In the course of leading a basically bicoastal life, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time walking and driving the streets of both New York and L.A. And I have to say, as rhythmic and melodious as so many of the California names are– e.g. Alameda, Amanita, Mariposa, Morella– for native New Yorker me there’s nothing like the solid, straight-forward, usable street names of downtown Manhattan, from Greenwich Village to the Wall Street area, names resonant with references to early American history.
The names of these meandering streets, lanes and alleys were subject to shifting trends. Many British names were changed after the Revolutionary War, for example, and for a time fashion dictated that streets named for local property owners would carry the first names only. Leaders in the War of 1812 provided a goodly share of names, as did figures connected to Trinity Church.
Here are Lower Manhattan street names with their historical roots–any of which would make a possible namesake.
ALLEN — after War of 1812 hero Captain William Henry Allen
ANN – named for either a member of the Beekman clan or the wife of Captain William Henry Allen
ASTOR –named for John Jacob Astor, “the richest man in America”
BARCLAY – Reverend Henry Barclay was the second rector of Trinity Church
BARROW— artist Thomas Barrow was known for his portraits of Trinity Church
BAXTER—originally called Orange Street, renamed for Mexican War hero Colonel Charles Baxter
BAYARD –Nicholas Bayard was mayor of NY in 1686
BENSON — Egbert Benson was New York’s first Attorney General
BETHUNE—named for philanthropist Johanna Graham Bethune
BLEECKER—the street ran through the farm of Anthony L. Bleecker
CARMINE—for Trinity Church vestryman Nicolas Carman (sic)
CATHERINE – the wife of land owner Henry Rutgers
CHARLES ––named for landowner Charles Christopher Amos
CHARLTON — Dr. John Charlton, an English-born surgeon, became president of the N.Y. Medical Society
CHRISTOPHER—also named for Charles Christopher Amos, a local landowner
CHRYSTIE – named for Lt.-Col. John Christie (sic), killed in the War of 1812
CLARKSON – Revolutionary War hero Matthew Clarkson
CLINTON— George Clinton, was a Revolutionary War hero and the first governor of New York State
CORNELIA – a beloved granddaughter of landowner Robert Herring
CROSBY – named for William Bedlow Crosby, who inherited much of the Lower East Side
DELANCEY – named after James De Lancey, Sr, whose farm was located in what is now the LES
DUANE –James Duane was an early mayor of the city
ELDRIDGE –named for a Lieutenant killed in the War of 1812
ELIZABETH — unknown
ESSEX – named for the English county (as were nearby Norfolk and Suffolk Streets)
FORSYTH—named in 1817 for Lt. Col. Benjamin Forsyth
FRANKLIN –formerly Sugarloaf Street, it was renamed in 1816 to honor Benjamin Franklin
FULTON—Robert Fulton , inventor of the steamship
GREENE— Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene
HARRISON—named after local brewery owner George Harrison
HENRY – named for Colonel Henry Rutgers, a member of the New York State legislature, among other accomplishments
HESTER—Hester Rynders was the daughter of disgraced governor Jacob Leisler
HORATIO – Revolutionary General Horatio Gates
HOUSTON – named for delegate to the Continental Congress William Houstoun (original spelling)
HOWARD – Henry Howard headed the NYC volunteer fire department in the 19th century
HUDSON – named after Henry Hudson
JACKSON—Jackson Square named after President Andrew Jackson
JANE –originally owned by the Jaynes family; spelling changed when the areas was owned and developed by Jane Gahn
JAY – probably named for Founding Father John Jay
JOHN – named for a 17th century shoemaker, John Harpendingh in an area then known as “Shoemakers’ Pasture.”
KENMARE—a (probably orrupt) Lower East Side politician known as Big Tim Sullivan named this street after his mother’s Irish birthplace.
LEROY— Jacob Leroy, alderman and business man
LUDLOW – another War of 1812 hero, this one a Lieutenant killed in a naval battle
MACDOUGAL –Revolutionary Commander Alexander McDougal
MERCER – Hugh Mercer, an officer killed in the Revolutionary War
MILLIGAN – once the property of Samuel Milligan
MINETTA – named after Minetta Brook, whose course it followed
MOORE—before landfill changed the shape of Manhattan, Moore Street was the where ships were moored.
MORTON—prominent lawyer Jacob Morton
MURRAY – Joseph Murray, a pre-Revolutionary War lawyer
PATCHIN – named for surveyor Aaron Patchin
PEARL – Running along what was once the bank of the East River, named for the abundant oyster shells that washed ashore.
PERRY – named first for landowner Henry Ogden Perry, later namesake was Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, War of 1812 naval hero
READE—named for the 18th century warden of Trinity Church, John Reade.
SHERIDAN Square— Civil War hero General Philip Sheridan
STANTON—named for George Stanton, an agent for the de Lancey family
SULLIVAN— Revolutionary War hero Brigadier General John Sullivan
THOMAS – named for a son of Anthony Lispenard, a merchant and landowner
THOMPSON – a memorial to Revolutionary War Brigadier General William Thompson
VARICK –named in 1799 for then mayor Richard Varick
VESEY – the Reverend William Vesey was the first rector of Trinity Church
VESTRY—named for the vestry of Trinity Church
WALKER – Benjamin Walker was a Revolutionary War captain and congressman
WARREN –named for Admiral Sir Peter Warren
WAVERLY – named for Sir Walter Scott’s popular novel Waverly
WILLIAM – possibly named for John Jacob Astor’s son
And for an extra dose of trivia, here are some earlier names of Lower Manhattan streets—or parts of them– that got lost to history:
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