A different New York

Published on Tuesday 29 November 2011

When we think of New York, we often think of Times Square, with all of its billboards, of the Broadway musicals or the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that you can visit a different New York, if you pay a little attention? Many buildings and mythic locations hold small pieces of history that forged the city we know today.

You can follow this blog post interactively by clicking this link, which takes you to a map of the city where you can see all of the places bolded below.

Many things have happened since the the establishment of New Amsterdam by a Durch colony, in the 17th century. In 1626, Peter Minuit, the director of the Dutch East India Company, bought Manatthan from the Indians in exchange of a few items valued at about 24 dollars (!). In 1664, the British took possession of the city and renamed it New York in honour of the Duke of York, the King's brother. The name Amsterdam stayed, giving its name to Amsterdam Avenue and being engraved on the Manhattan Municipal Building built in 1926.
Not much is left from that time, but some exemples of colonial architecture remain close to the Brooklyn Bridge, south of Peal Street, lost among the sky scrappers. The name of this street comes from the dutch "Parelstraat" and is named because of all the oysters found in the river at the time. Hard to believe today! The first electric power station, created by Thomas Edison in 1882, was located on Peal Street and was aptly named Pearl Street Station. The building, located at 255, Pearl Street was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1890. Today, a parking lot is situated there...

After the construction of the Eerie Canal in 1825, the interior of the state of New York started to develop economically. There were successive waves of immigration and New York became the country's most populated city. On January 1st, 1898, 40 municipalities joined Manatthan and the Bronx and the city bame the first megalopolis: New York City.


Skyscrapers are now the norm in New York, but the race for the highest building started a long time ago...

Many consider the Flatiron Building, which was finished in 1902, the first skyscraper in New York. The building has 22 floors and is known for its particular shape: because it is at the corner of three streets (23rd Sreet, 5th Avenue and Broadway), it has a shape that ressembles a flatiron. Many pretend that the shape of the building causes drafts (flatiron breezes) that lift up the skirts of girls walking along 23rd Street. I leave it up to you to see if it is true...!

The Woolworth Building, 57 storeys high and situated at 233, Broadway, was the world's highest building from 1913 to 1930. It has been listed as an historic monument since 1966. The architect that built it, Cass Gilbert, also drew the Thurgood Mashall United States Courthouse, a 180-metre skyscraper built from 1933 to 1936.

Construction on the Chrysler Building, 77 storeys high, was finished in 1930 and the building became the highest in New York. It is situated between 42nd and Lexington Avenue. As its name indicates, it was originally built for the Chrysler automobile company.

The Empire State Building, situated between 35th Street and 5th Avenue was inaugurated in 1931 and is more than 400 meters high. It is still the highest building in Manatthan today (title it got back after 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers). At the top of the building is an observatory, which gives one of the best views of the city (although many say that the view is better (and the wait, shorter!) at the Top of the Rock, at Rockefeller Center.)


Three streets known by all who visit New York, but did you know that certain historic secrets still remain?

The importance of 5th Avenue is supposedly linked to the arrival, in 1862, of Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, a New York socialite, at the south-east corner of 34th Sreet. Her house was the scene of many great receptions. In 1893, the Astors tore down their house and replaced it with the Astoria Hotel, which then merged with a neighbouring hotel to form the original Waldorf-Astoria (not to confuse with the hotel of the same name still open today, which is not situated at the same place) which signified the beginning of the commerical axe of 5th Avenue. In 1929, the building was destroyed and replaced by the Empire State Building.

There are two reasons behind the name of Wall Sreet. The name "Wall Street" originally comes from "Waal Straat", or Walloon Street, because an important Walloon group participated in the creation of New Amsterdam, and etymologically, in Dutch, a Walloon is "Waal." Afterwards, when the Dutch and Indians fought in 1653, a protective wall was built on what is now Wall Street. The name was therefore reused.

In 1811, the Common Council decided to give the city a grid plan. Only Broadway, which was previously an Indian trail leading to the suburb of Yonkers, is an exception to the rule, because the street runs through the city diagonally.

Blogger : Béatrice B.Poulin

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Blog: A different New York

When we think of New York, we often think of Times Square, with all of its billboards, of the Broadway musicals or the Statue of Liberty. Did you know that you can visit a different New York, if you pay a little attention? Many buildings (...)