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Titanic’s Ill-Fated Destination: Unveiling the Secrets of Chelsea Piers

<Excerpt from New York Offbeat Walks: Chelsea>

by Willy-Stoewer

Continue on to Eleventh Avenue and the Hudson River to the west. Ahead is Pier 57, built in the early 1950s for shipping by the chemical business W.R. Grace and Company and later used as a bus station.

In 1837, Thirteenth Avenue was constructed beside the Hudson River, but it was an unlucky road as in the early 20th century, it was removed in order to build Chelsea Piers that would accommodate the biggest and most luxurious ocean liners of the era. By the second half of the 20th century, the golden age of ocean liners was over, and the piers began to deteriorate.

Chelsea Piers are associated with some of the great dramas of maritime history. Pier 59 was where ocean liners of the White Star Line were berthed, and the Titanic was due to have arrived here on April 17, 1912. Instead, many survivors of the best-known shipping disaster in history were brought by Cunard’s Carpathia to Pier 54. The Lusitania left Pier 54 before being sunk by a German submarine in 1915.

Today the piers complex (29) is used for a sports village that includes a pool, a golf driving range, a skating rink, a bowling alley, restaurants and bars. It is a nice place to come for a drink at sunset and look over the Hudson River. This place has been gentrified in recent years. In the 1970s and 80s it had a very different vibe, and was a popular gay cruising zone. Watch Nelson Sullivan’s short documentary The Piers in New York City in 1976 to get some insight.

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