The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Monday, December 30, 2013

"Loomings" Locations, part 1

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward.      - Chapter I, Loomings
We hear them in the opening minutes of every Moby-Dick Marathon—Corlears Hook, Coenties Slip, Whitehall. In one sentence, Melville mentions three well-known locations along New York's working waterfront. He also slips in a shout-out to his mother's family back in Albany, and names a spot that is tied to her family in a way even he may not have known about.

Corlears Hook
What I learned in my researches was a revelation to me—sawmills on the Hudson; north of Coenties Slip bowsprits run in over street traffic so you could touch the figureheads; the ship-chandlery shops north of Market Street (halfway between the Battery and Corlears Hook).
      - Melville Biography, An Inside Narrative; Hershel Parker; p.13
Check Google Maps—Market Street is still there, leading right down to the East River. The dockyards long gone (mostly), replaced by the FDR Drive.

Corlears Hook, 1841
According to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, "The Corlear family, 17th century Dutch landowners, controlled much of the property in this curving landmass." Jacobus von Corlaer (the original spelling) was the first Dutch owner of a "plantation" here (Wikipedia).

By Melville's time, the area had evolved into an isolated slum, frequented by seamen from the nearby waterfront, and prostitutes. Some sources claim that the term "hooker" derives from this neighborhood's name.

Today, Corlears Hook is memorialized by a small park.

View Larger Map
Corlears Hook Park, looking south toward the river

My next posts will look at the other locations mentioned in Loomings, Coenties Slip and Whitehall, and their (surprising) ties to Melville's family.

(Note: The full map of 1841 Manhattan can be found at this outstanding Boston Public Library site.)


  1. Here's one for thee: What's the correct pronunciation of "Coenties"?

    1. Native Dutch speakers I consulted say they would pronounce it "COO-oon-tees," even though it's not an actual Dutch word. Wikipedia reports four different pronunciations ( Given the derivation of the word, I'd plump for "COO-oon-chiz," but that's a matter for the following post! Dost thee have another source?

  2. Corlears Hook is also mentioned in Chap. 99, where Stubb fantasizes about what he would do with the doubloon.