As we strolled up the Hudson River Park the other day, the Lady and I passed a Department of Sanitation depot south of 14th Street. I would have loved to investigate the intriguing odors emanating from the garbage trucks, but the Lady insisted we hurry along (She does not share my fascination with garbage smells). Next door, we encountered this rusting steel arch fronting a disused pier.
This pier, strewn with debris and currently occupied by construction vehicles, is connected with two major ship disasters.
On April 18, 1912, the Cunard Line’s Carpathia arrived at Pier 54, carrying survivors of the Titanic disaster. The Titanic was part of the White Star Line and would have docked at its piers further north. And in the midst of the Great War, on May 1, 1915, the Lusitania departed Pier 54 on what would be its last voyage. The story of the Lusitania and her sinking by a U-boat was recently retold by popular writer Erik Larson in his book Dead Wake.
On the crossbar of the arch, the faint white lettering of the Cunard Line is still visible, as is the White Star Line (from when the two companies merged).
There are some photos of the pier in its glory days here. Now it’s slated for redevelopment into a park and amphitheater. I have a feeling I will not get a chance to leave my mark on this historic site once that happens, so I took my opportunity that afternoon. Carpe peem, if you will.
We then crossed the highway and looped back downtown, sadly bypassing the delicious sanitation depot. A few blocks further south, we passed the Jane Hotel, where this intricate detail on its western facade hints at its past as a Sailors’ Home and Institute.
The Jane also has a connection to the Titanic: Some rescued crew members ship stayed here after the sinking. The hotel still has bunk-like quarters (most with shared bathrooms), though rather more luxuriously appointed than they would have been in the sailors’ time.
I would not have made a very good ship’s dog, afraid of water as I am. But I imagine there were quite a few dogs aboard the great ocean liners that docked at Pier 54. And maybe a few cats as well. (Mr. Larson notes that the Lusitania‘s cat mysteriously vanished the day before the ship’s ill-fated departure).
Read more about Pier 54:
The Bowery Boys: Chelsea Piers: New York City in the Age of the Ocean Liner
Atlas Obscura: Pier 54, The Titanic’s Survivors Arrival Location
New York Times City Room blog: Throughout the City, Finding Traces of the Titanic