A Guide to Former Street Names in Manhattan
Including also old roads, lanes, alleys, courts, terraces, parks, squares, wharves, piers, slips, markets and other named urban features that have been demapped, obliterated or renamed.
Compiled and annotated by Gilbert Tauber
Oldstreets.com will help you identify Manhattan locations mentioned in old books, articles and documents relating to New York City. It contains more than 1,600 old names of streets and other urban features that are no longer on the map.
In most cases these streets, etc. have been renamed; in other cases they have been truncated or disappeared entirely. Several names have migrated. For example, today's King Street is in the West Village, but prior to 1794 King Street was the name of what we now call Pine Street. Even more vexing, the same name has sometimes been used simultaneously for two different streets. Until the 1920s there was a Manhattan Street in Harlem and a Manhattan Street on the Lower East Side. Greenwich Village had two Cornelia Streets in the 1820s, and in the 1770s there were at least three George Streets.
About the Entries
If the same name has been used for two or more different streets (or other features) each will have separate entries, distinguished by a number in parentheses immediately after the name. If variant spellings of a name are close together alphabetically, they are combined in a single entry. Otherwise they are handled by cross references.
In addition to the name entries there are about two dozen generic entries. These provide additional information on, for example, a group of streets or a type of name.
Unless the entry is a simple cross reference, the next item after the name will be an abbreviation indicating approximately when the name was used. This is given in terms of centuries. For example, (M19-E20) means that name was found on maps, in directories or other sources from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. The entry may go on to provide some more specific information about when a name was officially adopted or changed. However, when it comes to street names, all dates should be taken with a grain of salt. A name may have been used for years before it was officially adopted, or for years after it was officially changed to something else.
"Official" and "Unofficial" Names
Many of the names listed in this Guide were never officially adopted at all. On the other hand, some streets that appeared on official maps for decades never existed on the ground. Both types can nevertheless be important to a researcher. For example, the vanished streets on the Kips Bay and Stuyvesant farms, though never officially adopted, are named in deeds and leases. Some of the numerous "places" and "terraces" of the 19th century—private names for parts of public streets—were widely accepted. They were listed in city directories; the post office apparently delivered mail to them; and they appear in census returns. Therefore, official adoption was not a criterion for inclusion.
In recent decades the City Council has "renamed" scores of single blocks, intersections, sidewalks, and even corners in Manhattan. In practice, nearly all of these are honorary designations. The underlying street names are still used and still appear on street signs. Such spot designations are not considered renamings for the purposes of this guide. Information on these City Council actions from the year 1990 on may be found on the Council's website: www.nyccouncil.info.
Our initial list of names was compiled from John J. Post's Old Streets (1882) and from the index to I.N. Phelps Stokes' The Iconography of Manhattan Island (6 vols. 1915-1928). Additional information on when and where a name was used was obtained mainly from Stokes' Chronology; from data on file in the Topographical Bureau of the Manhattan Borough President's Office; and from a survey of city directories and maps dating from 1639 to the present. Complete list of sources
Many people have aided my research for this website over the last three years. I would like particularly to acknowledge the help of Alice Hudson, Director of the Map Division of the New York Public Library; Jan Hilley and her colleagues at the New-York Historical Society Library; Madelyn Kent, Curator of the Durst Collection at the City University Graduate Center; Laura Engler of the Office of the Manhattan Borough President; and Paul C. Perkus and Christine Bruzzese of the Muncipal Reference and Research Center. My thanks also to Prof. Paul Melis of the Musikhochschule Köln for his help with questions about the Dutch language; and to David Chisholm of lonecrow.com for his technical expertise in constructing the website.
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