Tag Archives: Manhattan Street Grid

All New York City Streets Are Not Created Equal

The Distances Between Streets & Avenues – Things You Probably Didn’t Know

If you are traveling at the same pace, regardless of the avenue, it is faster to walk between 6th and 7th Streets than walking from 13th to 14th Streets. Why? Because the block between 6th and 7th is only 181 feet, 9 inches while the block between 13th and 14th is 206 feet, 6 inches.

Anyone walking around Manhattan is sure to notice that street distances between blocks and avenues vary widely. But few know that the block lengths can vary by several feet.

When the grid plan for Manhattan’s streets were laid out, you’d think that the streets would be equidistant. They are not.

Maybe this is the sort of thing that almost no one would care about, but living up to this web site’s name, I found this chart very interesting. It is from the New York Bureau of Buildings in the 1892 edition of The World Almanac.

1892 World Almanac (click to enlarge)

As you see, the chart lists the distances between the avenues, the width of the avenues and streets and the length of blocks north of Houston Street.

There are a few interesting things to note. One is how far Avenues A, B, C and D extended northward in 1892. Avenue A was later renamed Sutton Place north from 53rd Street and York Avenue north from 59th Street. Avenue B was renamed East End Avenue from 79th to 90th Street. Many portions of Avenue A, B, C and D were never completed (the landfill required to extend them was never done), or wiped out with map changes and construction in the 20th century (e.g. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive). Regardless, the almanac still lists the proposed dimensions for the phantom avenues via the Bureau of Buildings.

The other thing to note is that the main cross streets of 14th, 23rd, 34th etc. are all the same: 100 feet wide as compared to the other streets which are all 60 feet wide.

I have used the modern names of avenues in parentheses. Below are some highlights of the chart.

Avenues in Manhattan are 100 feet wide with some notable exceptions:

Lexington Avenue – 75 feet

Boulevard (Broadway) above 59th Street – 150 feet

Madison Avenue South of 42nd Street – 75 feet

Madison Avenue North of 42nd Street – 80 feet

Madison Avenue From 120th to 124th Streets – 100 feet Continue reading

Permanent Street Signs in New York

Looking Above Street Level

There is nothing extraordinary about 1113 First Avenue, the building at the northwest corner of 61st Street and First Avenue. A late 19th century five story walk-up building with a restaurant at ground level. But if you look up to the corner between the second and third floors you will see the street name etched in stone and attached to the building, circled in red in the photo above.

The rectilinear street grid layout imposed upon Manhattan at the beginning of the nineteenth century assured the builder of this building that it would be located at 61st street and First Avenue seemingly forever.

Before the twentieth century street signs were not at every corner. There were in fact few street signs in New York and they were usually at major intersections or the nicer parts of town.  Continue reading