Most of us are familiar with the Titanic disaster, but it is easy to forget that the doomed ship was heading to New York on her fateful maiden voyage in 1912. But, as is well known, she struck an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
Pier 54 in Manhattan witnessed many heartrending scenes – and it will forever be intertwined with the legend of this celebrated ocean liner.
Even now a century after the disaster – Titanic continues to capture the public imagination. The Pier 54 jetty remains eerily unchanged, with the old White Star logo still visible under the rust of the steel arched entrance.
Cold, tired and distressed survivors arrived here on the Carpathia, as the world’s press rushed to greet them. Thousands of anxious relative’s sat vigil on the pier waiting for news of loved their ones.
As the Carpathia passed the battery on its way into New York, a crowd of ten thousand people watched her pass in absolute silence. There was a delay in landing as the thirteen lifeboats recovered from Titanic were unloaded at Pier 59, before the boat moved to Pier 54 and docked on the north side.
On Friday 19th April, 1912, news wire services reported:
It was 8.37 p.m. when the Carpathia arrived at the pier. Five hundred friends and relatives were assembled the pier sheds. Mr. J. P. Morgan, junior, appeared on the scene as the boat was about to dock, also representatives of the and Widener and Thayer families, who arrived by special trains from Philadelphia. There were 1,000 people in the sheds ten minutes later, many them weeping. Outside motor cars kept rushing up, bringing fresh arrivals. The first survivors began to leave the ship twenty-five minutes to ten.
Likelihood is that when you visit this pier, you’ll be the only person there. It’s easy to imagine friends and relatives of Titanic passengers standing on the very same spot over 100-years-ago waiting to know the worst, but hoping for good news.
In the sixties, with the advent of jet travel, many of the docks and piers in New York fell into disrepair – remarkably Pier 54 escaped developers.
Another notable Titanic spot is on Jane Street, where members of the crew were housed, clothed and fed when they arrived after the disaster. The building is now the ‘Jane Hotel’; be sure to take a peek in the nautically themed entrance.
A walk along a street in lower Manhattan will bring to a site where astonishing scenes were also witnessed. The majestic head offices of the White Star line were located at 9 Broadway, which nowadays is a Radio Shack and Subway sandwich bar. It was here that tens of thousands of people flocked seeking information about the disaster once the news of its fate broke.
WHERE: To get to Pier 54, take the A, C, E, L to 14th St – 8th Avenue station, and walk West 2 blocks, then cross West Street.
This article was taken from the History Buffs Guide to New York by Mark Jones, which is available at Amazon