A GATE TO REMEMBER – PIER 54

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Take a walk down 11th Avenue, south of the Chelsea Piers, past 14th Street. You’ll see a semicircular tower of rusting metal, seemingly awaiting the wrecking ball, at the remains of Pier 54. What’s so special about it?

 

View of the gate from Pier 54.

This gate is the last remnant of a terminal building. Having been preserved by serendipity, it’s now part of a public park on the site, now part of Hudson River Park.

This long, open pier is a refreshing blank slate for runners, walkers and event planners. It has accommodated a huge variety of special guest events, such as the celebrated Ashes and Snow art installation, MTV concerts and the annual Heritage of Pride Dance Party. HRP

Forgotten Fan Kevin Spaans has additional information on Pier 54:

Although the pier itself was in fact a Cunard Pier, the White Star Line leased the property when it needed to, so I’m not sure if Cunard is superimposed on White Star, or vice versa. Anyway, another interesting fact about the pier: this is where the RMS Lusitania, the fastest, one of the most luxurious, and second largest liner in the world departed on its final voyage. As you may know, on May 1st 1915, nineteen hundred men, women, and children departed Pier 54 for a voyage that would be implanted in the memory of folks for years to come. On the 7th of May, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat, sinking in 18 minutes, and taking 1200 victims down with it (including Alfred Vanderbilt and Charles Frohman). Perhaps the Hudson River Conservancy can be influenced into incorporating the gate into their park, perhaps placing trees and flowers around it, creating a sort of monument for those who died on the Lusitania and Titanic.

 

A close look at the (very) faded lettering on the crossbar, just below the arch, reveals the words “White Star” and “Cunard” seemingly superimposed.

Forgotten Fan David Seifert:

When the current facade was built the combined line already existed and was operating as “Cunard-White Star” and the facade was so labeled. In the 50′s after yet another corporate restructuring the company began trading as “Cunard Lines” and the facade was modified to reflect the new name.

This is where the White Star Lines berthed grand passenger ships that sailed the seven seas.

One of the spectacular ocean liners that used this gate in their heyday would have been the Titanic itself, though he great liner was due to arrive at nearby Pier 58 — if fate had not intervened, It was there that passengers from the doomed vessel debarked after they were picked up in the icy North Atlantic Ocean by the Carpathia, operated by Cunard.

The White Star Lines weren’t sunk by the Titanic disaster, but U-boat submarine warfare during World War I didn’t help. White Star fared well in the 1920s but then the Depression came; White Star Lines merged with the Cunard Lines in the 30s. Cunard itself was bought by Carnival Cruise Lines in 1998.

 

Forgotten Fan Thomas Loades:

The entire [Pier 54] structure — a big, three-story-high shed, essentially, like a train station on water with waiting rooms, luggage holds, etc. — was considerably damaged by fire sometime in the 1930s, and rebuilt to the same kind of design, although the concrete facade that lined the West Side highway and surrounded the remaining gate went from a extravagantly frilled Edwardian-type design to a more streamlined art-deco look, which remained until the building was demolished in 1991. After ships stopped going there, the lower level of the pier was used (informally) as a parking lot. It sounds like it would’ve been awesome for urban exploration if it were still there.

This is one of the few remnants of the West Side (Miller) Highway, which ran above 12th Avenue until it became too deteriorated to remain standing in December 1973.

The city tore down the el structure from 1974-78. This wing-shaped concrete slab is one of the last remnants of the structure.

5/1/1999; revised 5/24/12





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2 Responses to A GATE TO REMEMBER – PIER 54

  1. David Alvarez says:

    There was a location device that newspaper reporters used. Take the Pier number and subtract 42 and that was the cross street where one would find that Pier. So Pier 54 would have been at the foot of West 12th Street. This may have been an approximate tool. My dad worked for “The Tellly” (World Telegram) for 24 years.

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