The South Street Seaport area has constantly transformed itself over the centuries and Delury Square Park is part of the story of continuous change and innovation.
Forest of Masts (1783-1860)
The two miles of South Street piers, merchant houses, shipyards and supply houses made New York the most dynamic and important port in the world. By the 1840s and 50s, one third of all the merchant tonnage in the world sailed from South Street. Much of the wealth made in the ports landed a few blocks away on Wall Street, transforming New York into the financial capital of America. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany and elsewhere walked off these same piers to make their own mark on the city and the country.
Street of Ships (1860-1900)
Steamships put a sudden end to the romantic clipper ship era and shifted the focus of ocean going vessels to the Hudson River that was better able to accommodate the big ships. The Fulton Ferry continued to work nonstop to carry goods and people between New York and Brooklyn. The completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, gave residents and businesses a faster and more reliable link. The decline in the big boats and ferry service foreshadowed of a bigger downfall in the area. One bright spot: the Fulton Fish Market began to grow.
Port into Market (1900-1945)
The piers were lengthened and modernized in the 1910s, but the largest and most glamorous ships now docked on the Hudson, leaving aging cargo ships and humble coastal steamers docked on the East River. The 100 year old brick houses became home to a fringe groups of visiting sailors, saloon keepers and prostitutes. The Fulton Ferry closed for good. The Fulton Fish Market continued to grow in both business and lore. A visitor on any given night would not be hard pressed to believe that all the contents of the ocean had been pulled out and not a fish remained in the seas.
Decline and Rebirth (1945-1980)
The shift away from public transit to the automobile led to the demolition of elevated railroad above Pearl Street and its replacement by an elevated highway. The Victorian-era Fulton Market was demolished and replaced by a bland brick building. Other plans to level the entire historic district were put to a halt by dedicated citizens who managed to save a few of the buildings for a South Street Seaport Museum.