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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.

ALLENafter War of 1812 hero Captain William Henry Allen

ANNnamed 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

BARCLAYReverend Henry Barclay was the second rector of Trinity Church

BARROW–  artist Thomas Barrow was known for his portraits of Trinity Church

BAXTERoriginally called Orange Street, renamed for Mexican War hero Colonel Charles Baxter

BAYARDNicholas Bayard was mayor of NY in 1686

BENSONEgbert 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

CARMINEfor  Trinity Church vestryman Nicolas Carman (sic)

CATHERINE the wife of land owner Henry Rutgers

CHARLES ––named for landowner Charles Christopher Amos

CHARLTONDr. John Charlton, an English-born surgeon, became president of the N.Y. Medical Society

CHRISTOPHERalso 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

CLINTONGeorge Clinton, was a Revolutionary War hero and the first governor of New York State

CORNELIA a beloved granddaughter of landowner Robert Herring

CROSBYnamed for William Bedlow Crosby, who inherited much of the Lower East Side

DELANCEYnamed after James De Lancey, Sr, whose farm was located in what is now the LES

DUANEJames Duane was an early mayor of the city

ELDRIDGEnamed for a Lieutenant killed in the War of 1812

ELIZABETHunknown

ESSEXnamed for the English county (as were nearby Norfolk and Suffolk Streets)

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Guest blogger JILL BARNETT and her companion Marvin track down some fascinating colonial names during her childhood trip to Boston and environs.

When it came to looks and style, Marvin had it all. Decked out in saddle shoes, mustard yellow corduroy pants, and a maroon V-neck sweater, he had a commanding presence, and owned any room he entered. A creature of few words, Marvin was a cartoon connoisseur who also enjoyed more serious fare like Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons. An avid athlete, Marvin delighted in playing Frisbee, and never flinched, even when the plastic disc was speeding directly toward his forehead. Granted, to most, Marvin was only a three-foot-tall stuffed monkey with Velcro hands, but to me, he was my silent partner in crime and constant companion throughout my childhood. He was the Sonny to my Cher.

While Marv and I shared many adventures, from the time we earned a whole dollar selling warm lemonade to parched pedestrians, to the summer during which he accompanied me to overnight camp (because taking a giant saddle shoe-wearing stuffed monkey to camp is totally cool), our best times were definitely had together on family vacations.

When Marvin and I were in first grade, my parents took us, along with my older brother, on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, where I quickly developed a love of American History. I adored the architecture and historical sites (never mind that I thought Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables was actually “The House of Seven Gay Bulls”), and Marv and I enjoyed wearing Minutemen hats while walking on the Freedom Trail and visiting Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

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