Free public exhibit opens exploring the evolution of the South Street Seaport


NEW YORK, NY — General Growth Properties announced today the opening of “Seaport Past & Future,” a free public exhibit that takes visitors through two centuries of growth and change at the South Street Seaport. The exhibit, conceived and designed by the New York architect and writer James Sanders, provides a sweeping urban and historical portrait of the Seaport area from 1783 to today. “Seaport Past & Future” is the latest in a series of community benefits and cultural amenities that GGP has introduced to the neighborhood over the past several months.

In June, GGP released a multi-faceted plan to redevelop the South Street Seaport and return the district to its former glory as a vibrant hub for commerce in Lower Manhattan. GGP has now sponsored the “Seaport Past & Future” exhibit as a new cultural resource for the community and the city, illustrating the dramatic evolution of the Seaport over the past two centuries.

New York City Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber said, “The South Street Seaport has been a critical node of activity in Lower Manhattan for generations and the South Street Seaport Museum and its new exhibit, ‘Seaport Past & Future,’ pays homage to that important past. Lower Manhattan is in the midst of a period of incredible revitalization and this exhibit gives us all a better perspective on how the Seaport has become what it is today, and uncovers the influences that will help to shape what it becomes tomorrow.”

“As we plan for the future of the Seaport, this exhibit reminds us of the area’s historic vitality and its ability to reinvent itself,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President Seth W. Pinsky. “We are confident that the plans that eventually emerge from the public review process will bring more excitement, culture and commerce to the Seaport district, while still honoring its storied past.”

Highlights of the exhibit include specially created period models of the Seaport at five key moments in its evolution, along with a newly-commissioned video featuring 40 historic pictures of the district, “re-photographed” in the spring of 2008 by the photographer Douglas Levere. A large-scale historical timeline, designed by the New York graphics firm, Pentagram, traces the epic story of the Seaport using 120 rare archival images, along with dozens of period quotations, including the words of Eugene O’Neill, John Dos Passos, Joseph Mitchell, Alfred E. Smith, Robert Moses, Jane Jacobs, Ada Louise Huxtable, Phillip Lopate, Paul Goldberger, and others.

The opening of “Seaport Past & Future” also marks the first public display of the architectural model of the Seaport redevelopment plan, designed by SHoP architects. SHoP, headquartered in Lower Manhattan, designed the Seaport’s new master plan. The innovative new designs complement existing local architecture using elements and materials that evoke the Seaport’s maritime heritage. SHoP is also working with the city to design the East River Esplanade and Piers Project, which provides opportunities for synergies of style and substance between the two projects.

“The exhibit is a portrait of one of the most legendary waterfront districts in the world – a place that was once the heart of America’s largest and most dynamic port, and one whose own innovations helped to transform modern culture,” said James Sanders, curator and designer of “Seaport Past & Future.” “But it is also a portrait of a city over time, showing how the shape and meaning of an urban district has dramatically shifted many times over the years,” Sanders added. “Indeed, if you look closely, you will see not only a single changing neighborhood, but many of the most profound shifts – in commerce, transportation, urban life – that have transformed the city, the region, and the world over the past two centuries,” he said.

The production of “Seaport Past & Future” required an extensive research effort, including searches through the print and photograph collections of the South Street Seaport Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the New-York Historical Society, and the New York Public Library as well as numerous private maritime archives. To accurately create the five historic models – showing the Seaport as it appeared in 1850, 1885, 1925, 1970, and today – Mr. Sanders and his team turned to rare fire-insurance company maps from the late 19th and early 20th century, which recorded the location and size of every Manhattan building in that era, as well as to the Department of Docks’ plans for the expansion of the East River piers. They also consulted with South Street Seaport Museum historian Jack Talbot to determine what type of sail and steam vessels would have been docked at the Seaport piers in those years.

To create the six-minute video presentation, “Seaport Past and Present,” that runs continuously within the exhibit, the photographer Douglas Levere employed the same special techniques he used in re-photographing the famed 1930s images of Berenice Abbott for his “Changing New York” exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. For the new project, Levere worked with historic images dating back to the 1870s, including the work of such noted photographers as Andreas Feininger, Albert Abbott, Rebecca Lepkoff, Naima Rauam, Edmund V. Gillon, Jr., and, once again, Berenice Abbott. Levere then created a modern-day version of each historic view by locating its precise vantage point and matching its lighting conditions – allowing visitors to travel through time as they watch images from the 1890s, 1940s, or 1970s turn into scenes of today’s Seaport area.

The exhibit concludes with a look at the Seaport’s future, through architectural renderings and an elaborate architectural model of GGP’s proposed redevelopment plan for the Seaport, which was unveiled last month. The model shows the various elements of the proposed plan, which aims to reconnect the Seaport to Lower Manhattan, provide needed amenities to the local community, and re-establish the Seaport as a dynamic neighborhood.

Michael McNaughton, vice president of development for the Northeast region at GGP, said, “‘Seaport Past & Future’ is a key part of our commitment to bring needed amenities and additional cultural outlets to the community. From the @SEAPORT! public theater to the Fulton Stall Market and more, GGP is continuously creating new and exciting programs and activities for our neighbors.”

“Seaport Past & Future” joins a growing list of community amenities and cultural outlets that GGP is bringing to the community, including most recently a versatile cultural space called @SEAPORT! A converted former retail space transformed into a public venue, @SEAPORT! brings art, short film, creative performances, and live comedy and music to the Seaport. GGP continues to develop cultural attractions and amenities that will serve the community.

“Seaport Past & Future” is located at 191 Front Street, near John Street. It is free and open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Groups are welcome but asked to call ahead. More information about the exhibit, including some of the archival images on display, can be found on the new Seaport website, .

About James Sanders

James Sanders is an architect, author, and filmmaker, best known for co-writing with Ric Burns the acclaimed 17 1/2-hour PBS series, “New York: A Documentary Film,” and its companion volume, New York: An Illustrated History (Knopf, 1999). In 2000, the series received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and a DuPont/Columbia Award. In 2007, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Burns received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for the two-part PBS series, “Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film.”

Mr. Sanders is the author of the landmark study on the city and film, Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies (Knopf, 2001) – the basis for a major multimedia exhibit in Grand Central Terminal in 2007 – and has frequently contributed to The New York Times as well as the Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, and Architectural Record. In 2004, he wrote and co-directed “Timescapes,” the permanent orientation film at the Museum of the City of New York, and has co-produced major exhibits on the history of New York housing and the urban heritage of 42nd Street at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

As principal of James Sanders and Associates, his architecture and design work includes public projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Pershing Square Management Association (Los Angeles), the Parks Council, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, as well as private and corporate clients in New York, New Jersey, California, and elsewhere.

Mr. Sanders is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture and Planning, and attended the MIT Graduate School of Architecture. In 2006 he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for research into the experience of cities.


New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City’s primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC’s mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City’s competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City’s many opportunities.

About General Growth Properties

The South Street Seaport is recognized as one of America’s Premier Shopping Places, the nation’s largest collection of tourism-oriented shopping and dining destinations located throughout the USA. For a complete listing of America’s Premier Shopping Places and special offers for travelers, please visit

The center became part of the General Growth Properties’ portfolio through its acquisition of The Rouse Company in 2004. Since then, GGP has worked closely with local business leaders and the Lower Manhattan community to develop a vision for the Seaport. The plan replaces the enclosed mall with a pedestrian district, more than two acres of additional open space and circulation areas connected to the street grid of the historic Seaport District. New shops and restaurants, a boutique hotel, and a five-star hotel and residential building are proposed. For more information, visit

GGP is one of the largest US-based, publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REIT), based upon market capitalization. Best known for its ownership or management of more than 200 shopping malls in 45 states, including the Staten Island Mall; GGP also develops master-planned communities and mixed-use properties. GGP has ownership interest in master-planned communities in Texas, Maryland and Nevada, and in smaller mixed-use projects under development in additional locations. Its shopping center portfolio totals approximately 200 million square feet of retail space, accommodating more than 24,000 retail stores nationwide. GGP’s international portfolio includes ownership and management interest in shopping centers in Brazil and Turkey. General Growth Properties, Inc. is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GGP. For more information, please visit the company website at