Pearl Duncan: Ship Entangled in NY Olde Style Real Estate & War-time Drama

Roundup: Talking About History

[Pearl Duncan covered Newport-Bermuda Yacht Races, Miami-Montego Bay Yacht Races, Caribbean Ocean Racing Circuit (CORC) Races and others, for Sailing, Sail, and Yacht Racing/Cruising Magazines. Now she writes about historic New York and New Yorkers.]

When Wall Street was the northern border of New York City, the 18th-century ship found at the World Trade Center saw dramatic colonial real estate and war stories. When Fulton Street was named Partition Street, because everything north of today’s Financial District was untamed bushes and farms, separating the wealthy colonials’ mansions from unpaved, undeveloped lands, the ship sailed. Whatever other issues are involved in today’s battles to redevelop the World Trade Center site, or the debate to build or not build a mosque near the site, the central battle is still real estate, New York style. Modern style. But the battles are not very different from earlier colonial dramas.

So as Wall Street and Lower Manhattan gets re-gentrified with wealthy young families, it helps to pause and remember that Colonial New York was home to many of the new nation’s Founding Fathers in the 1700s. I was reminded of this when I researched the ship, and found her name, identity, owner, dramas and sea adventures. Anyone who lives, works, dines or shops in the area, or who braves the dozens of tour buses releasing tourists into the streets of the Financial District and the World Trade Center, or who walks, bicycles or exercises along the paths running along the Hudson River, needs to know who used the area before they did. There were national leaders. Here’s the short list.

The ship that’s being called the World Trade Center ship (until I reveal the name in a book I wrote about her and her adventures) was found in the southernmost part of the World Trade Center site, under Washington Street, parallel to the Hudson River, thirty feet below ground in the construction mud dug west of Greenwich Street, between Liberty and Cedar Streets. The area, once occupied by artists in minimalist lofts when I moved to TriBeCa in the 1970s, now has young families in high rise luxury condos and rental apartments. Throughout the 1700s, the mansions that stretched across Wall Street gave the street the name, Millionaire’s Row, and once the Hudson River was filled in to form Greenwich Street, Greenwich on the River was also called, Millionaire’s Row....

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