West 55th Street & West 56th Street Piers, Hudson River at West Fifty-fifth & West Fifty-sixth Streets, Manhattan, New York, New York County, NY
Significance: The piers at West 55th and West 56th streets are important and rare remains of historic transatlantic commerce in the Port of New York, being two of only three municipal piers built for this traffic which survive with relatively undisturbed original fabric. Between 1897 and 1936, the City of New York built four terminals with twenty-two piers on the Hudson River to accommodate the growing size of ship and retain the port's traditional dominance in the liner trade. Together with the recently-demolished West 57th Street Pier superstructures, the two piers formed the third and most northerly of the four terminals. Completely rebuilt c1914-17 from older piers, the three piers followed the Gansevoort and Chelsea piers of 1897-1908, and generally predated the terminal completed in 1936 between 44th and 52nd streets. Typical of municipal and some private pier and piershed construction during the period 1910-1925, the piers from 55th to 57th streets also featured bulkhead shed joining the pierheads and presenting a unified street facade. Similar in general architectural design to the bulkhead sheds of the Gansevoort and Chelsea piers, these three piers were somewhat transitional in using facade materials and proportions similar to those of the later liner piers just to the south, which substituted four-bay head houses for bulkhead sheds. The 55th Street Pier is also of historic engineering interest for its early use of hinged cargo beam design, to relieve stress on cargo mast systems. Following terminal completion, Furness, Withy & Co., Ltd. and Navigazione Generale Italiana (Italia) were the principal liner tenants for five decades, until airline and container traffic largely eliminated Port of New York liner traffic during the 1960s. Together with Pier 54 in the Chelsea Section, the West 55th and West 56th street piers stand today as mute witnesses to the heyday of the 20th century liner trade.
Survey number: HAER NY-147
Building/structure dates: 19q1 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: ca. 1930- 1932 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1937-1939 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1942 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1949 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1953 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1962 Subsequent Work
The history of New York City's transportation system. New York City is distinguished from other U.S. cities for its low personal automobile ownership and its significant use of public transportation. New York is the only city in the United States where over half of all households do not own a car (Manhattan's non-ownership is even higher, around 75%; nationally, the rate is 8%). New York City has, by far, the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city. New York City also has the longest mean travel time for commuters (39 minutes) among major U.S. cities. The Second Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the city – the port infrastructure grew at such a rapid pace after the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal that New York became the most important connection between all of Europe and the interior of the United States. Elevated trains and subterranean transportation ('El trains' and 'subways') were introduced between 1867 and 1904. Private automobiles brought an additional change for the city by around 1930, notably the 1927 Holland Tunnel.