Cortlandt Street Ferry Depot was the main ferry terminal of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the West Shore Railroad on the North River (Hudson River) in lower Manhattan. The railroads operated ferries to their terminal stations on the Hudson River waterfront in New Jersey at Exchange Place and Weehawken, respectively.
As early as July 1764:243-246 a ferry began operating from Paulus Hook to Mesier's dock which was located at the foot of Courtland Street (where Cortlandt Street Ferry Depot would be built).:64 Almost immediately and for several decades subsequently, a complicated series of legal battles broke out over who should operate the ferries, where the crossing(s) should be located and at what rate passengers and other cargo should be charged for the journey.:243-250
The first steam ferry service in the world began in 1812 between Paulus Hook and Manhattan and reduced the journey time to a then remarkable 14 minutes.:250 With the arrival of the railroad station at Paulus Hook in 1834 and the arrival of the Morris and Essex Railroad service on October 14, 1836:64 the number of passengers and the value of the Jersey City Ferry continued to increase.