Titanic Connections

The Titanic disaster has once again received worldwide attention as we mark the centennial of the event. The great ocean liner hit an iceberg in the late evening of April 14th, 1912 and sunk in the very early hours of April 15th. We thought we’d take a look at a few locations in our neighborhoods that have connections to passengers and crew of that ill-fated journey 100 years ago. GVSHP also held an event, “Titanic and the Village”, last month at the Jane Hotel, which was led by two Titanic historians. You can see photos on our Flickr page.

Rendering of American Seamen’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute (now the Jane Hotel). Source: Real Estate Record & Guide, July 13, 1907 via LPC Designation Report copy.

Jane Hotel before renovation in 2004, GVSHP survey

The most direct connection between the Titanic and our Village communities is the Jane Hotel at 507 West Street, which was originally known as the American Seamen’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute, built in 1907-08. (As a designated New York City Landmark you can read more about the building’s history on our Resources page).

The Carpathia, the ship that rescued Titanic’s surviving passengers and crew, arrived at Pier 54 off Little West 12th Street on April 18th, 1912. The ship’s crew had been sequestered on the Lapland of the Red Star Line, but on April 19th a prayer service was held for them in the assembly room of the Seamen’s Institute. Writes the New York Times, the “company of 100 were of the Titanic’s crew, and they had come from their sequestration on the Lapland to attend these services, and to receive aid and comfort from the never-failing friends of theirs, who make up the staff of the institute.” The crew was able to change into new outfits, eat and sing though some “were just a little bit at odds with the world, so little attention had they received since they reached this port.”

Another Titanic connection is the R.H. Macy & Co. Store, 14th Street Annex, which was just designated a New York City Landmark last May (read our related Off the Grid post). Rowland H. Macy founded Macy’s in 1858, but by 1896 brothers Nathan and Isidor Straus held sole proprietorship. Soon after, they commissioned the building at 56 West 14th Street, completed in 1897.

Isidor and his wife Ida booked a trip on the Titanic after visiting their native Germany. It is reported that Ida had the opportunity to board a lifeboat, but would not do so without her husband. The couple was last seen sitting on deck chairs before perishing at sea. If you’ve seen the 1997 movie, Titanic, you may remember this couple as the elderly pair lying in bed as their room slowly filled with water (an ending changed for dramatic purposes).

If you’d like to learn more about the history of this building, you can read the designation report here.

And one last indirect connection we’ll mention is the ship’s most famous and wealthiest passenger: John Jacob Astor IV of the prominent Astor family of New York. Astor and his wife Madeleine were returning from Europe, though only Madeleine, carrying their unborn son, survived. In 1912, the Astors lived at 840 Fifth Avenue, but in the 19th century John Jacob Astor I owned a house on Lafayette Street in the area now known as NoHo. Astor Place was named for John Jacob Astor I after his death in 1848, and stretched from Broadway to Third Avenue just south of East 8th Street. The Astor Library and the Astor Opera House were also buildings connected to one of New York’s most elite families.

Do you know of any Titanic connections in the Village that you’d like to share? We’d love to know!

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Amanda was GVSHP's Director of Preservation & Research from January 2012 to July 2015.