Though you could stand on Manhattan today and forget you are on an island, for centuries, New York City’s success depended on its maritime industries. Since the days of the native Lenape, the surrounding waterways have played an integral role in New York life. One of the places where New York’s nautical history is most evident is the South Street Seaport. Started as a small collection of 18th-century wharves, the South Street Seaport eventually grew to be part of one of the most important commercial ports in the world. In the seaport district today, you will find historic ships, stunning views, and landmark buildings that date as far back as the late 1700s. Below, take a dive into the rich history of the seaport and uncover its secrets!

1. NYC’s Ties to the Titanic

Titanic Memorial Lighthouse and Timeball at the South Street Seaport

Standing outside the Seaport Museum is a land-locked lighthouse and time-ball. This maritime signaling structure doesn’t warn ships of danger but serves as a memorial to the victims of the Titanic sinking in 1912. The luxurious and ill-fated cruise ship was en-route to New York City from England when it tragically sank in the Atlantic Ocean. The 60-foot Titanic Memorial Lighthouse and Time Ball was dedicated on April 15, 1913, one year after the sinking of the Titanic. It was originally mounted on top of the Seamen’s Church Institute at 25 Water Street.

Every day at noon, from its installation in 1913 until 1967, the Titanic time ball received a telegraphic signal from the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C and dropped halfway down the pole to indicate the time. A time ball is an obsolete time signaling device which enabled navigators aboard ships offshore to verify the setting of their marine chronometers.