Titanic’s survivors arrived in New York, but not where they had expected to dock.
Titanic’s final destination was to be Pier 59 which was owned by the White Star Line. Instead, the Titanic survivors arrived in New York on the Carpathia, a Cunard Line ship. After a brief stop at Pier 59 to drop off the lifeboats from Titanic, the Carpathia traveled a few blocks south to dock at the Cunard pier, Pier 54. Anxious crowds of people, numbering in the thousands, awaited the arrival of the Carpathia and news of loved ones.
The same pier also played a pivotal role in another ill fated ship disaster. Just three years later, in 1915, the ship Lusitania left from Pier 54 before being torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7. The Lusitania sank in less than 20 minutes, killing almost all of the 2,000 passengers and crew.
Now part of Hudson River Park, a number of plans to restore the pier have been bandied about, but none so far have been successful. Instead, it remains a blank, empty strip of metal and concrete stretching out into the Hudson River, remarkable mostly for its emptiness. The only obvious hint of its historical significance is the rusted arch that used to form the entrance, with the original shipyard lettering barely readable – “Cunard White Star” – left untouched and eroding out of either respect or neglect, probably both.
Since then, fascination with the tragedy of the Titanic has only grown, but interest in Pier 54 and its spectral place in history has fallen by the wayside.
Update April 2018: The pier has been closed due to construction but the old gate is still visible.
Update May 2021: The gate now frames the South Bridge entrance to Little Island, a two-acre public open space built on a platform over the Hudson River.
Know Before You Go
Note that this place is actually located close to the intersection of 12th Avenue and West 13th Street. One has to cross 12th Avenue (aka West Side Highway) to get to the pier (11th Avenue begins parallel to the Westside Highway at 23rd St).