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Old 07-24-2013, 08:30 PM
Location: The Old Dominion
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Doing research recently on the origins of Greenwich Village, and came across this old map.

I know that Street #1 is Greenwich Street, which survives in roughly the same orientation.
(Obviously the shoreline was built out and revised over the years.)

It (naturally) connected the town of New York with the Village of Greenwich on the Hudson or North River. Even today many post roads are named after the towns they originally connected.

What I'm wondering is if Street #2 (which appears to have been the main street of Greenwich at the time (1766) is Christopher Street? Or some other?

And Street #3 might be part of what is now Hudson Street? The fields marked just to the left of the #3 might be where The Church of St. Luke in the Fields was constructed?

Can anyone read what it says on the road at #4? "Road to the" what?
Maybe this became Bleecker Street? Or Bedford?

Any help greatly appreciated.

The whole map btw:
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Old 07-24-2013, 09:11 PM
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#4 is "Road to the Obelisk" (with the 's' being a German-style one which looks like an 'f'); this was apparently the Major General Wolfe Obelisk, near the modern Eighth Ave and 14th street. That means #4 is Greenwich Avenue (then "Monument Lane"). It follows that #2 is where 14th street now is, and #3 would be likely Hudson Street.
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Old 07-25-2013, 11:28 AM
Location: Manhattan
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Remember, Robert Moses busted through the West Village to continue the Avenue grid, consequently some streets disappeared. It also explains some of the weird triangular buildings abutting 6th, 7th Avenue and Hudson Street.

That street marked #1 might have been eaten by the West Side Highway.

Remember too, this map is called PLAN of NYC Greenwich. What was actually planned to be built may have not.

If you want to see how this all evolved into what we have today, visit the Museum of the City of New York (103rd and Fifth Ave.) The map room is fascinating and IMMENSE. I'm going back soon ALONE so I cannot be dragged away from the maps.
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Old 07-25-2013, 06:25 PM
Location: The Old Dominion
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Thanks for your responses. Researching the James Wolfe Monument was informative and captivating!
Surprised I hadn't come across it before. Now FWIW:

Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York - New York (State). Legislature. Assembly

says that the monument stood at "about the intersection of present-day 8th Ave & 14th St"

So... north of the street depicted as #2 in the OP, which at any rate seems to have a different orientation than present-day 14th street as it is nearly perpendicular to the Hudson (as might be expected of an original path) and of course (FWIW) 14th St is part of the 1811 Commissioner's Plan and generally irrelevant to Greenwich Village. (This is not to say that 14th St could not have been superimposed upon Street #2--such superimposition did happen in several other places.)

Still it seems possible if not likely that Street #2 is then Gansevoort, Horatio or Jane, or some other original Greenwich street similarly perpendicular to the river. I note that an older name for Gansevoort is "Great Kill Road" as seen on this 1850 map of the Village:


"This was once one of the main country roads of the west side of Manhattan before the overall street grid was adopted. As Southampton Road it extended from about where 8th Avenue and 21st Street would eventually be southwest to the Hudson River. The portion west of Greenwich Lane was named for a large kiln in the area, and eventually the spelling was corrupted to Great Kills Road. What’s there now? Gansevoort Street. The name change recalls a Revolutionary hero colonel."

"In 'Greenwich Village and How It Got That Way' Terry Miller gives an earlier date: in 1696 a Dutch settler named Yellis, or Giles, Mandeville named a pasture near his settlement at today’s Gansevoort Street after a town near where he had lived — in Breukelen — called Greenwich, or Dutch Grenwyck."

GREENWICH AVENUE | | Forgotten New York
However! This same source says:

"Christopher Street is the oldest east-west street in the Village, and was trafficked (as Skinner Road) as early as the late 1700s." [and credits Terry Miller (ibid) for the information]

GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan | | Forgotten New York
More generally:
The original Greenwich Village was a Canarsee Indian fishing village called Seppanikan (some accounts spell it Sapokanican), centered around a stream they called Manetta (which meant ‘devil water’. Later it became Minetta Brook; Minetta Street is located over the brook today). The site was later occupied by the Dutch, under whose governor Wouter Van Twiller, made it mainly a tobacco plantation. When Manhattan Island was taken over by the British, they called it Greenwich, possibly for the London suburb which is the starting point for the world’s longitude.

When NYC adopted a rigid grid plan for its streets in 1811, Greenwich Village was allowed to maintain its rather confusing street pattern–largely because it had been isolated from the rest of the city by a yellow fever and cholera epidemic in the early 1800s! The street pattern of the Village is largely the same as it was in the late 1700s-early 1800s with crooked cart paths better suited for foot traffic than automobiles. Greenwich Street meanders to the northeast and northwest because it was originally the westernmost street and followed the Hudson riverbank. West of Greenwich, the streets are built on landfill.

BTW, the avenues (7th and 6th) were torn through the Village in 1915-18 and 1928-29 to facilitate construction of the West Side IRT and IND subway lines, respectively. A bit before Robert Moses's rise to power? Granted the wholesale demolition of neighborhoods is very characteristic of his megaplans though. Does anyone have a cite for his possible involvement in these?

I guess they didn't have efficient tunnel-boring machines back then so they just dynamited everyone's houses and left gaping holes in the urban fabric which, nearly a century later, still fester. Small consolation to realize that such colossal vandalism wouldn't happen today. I hope.
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Old 07-26-2013, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Kefir King View Post
Remember, Robert Moses busted through the West Village to continue the Avenue grid, consequently some streets disappeared. It also explains some of the weird triangular buildings abutting 6th, 7th Avenue and Hudson Street.

That street marked #1 might have been eaten by the West Side Highway.
No, it's probably Greenwich Street; the West Side Highway is built on fill.

I'm seeing some conflicting info here. The map shows the name "Mandeville" just above #2, which might indicate #2 is the border of Greenwich and thus that #2 is roughly where 14th street is. However, it also shows a place called Mortier's which is near modern Varick and Charleston, much further south. Also, just south of #2 is a notation "W. Bayard". This would point to it being Gansevoort street, as the only Bayard in the area was between modern Jane and Horatio. So, probably it's Gansevoort, and either Mortier's is in the wrong place, or I have the wrong info on where Mortier's was.

Historical NYC Maps & Atlases | The New York Public Library
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Old 07-27-2013, 03:00 AM
Location: The Old Dominion
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The old farm boundaries in the area definitely support the notion of Great Kills being the street.

The Commissioner's Plan in this area disrupted virtually nothing in the area of West 14th Street.
Indicating that there were few or no subdivisions already in place there or even along that axis.

What's interesting to me is that Great Kill(s) Road and Greenwich Lane served as the northerly bounds to the Village of Greenwich--nearly all of the village development occurred to the south of those two streets. (Note the location of Bayard's property.)

Why does this even matter? Mainly because I was trying to establish the most original parts of the Village, and naturally assumed that Christopher Street (or some nearby street) would be central since it's reasonable to assume development radiating out from a center. But all of this evidence points toward Great Kills Road being primary, with subsequent development occurring southward, toward New York.

I think it's fair to conclude that the original 'center of town' of Greenwich was at the corner of Greenwich Street and Great Kills (Gansevoort). (Before there was really a town, though!) However I could be wrong, and am certainly open to argument. Mortier's on the plan refers to Richmond Hill (Mortier's country homestead)? It's worth remembering also that these maps are hardly drawn accurately by modern standards. Certainly if what's called Mortier's on this plan refers to Richmond Hill, then it's mislocated.

Now, on to the next century.

This image (above) is especially valuable. It shows the extent of built-up area in 1833, two decades after the Commissioners' Plan was laid out. Most significantly, the area along Greenwich Avenue (Lane) is only built up along the Avenue itself, not further north/east along the Commissioners' grid. Something simliar applies along Great Kills.

This is noteworthy because it proves that the gridded streets (even below 14th St) are not and were never part of Greenwich Village (though they are in the popular imagination, and some were included in the original Historic District designation).

Clearly, as the Village developed, its center moved south a bit toward Christopher.

Note that Bernhard & Burr still have the Village located hard up against the Hudson.

What I'd really like to find now is a plan of Greenwich Village streets around 1800.
So far I have only the 'well before' and 'after' the Commissioners went to work.
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Old 07-27-2013, 06:11 PM
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There's an 1803 map (Goerck and Magnin), but no hi-res version of it on line. A trip to the library might get you a look at it.

As for the gridded streets below Gansevoort, some of them are just renamed; Amos Street (on your map) became part of 10th street. Hammond became part of 11th, Troy became part of 12th, and 13th is the first "new" street (north of Gansevoort). The oddity called "West Fourth" was once "Asylum Street". The avenues, on the other hand, were cut through when the subways beneath them were put in. This site has some info on that, or you can just match up streets in your maps:


(the site says Sixth was cut through with the A/C/E, but I assume they mean Eighth)

Last edited by nybbler; 07-27-2013 at 06:29 PM..
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Old 07-27-2013, 07:50 PM
Location: The Old Dominion
774 posts, read 1,357,799 times
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Yep, I definitely misspoke when I said "gridded streets" because I really meant only those streets which were part of the Commissioner's Plan of 1811. (Hence only the Cartesian layout of numbered streets and avenues to the east and north of the Village.) Sorry about that--I realized after I typed it that it wasn't clear. Obviously the Village has its own (older) grids and they are fascinating.

Thanks for the reference to the 1803 map of Goerck & Magnin. Will keep an eye out for that (Do you mean this one?).

I like how this 1803 image shows the Village in mid-development. It's what I was looking for; however the map only extends partway through Greenwich, and some of the streets to the east are clearly planned/conjectural. It's odd how big the gap is in available graphic information in this period. Also see:

There is also this super-high-res map of 1807 showing "recent and intended improvements"--whose image I'm not linking directly since it's a big file.

Aww heck, it's so cool (and relevant) that I made a graphic excerpt:

It's so amazing to me... I feel as though I'm watching the Village of Greenwich grow right before my eyes

Meanwhile, you're quite right to point out that street nomenclature is a minor intrusion in the Village in comparison to the two avenues being blasted through for subway construction. On a lark I routed the West Side IRT through the Village without destroying a single building:

Down Seventh Ave to Greenwich Ave to Sixth Ave to Carmine St to Varick St!
No destruction of the urban fabric required! #alt.history.what-if

One small problem with this plan: The IRT Co. also happened to own the Sixth Ave El which was still in place at the time. So for that short segment on Sixth Ave there would have been a conflict (although there's nothing to say you can't have a subway and an el on the same street, I doubt IRT shareholders would see the benefit).

Nonetheless, since the IRT wasn't publicly-owned until 1940 it's amazing to me that they were permitted this colossal act of urban destruction called Seventh Avenue South. As I mentioned upthread, the scars have hardly begun to heal 100 years later. IMO the streets & buildings should be put back where they were, as nearly as possible. Probably won't happen
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