The Titanic was scheduled to arrive in New York on the morning of Wednesday 17 April 1912, but it was an appointment she would never make. Four days out of Southampton on her maiden voyage the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. 705 passengers and crew survived but over 1,500 men, women and children perished.
Four days later, some 30,000 New York residents turned out, despite the weather and the late hour, to witness the arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia with the survivors of the Titanic. The Carpathia had raced to the scene, but the Titanic had sunk before she arrived. She picked up the survivors carried in the Titanic's lifeboats before returning to New York. For the survivors of the Titanic aboard the Carpathia their arrival into New York was a bittersweet moment, the end of a journey which had started out with such optimism but was now shrouded in tragedy.
Standing on the seaward-side of West Street and 13th Street, in New York, Pier 54 looks in a sorry state. Today the pier's appearance is a far cry from its heyday as the New York terminus for some of the world's most luxurious ocean liners including the Cunard Line's Lusitania and Mauretania. Pier 54 formed part of the Chelsea Piers, officially opened in 1910. The piers extended from West 12th to 23rd Street and were designed by the New York firm of Warren and Wetmore. They later would go on to design New York's Grand Central Station in 1913.
Today, all that remains of the pier building is a steel archway, formed of a rectangular box-shaped structure with a central clerestory archway. In the right light, visitors can still see the outline of lettering spelling out 'Cunard Line' and 'Cunard White Star Line' on the steelwork's pediment. The pier sub-structure remains, jutting out into the Hudson River. The structure is used for open-air events.
Constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, around a steel frame clad in rusticated pink granite, each pier comprised a central entrance, with a clerestory arched window above. The arch above the window was formed of wedge-shaped 'voussoirs' with an acanthus-leaf key stone.
Above each entrance the facade terminated in a Beaux-Arts-style open pediment, supported by corbels. Atop each pediment was a metal globe supported by two stone figures. Either side of each entrance were two storey wings with a plain parapet with corbel supports.
The piers fell into disrepair in the 1970s and 80s, not helped by plans to bulldoze the piers to allow the construction of the Westway highway; a plan that was eventually cancelled. As late as 1991, and despite its maritime connections, the pier building was demolished leaving only the steel archway and the pier substructure remaining.
- Chelsea Piers (2013) Chelsea Piers History 101 New York: http://www.chelseapiers.com/company/history.cfm
- Eaton, J. P. & Haas, C. A. (1994) Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (2nd edition) Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd.
- New York Architecture (2013) Chelsea Piers New York: http://www.nyc-architecture.com/CHE/CHE-035.htm