argentina to New York is told in Peter and Norma Stanford’s A Dream of Tall Ships: How New Yorkers came together to save the city’s sailing-ship waterfront.
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.
The exhibition is on view through 2016.
Photos courtesy South Street Seaport Museum.