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Architecture at Sea: Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About NYC’s Skyline

Little Island NYC and sailboat around Manhattan

There’s something magical about seeing New York City’s skyline, whether by looking up while walking along its streets or gazing out atop a rooftop deck or viewing platform. Another way to admire some of the city’s architectural marvels is by seeing them along its waterfront. 

Onboard a Go Sailing NYC cruise, passengers can spot architectural designs that have been fixtures of the NYC skyline for a long time or those that have recently been unveiled. 

Our chartered sailing cruises depart out of Manhattan’s west side near Chelsea Piers, with a course that brings our guests in viewing distance of attractions as far as the Statue of Liberty. In taking our daytime and sunset sails, you’ll see iconic buildings and important structures that contribute to the fabric of New York City. 

Here’s some of the sites you can scope out from the sea:

Little Island

This city attraction immediately drew in crowds on its opening day in May 2021 near Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. 

Located within Hudson River Park, across from the West Side Highway, Little Island is about a three-acre public space that is perched upon concrete pillars in the Hudson River. You enter it via a walkway. 

A $260 million project funded by NYC businessman Barry Diller, Little Island is an urban oasis of lawn spaces, trees, shrubs and other plantings that is completed by an outdoor food court, lavatories and an amphitheater. Visitors can wander up, down and along sloping pathways and take in various angles of Lower Manhattan and the surrounding river. 

Little Island is also across from the remains of Pier 54, which is a living history lesson. Between 1910 and 1935, the pier was used by the British Cunard-White Star line. In 1912, Titanic survivors arrived in New York City here aboard the ship, Carpathia. Three years later, the RMS Lusitania would depart from this pier but was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland, bringing the U.S. into World War I.

Holland Tunnel Vents

This block set of towers in Lower Manhattan along the Hudson River might seem out of place but they were built to perform a great engineering feat. 

They are the Holland Tunnel Vents, with one set in Manhattan and another in New Jersey, and these ventilation shafts carry out an important task. They safeguard drivers from asphyxiating on carbon monoxide within the Holland Tunnel. 

Opened in 1927, the Holland Tunnel connected Manhattan’s Canal Street with Jersey City but this new tunnel had this safety challenge. So engineers came up with a solution – creating a transverse-flow system that both draws fresh air in from and discharges exhaust-ridden air, outside.

One World Trade Center

Presently, the tallest building in New York City, One World Trade Center stands at 1,776 feet in Lower Manhattan. It is the main building within the World Trade Center complex, consisting of five office towers, a public transportation hub and an eight-acre Memorial Plaza plus the September 11th Memorial and Museum. 

Ascending 69 stories, and with a 408-foot-spire at its crown, One World Trade Center opened in November 2014. A year later, the tower welcomed the “One World Observatory,” an enclosed observation deck rising 1,250 feet about street level. 

The Colgate Clock

Ticking away along the Jersey City, New Jersey waterfront, this massive timepiece facing Manhattan’s side of the Hudson River is known as the Colgate Clock. This octagon-shaped fixture dates back to when the headquarters of Colgate-Palmolive was located on this site. 

While it’s still considered to be one of the largest clocks in the world, this Colgate Clock isn’t an original. This replica was built in 1924 as a replacement of the first clock; the latter was constructed for the company’s centennial in 1906 and later transferred to the company’s factory in Indiana. The clock’s shape is said to have resembled Colgate’s Octagon Soap, a product of the time. 

While the Colgate Clock keeps on ticking, the Colgate-Palmolive left its HQ location in Jersey City in the eighties and their building was demolished. The clock was spared and later slightly moved southward to make way for the Goldman Sachs Tower, standing adjacent to it. The timepiece got a major makeover in 2013, with the installation of LED lights and an improved foundation.

Statue of Liberty

This official name for this iconic figure is more formal — as in, “Liberty Enlightening the World”but her statuesque appearance is recognized by onlookers immediately. Designed by French sculptor, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the Statue of Liberty was given to the U.S. people as a gift of friendship in 1886. It was also done in recognition of the tie between the two countries since the American Revolution. 

With the idea for this statue proposed by French political thinker Édouard de Laboulaye, as a moment representing freedom and democracy, Bartholdi took trips to the U.S. to see where the statue could be placed and raise funding for its creation. Neat fact: To foster financial contributions for the statue, her torch-holding arm was displayed in Madison Square Park for six years. .

In 1986, a century after her unveiling, funding was raised to restore and preserve the statue.  

Ellis Island

Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million immigrants would first arrive in the U.S. via Ellis Island, a processing station. With many arrivals coming from Southern and Eastern Europe, the first official immigrant to go through was Annie Moore, a teenage girl from Ireland. Before it shut down, the last to be processed was a Norwegian merchant seaman named Arne Peterssen. 

Today, Ellis Island is a museum telling stories about those who have passed through this building through exhibits and videos. Inside, visit areas such as the American Family Immigration History Center, where you can learn more about your family’s connections to Ellis Island. There, you can search for relatives’ names via an extensive database of records.

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