Did you ever wonder after whom Bleecker Street or Abingdon Square were named? Is Union Square named so after Civil War soldiers? Was there a spring running down Spring Street? New York’s history can be gleaned from the history of its street names as outlined in Henry Moscow’s The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins, one of several books available about the namesakes of our city’s streets.
Here are excerpts from a few of many interesting ones:
The Namesake: Charlotte Warren, a pre-Revolutionary War Greenwich Village belle, who became the bride of the Earl of Abingdon. Here father was Admiral Sir Peter Warren, a naval hero and New York social lion, and her mother was the beautiful and wealthy Susannah de Lancey. (page 20)
The Namesake: Peter Stuyvesant’s farm, bouwerij, to which the road led from the more settled parts of New Amsterdam, The farm’s main house stood between 15th and 16th streets, just east of First Avenue. (page 29)
The Namesake: Anthony Bleecker, an early 19th-century Greenwich Village literatus. The street, the land for which was deeded to the city in 1807, already ran through the Bleecker family farm. … Bleecker was a friend of Washington Irving and William Cullen Bryant. His prose poetry appeared in a variety of periodicals during some thirty years, and Bryant once reported that Eliza Fenno had left town in 1811 simply to get away from Bleecker’s puns. (page 29)
The Namesake: William Bedlow Crosby, early 19th-century philanthropist. When both of his parents died two years after his birth in 1786, Crosby was adopted by his mother’s uncle, Henry Rutgers. Crosby inherited the Crosby wealth and devoted his life to good works. (page 42)
The Namesake: James Rivington, publisher of the pro-British newspaper Royal Gazette in New York during the Revolutionary War. …Because the paper printed both sides of every poitical issue, an unprecedented practive, its plant was wrecked by patriot extremists and put out of business. Under British occupation of the city, Rivington resumed publication, and supported the King. Rivington Street was named for him during thewar. The street name was retained and Rivington himself was allowed to stay after British evacuation because he publicly repented his Tory sympathies and because, it was said, he had secretly aided Washington’s spies in the city.
The Namesake: a spring that originated there, at West Broadway, and once served as a source of water for residents. (page 96)
The Namesake: the junction of many roads and streets there. The square was named Union Place in 1808, when the commissioners who were laying out the city onthe grid plan decreed that the area should remain open. It was renamed Union Square in 1832. (page 102)
This and other books about New York street names:
Feirstein, Sanna. Naming New York: Manhattan Places & How They Got Their Names. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
McNamara, John. History in Asphalt: The Origin of Bronx Street and Place Names, Borough of the Bronx, New York City. Harrison, N.Y: Published in collaboration with the Bronx County Historical Society [by] Harbor Hill Books, 1978.
Moscow, Henry, and Thomas Tracy. The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan’s Street Names and Their Origins. New York, N.Y: Fordham University Press, 1978.
Rogerson, Don. Manhattan Street Names Past and Present. New York: Griffin Rose Press, 2013.
Ulmann, Albert. A Landmark History of New York: Also the Origin of Street Names and a Bibliography. New York: D. Appleton and Co, 1906.