Unexpected Discoveries: Bowne & Co. and the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse

This evening I took a jaunt down to Pearl Street and Water Street — coincidentally, both routes that mark previous water lines of Manhattan, though the island has now, of course, been extended several blocks farther outward.

I was searching for a spot on Pearl Street that marked a building I knew no longer existed, but had once stood on that spot. I was out of luck, it turned out; the remaining buildings didn’t even have Pearl Street addresses, officially sitting on its cross streets.

Right around where I had estimated that spot would be, though, I found something else interesting: an undated and untitled plaque.

“On this site, then 39 Queen Street, Robert Bowne, New York merchant, philanthropist, and educator, established Bowne & Co. in 1775. The company is New York’s oldest business concern operating under the same name since its founding. Robert Bowne helped to establish the city’s first free school, first bank, and first fire insurance company.”

The plaque commemorates the former site of Bowne & Co., New York’s”oldest business concern operating under the same name since its founding.” (No longer true, as it was acquired by R. R. Donnelley in 2010.) The plaque further directs one to the historic South Street Seaport area and 211 Water Street, where a restored Bowne & Co. stationery store operates part of the South Street Seaport Museum.

South Street Seaport
211 Water Street: Bowne & Co. Stationers

Along the way, I encountered another landmark that I’d probably walked by many times without recognizing what it was.

The RMS Titanic Memorial Lighthouse

The RMS Titanic Memorial Lighthouse was supposedly erected at the insistence of “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, one of the survivors of the Titanic‘s sinking. Relocated from its original location, it now sits at the corner of Pearl Street and Fulton Street, just down theĀ  block from Bowne & Co. and at the entrance to the South Street Seaport area.

The RMS Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, looking back towards downtown Manhattan

Do you stop and read the historic plaques you walk past?


Location: Memorial Lighthouse: corner of Fulton St and Pearl St; Bowne & Co. plaque: Pearl St between John St and Fulton St; reconstructed Bowne & Co.: 211 Water St
Nearest Subway: 2/3, 4/5, A/C, or J/Z to Fulton St.
Cost: Free!