Though the skyscrapers, crowded streets and lack of sandy beaches make it is easy to forget that Manhattan is in fact an island, its position at one of the best harbors in the world has influenced life on land for centuries. From the days of the Native Americans, through colonial times and up to the present day, New York City’s waterways have played a major role in business, war and society. There have been countless triumphs and tragedies that have taken places on the seas, rivers and bays that surround and run through the city. Here are 10 monuments and memorials dedicated to significant people and events connected to New York City’s maritime history:
1. The Clocktower at Pier A Harbor House
Now a restaurant and bar, the Pier A Harbor House was originally constructed from 1884 to 1886 to serve the New York City Department of Docks and Harbor Police. The clocktower which rises from the waterfront side of the building was not part of the original structure. It was added in 1919 as a memorial to the 116,000 U.S. servicemen who died during World War I. It is the first World War I memorial erected in the United States. The clock was donated by Daniel G. Reid, founder of United States Steel Corporation and was unveiled at noon on January 25, 1919 by Rear Admiral Josiah S. McKean, with speeches made by Mayor John Francis Hylan and Docks Commissioner George Murray Hulbert.
The clocktower is unique because it does not chime like you would expect it to. The clock is one of only two in the entire country set to ship’s bell time. Ship’s bell time is an old maritime way of telling time based on the port and starboard watch shifts of a ship’s crew. Each crew member would be on duty for four hours, then off four hours. One stroke of the ship’s bell indicated the first half hour of the watch. Then an additional bell is struck for each succeeding half hour. Thus eight bells indicate the end of a four-hour watch.
From 1960 until 1992 The New York City Fire Department used the pier as a fireboat station, and then the building fell into neglect for almost a decade. In 2009 it was restored and turned into the business that it is today.