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South Street Seaport’s La Guardia-era Market Finally Recognized

south street seaport fulton fish market building

MAS is pleased to announce that our efforts to preserve the threatened historic resources of the South Street Seaport, namely the buildings of the Fulton Fish Market, have recently been rewarded. It remains unclear when (or even whether) the plan by developer General Growth Properties will proceed, but just last week we received word that, at our behest, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has agreed to list the New Market Building as a contributing element within the State and National Register Historic District.

Upon reviewing research we submitted, the SHPO concurred that the La Guardia-era New Market Building is a significant resource within the South Street Seaport and will now be afforded the same landmark protection as the rest of the district. Read our New Market Building report (pdf download).

The New Market Building is currently outside of the New York City historic district and although it has been included within the boundaries of the State and National Register Historic Districts since 1977, it was not considered a contributing element because at that time the building did not meet the 50-year age requirement.

The New Market Building was designed by architects Albert W. Lewis and John D. Churchill, the same design team responsible for other New York City public markets, including the Bronx Terminal Market and the Essex Street Market. It was planned at the urging of Fiorello La Guardia, who by the early 1930s had instituted a city-wide cleanliness and sanitation campaign for the city’s public markets. Among other pioneering technologies, the New Market Building boasted the ability to process and freeze the fresh fish brought to the Seaport each day. The new building was outfitted with “smell-proof partitions” and easy-to-clean surfaces that helped diminish the distinct aroma that had always afflicted the Fulton Fish Market. Utilitarian in form as well as function, the style of the building has been described as “Public Works Administration Moderne.” The modest building stands as a monument to the practicality, thrift and streamlined design of industrial buildings from the New Deal era. It was a source of great pride for Mayor La Guardia and for New York City consumers.

More than thirty years have passed since the South Street Seaport Historic District was listed on the National Register and we are delighted that the period of significance for the district will finally include the last home of the Fulton Fish Market. Since SHPO will likely review the Seaport redevelopment project, the contributing status could help mitigate the impact that the project may have on the New Market Building. When considering the ever-changing development pressures in this area, we hope that the integrity of the entire South Street Seaport Historic District is maintained and that all of its resources are protected.