South Street and the Rise of New York is an exhibition located in the entrance to the ground floor of the main Museum building. It explores the critical role played by the Seaport and South Street 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 showcases the Museum’s vast collection of works or art and artifacts through large reproductions of objects and selected artifacts on display all related to the history of the Port of New York in the 19th century.
The exhibition begins with a contemporary aerial photograph depicting New York Harbor, one of the greatest natural harbors in the world, and continues with large images from the Museum’s collections illustrating the impact of New York’s ports, seaports and hubs. As early as 1825 commentators called New York “the great commercial emporium of America” but prosperity thanks to the cotton and sugar trade, tied the city to the enslavement of Black men and women throughout the Americas. Until the Civil War, the port of New York, centered on South Street, and received more than 4,000 vessels from foreign ports in 1860 alone. After the Civil War, New York grew to become the busiest harbor in the world.
The exhibition highlights Schermerhorn Row, the block of warehouses and offices that stand on man-made land reclaimed from the East River between about 1797 and 1807; the Museum’s fleet of historic ships, which tell the story of New York as a great port city through their connections to world commerce, coastal deliveries, and the working harbor; and Bowne & Co., a contemporary re-interpretation of one of the many printing offices that flourished in lower Manhattan in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The exhibition was curated by Michael H. Harrison, the Obed Macy Research Chair at the Nantucket Historical Association, with the assistance of Martina Caruso, Director of Collections at the Seaport Museum. Exhibition design and art direction by Helen Riegle of HER Design, and Christine Picone, graphic designer at Bowne & Co., the Museum’s historic letterpress shop.
Visit the introduction gallery space at 12 Fulton Street to experience the new exhibition that explores the critical role played by the Seaport and South Street 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 .
Admission is free, and tickets can be reserved below. Your Museum Admission ticket includes access to current exhibitions on view at the introduction gallery space as well as access to tall ship Wavertree, permanently moored at Pier 16. Tickets to tour lightship Ambrose are available separately