By Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
THEN: This row of grand buildings embellished with pink granite facades testifies to the world’s busiest seaport’s prominence in the early 20th century. Both freight and passengers moved through these gates which totally blocked the waterfront from the city. White Star Line’s RMS Titanic sank in April of 1912 after hitting an iceberg on its first voyage from England, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew. Pier 54 is where the Cunard’s RMS Carpathia delivered the survivors from the Titanic, who were greeted by thousands of onlookers that had been following the disaster and rescue in the press. Pier 54 was the departure point for the RMS Lusitania’s voyage to Liverpool, in 1915, when the ship was sunk by torpedoes from German U-boats near Ireland; 1,198 civilian passengers and crew were killed. The disaster contributed to the U.S. entry into World War l. Pier 54 was also used for troop ships during World War II. Credit: NYC Municipal Archives, undated.
NOW: Look closely at the Pier 54 gate header and you’ll see the faint lettering that spells CUNARD WHITE STAR, dating back more than a century to the pier’s heyday. Speculation swirled about how long the Cunard-White Star line archway would remain, given the Pier 55 construction pending. First estimated at $130 million nearly four years ago, and now at $250 million, Diller’s Pier 55 was revived in October 2017 by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pledge of $50 million to help complete work on the remaining 30% of the Hudson River Park, with the condition that the city raise a matching amount. Pier 55, starting at the Pier 54 archway, is supported by 132 pot-shaped structures high enough above the water to avoid flooding. Construction would include a 700-seat amphitheater. Wouldn’t the “54” in the arch be a commemorative finishing touch? Credit: Chris Manis; firstname.lastname@example.org.