1885 map via NYPL

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The Fleeting, Fascinating Life of 13th Avenue

July 25

Did you know that part of Manhattan’s shore once extended further into the Hudson River? Gansevoort Peninsula – the stretch that sweeps west between Gansevoort Street and Little West 12th Street along our Meatpacking District waterfront – is all that remains of a much larger expansion, our city’s short-lived 13th Avenue.

In 1837 New York City was a rapidly expanding port, eager to facilitate further growth by creating more commercial shoreline. To achieve this, plans were devised to landfill a stretch of the Hudson River from W 11th Street to 135th Street, bounded to the west by a brand new avenue. This “13th Avenue” would be developed by entrepreneurs who could purchase underwater lots from the city, then landfill and pave them – an exciting prospect for enterprising citizens keen to take part in the city’s growing commercial successes.

At its longest, 13th Avenue continued fifteen blocks north from W 11th street and was home to an eclectic assortment of warehouses, lumberyards and saloons. A New York Times feature from 1883 described the thoroughfare as a “peculiar avenue,” whose expanse offered interesting glimpses of the surrounding landscape and transformed into a hub of activity at The Pavonia Ferry at 23rd Street.

Built to support New York City’s booming port, 13th Avenue was doomed by that same port’s evolving needs. The massive ocean liners that took to the seas toward the end of the 1800s required wide berths of river to sail and longer piers to dock. The sheer length of a ship like the Lusitania or the Titanic would block the channel were it to pull up to a pier that extended west from 13th Avenue. As a result, much of the newly filled-in land was excavated to make way for longer piers – including Chelsea Piers – that could accommodate larger ships.

Today, only one stretch of 13th Avenue remains, a one-block expanse along the western edge of the Gansevoort Peninsula in Hudson River Park. This vestige of our waterfront’s dynamic history will be incorporated when we redevelop the 5.65-acre peninsula for public Park use. It’s these enduring pieces of our Park’s history that build its rich riverfront character, and we love seeing how the marvels of our past inform the Park of our future.