The South Street Seaport is a historic area in the New York City borough of Manhattan, located where Fulton Street meets the East River, and adjacent to the Financial District. The Seaport is usually considered a historical district, distinct from the neighboring Financial District. It features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan, and includes the largest concentration of restored early 19th-century commercial buildings in the city. This includes renovated original mercantile buildings, renovated sailing ships, the former Fulton Fish Market, and modern tourist malls featuring food, shopping and nightlife, with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
South Street Seaport Museum was founded in 1967 by Peter and Norma Stanford. When originally opened as a museum, the focus of the Seaport Museum conservation was to be an educational historic site, with "shops" mostly operating as reproductions of working environments found during the Seaport's heyday — 1820 to 1860.
Designated by Congress as America’s National Maritime Museum in 1998, South Street Seaport Museum sits in a 12 square-block historic district that is the site of the original port of New York City. The Museum is has over of exhibition space and educational facilities. It houses exhibition galleries, a working 19th-century print shop, an archeology museum, a maritime library, a craft center, a marine life conservation lab, and the largest privately owned fleet of historic ships in the country. Included in this fleet are:
The original intent of the Seaport development was the preservation of the block of buildings known as Schermerhorn Row which were threatened with destruction from neglect or future development, at a time when the history of New York City's sailing ship industry was not valued, except by some antiquarians. Early historic preservation efforts focused on these buildings and the acquisition of several sailing ships. The buildings on Fulton Street were across from the main Fulton Fish Market building, which had become a large plain garage-type structure, and has now been rebuilt as an upscale shopping mall.
In 1982, redevelopment began to turn the museum into a greater tourist attraction via development of modern shopping areas. The pier's old platforms were demolished and a new glass shopping pavilion raised in its place, which opened in August 1983.