Pier A Gets an A

IMG_5301THE LAST SURVIVING HISTORIC PIER IN NEW YORK CITY, Pier A at Battery Park in lower Manhattan, was ripe for adaptive re-use. Built in the 1880s, with a clock tower added in 1919 as a World War I memorial, it was used by the city as a fireboat station, then abandoned in 1992. Whereupon it sat vacant for more than two decades, and — though landmarked and on the National Register of Historic Places — fell into disrepair.

Happily, after a long renovation, it’s been reborn as a 28,000-square-foot oyster bar and beer hall, Pier A Harbor House, owned by Peter Poulakakos, who owns 10 other restaurants in downtown Manhattan, including three on Stone Street.

With a gazillion-dollar view of the Harbor, including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, perfectly poised to catch the sunsets over New York Harbor, Pier A is an obvious place to bring out-of-town visitors. But it’s also a great spot for locals, with beautifully executed interiors, as my sister and I found out last Sunday. It was fairly quiet on a foggy winter’s day, a month after opening, but seats thousands, including 400 outside, and I can picture next summer’s mob scene. Only the lower level is open at present; the upper level will be a fine-dining restaurant and special-events space.


As I looked around Battery Park and into the Financial District, below, I was heartened to realize the area has actually retained a fair number of old limestone and brick office buildings. It’s not all glass towers yet (or perhaps they were lost in the fog). It seemed like it would be recognizable as lower Manhattan to someone disembarking from a ship here in 1945.


We walked up toward Fulton Street to see Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s $4-billion new PATH and subway station at the World Trade Center site. The comb-like roof structure, below, doesn’t look as graceful as the renderings the architect presented a decade ago.


Inside, an impressive oculus, below, will illuminate an indoor shopping mall.


I find myself more excited by the spiffing up of a 19th historic pier than by the madly un-contextual 21st century design of the train station, but I’ll reserve judgement. Over-budget and behind schedule, it’s still incomplete.

Pre-Civil War 4BR in Silvermine, Connecticut 622K

IMG_1473THIS HISTORIC house on the Silvermine River in an area of Norwalk, CT, long known for its eclectic population of artists, writers, inventors, and others, is on the market because its owner, a self-described “Connecticut Yankee,” has decided on a lifestyle change and is downsizing to a bungalow in Savannah.

The house, she writes, “dates back to 1789 or 1844, depending on the researcher.” That’s quite a spread, but anyway, it’s at least 167 years old.

The Silvermine area, one hour by train from NYC, is on the National Register of Historic Places. This 4BR, 3.5 bath house is set on a bend in the river, with an extension spanning the entire rear of the house providing a river view in all seasons. The lot measures 1.14 acres.

The house used to be called “the Civil War families house,” because the wives and children  of soldiers stayed together for support in that house until their men returned.



Character and charm are a given. The post-and-beam house has separate sitting and dining rooms, and original “pumpkin” pine wide plank floors and antique hearth in the living room.


The rear extension, remodeled with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river and surrounding woodland, has a tree-house feel.




The kitchen, with custom cabinetry and high-end appliances, was redesigned by the current owner in 2007. There’s 600 square feet of living space downstairs, with a second fireplace, that can double as an in-law or guest suite, with its own kitchenette, laundry and full bath.


Add to that two finished attic rooms, and a landscaped patio fashioned after the hidden gardens of Charleston and Savannah.


The full realtor’s listing, with lots more pictures and information, is here.