Monday, July 21, 2008

South Street Seaport in perpective

I recently read in Mark Pendergrast's hefty tome Uncommon Grounds that the coffee merchants of early New York were based on South Street. This makes perfect sense, although I don't think it would have occurred to me without the aid of this book.

It's true that while I lived at South Street Seaport I didn't fully appreciate all the history embodied in that worthy preservation district. The major dots I failed to connect were the fact of New York being one of the world's great port cities, and South Street serving as the city's principle commercial port for the early centuries of its history, centuries that not by coincidence were the glory days of maritime trade.

So while I was busy re-heating old coffee in my apartment, I was oblivious of the fact that many tons of burlap sacks full of beans were likely shipped up from the tropics and heaved within a mile of where I was standing. And when I was annoyed that the fish merchants made mercantile noises all night, I failed to fully honor the fact that they were there first -- that is, by a few centuries.


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