New York City’s West Side Piers
A circa-1960 postcard shows New York City’s Transatlantic Steamship Terminal in the Hudson River between 44th and 54th streets.
The terminal with its 1,000-foot piers was opened by the city in 1935 to accommodate longer ocean liners that could no longer be accommodated at Chelsea Piers. A line-up of famous midcentury ships are docked at the terminal including the American Export Lines’ SS Independence (1951), the US Lines’ SS America (1939), and SS United States (1952), the Greek Line’s SS Olympia (1953), USS Intrepid (1943), the Cunard Line’s RMS Mauretania (1938), RMS Queen Elizabeth (1946) turning into its berth.
On April 7, 1963, this promotional photograph was set up to catch the United States Lines transatlantic sister ships, the SS America and the SS United States, passing in the Hudson River. This normally took place out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They are passing the Pennsylvania Railroad’s West Side Yard, now the location of Hudson Yards. Bound for a refitting in Thailand, the SS America broke its tow and ran aground in the Canary Islands in 1993. The SS United States, still the transatlantic speed record-holder from 1952, is docked in Philadelphia awaiting an unknown fate.
In the age of the Titanic, transatlantic ocean liners docked at Chelsea Piers between 12th and 22nd streets. Like the later Transatlantic Terminal, Chelsea Piers were built to accommodate longer steamships. Warren and Wetmore completed them in 1910, in the same year and Neoclassical style as McKim, Mead & White’s Penn Station. Piers 59 through 61 were leased to White Star Lines. The Titanic was bound for Pier 59 when it sank in 1912.
The SCA’s boat trip around Manhattan scheduled for June 19, 2022, will sail from Chelsea Pier 62 in one of these two 1920s-style yachts, the Manhattan, or the Manhattan II.
Chelsea Pier 54 was leased to White Star rival Cunard. The 706 survivors of the Titanic were brought to this pier by the Cunard Line RMS Carpathia. The steel framework is all that remains of Warren and Wetmore’s original Neoclassical pier portal. The words “Cunard-White Star” are barely visible painted after their 1934 merger. This is now the location of Heatherwick Studio’s Little Island, part of the Hudson River Park being assembled along the west side of Manhattan.