NEW YORK—Just where Fulton and Front streets intersect in Lower Manhattan, the city transforms into the 19th-century-era, historic South Street Seaport.
Few people live in this part of town. Despite the proximity to public transportation and basic amenities, the cobblestone streets and nearby East River waterfront create the illusion of isolation.
At night, many of the empty upper story windows of the 150-year-old four- and five-floor brick buildings are dark.
The pitch-black glass eerily recalls New York’s past, when the buildings were mostly occupied by a maritime community.
The handful of businesses and restaurants that are open are nestled on the ground floors of the district’s buildings. Still smarting from the impact of Superstorm Sandy, many stores in this commercial district remain closed. Others are locked in limbo over development deals, competing interests, and changes with the South Street Seaport Museum.
Along South Street, a row of mostly sad-looking, shuttered mixed-use brick buildings that date to the early 1800’s face the East River. Metal doors are covered with graffiti and peeling paint where the rowhouses are joined. Many were once owned by people associated with the Fulton Fish Market. Today, about half of the 10 buildings have fallen into disrepair; a few are partially occupied.
To the casual observer, there is little here aside from the area’s history to draw them in, especially as a place to live.
But at 115 South Street, one man’s dream of a truly unique lifestyle led him to restore one of the rowhouse buildings, making it modern and classy.
This is where former architect Marco Pasanella, now the owner of Pasanella and Son Vintners, rescued two rowhouses that were connected in the 1880s. Built in 1839 for ship chandlers Slate, Gardiner, and Howell, the buildings were combined in 1882 into one to make space for a bar with an upstairs brothel. Later, it was used to store tens of thousands of pounds of fish in freezers.