Broadway - Antique Images


The famous Broadway is a street in Manhattan, specially the part that houses several theaters. Broadway is a historic road in the City of New York that runs from State Street, in Manhattan, to Westchester County. It is the oldest south-north main thoroughfare in the City. Broadway is also a metonym for the theatrical activity in the City of New York. There are also other streets named Broadway the City: in Queens and in Brooklyn.

At the time of the Dutch rule, in the 17th century, Broadway was known as Heeren Strast ("Gentlemen's Street") and Bowling Green, where Broadway begins, was the most popular part of New Amsterdam. On the site of today's number one Broadway (occupied by Washington Building) stood a tavern kept by Pieter Kocks, an officer of the Dutch service.

After the English took over the City, they changed the name to Broad Way and it extended north to present-day Vesey Street. Fort Amsterdam, at the foot of Broadway, was renamed Fort James.

Before 1750, Broadway did not extend to the north beyond present-day Vesey Street (see a map). After that, there were the road to Anthony Rutger’s Farm, where Ranelagh Gardens was established in 1765. After 1750, Trinity Church laid out streets through a portion of the Church Farm, located from the west side of (now) Broadway to the riverfront, until about Chambers Street. Then the Church leased lots on this area and houses were built.

In June 1760, a plan of road from about present Ann Street (then Spring Garden House) to Astor Place (then Widow Rutgers) was delivered by Francis Maerschalck to the Common Council. It was an extension of Broadway of the time, but it was named later the Great George Street. The first part was constructed before 1767, until about present Duane Street, but many people called it "Broadway". The name Great George Street appeared in the Plan of McComb and Tiebout (1789), north of present-day City Hall Park. In 1794, Great George Street became Broadway.

In September, 1776, many building on the west side of Broadway, between Bowling Green and Vesey Street, were burned down during the Great Fire. The old temples of Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel were destroyed.

Broadway was first paved, about 1666, in the middle of the street with pebble stones. By 1790, it was paved from the Bowling Green to Vesey Street. The sidewalks were not paved. In May 1793, the Common Council ratified assessments for the paving of Great George Street from Vesey Street to Murray Street. Asphalt pavement was laid down in 1900.

Several of the early skyscrapers in NYC were built along Broadway in the last decades of the 19th century, when it became known as the Great White Way.

In the early 20th century, the name Broadway became associated with its famous theaters, reaching an all-time high of 80 and 280 new productions in the 1920s.

More: Broadway in the 19th Century



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Vintage postcard showing Broadway with City Hall Park in the foreground and the Post Office Building on the left (copyright 1908 by Detroit Publishing Co. / source: New York Public Library).


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More: Broadway in the 19th Century


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Copyright © Geographic Guide - Antique photographs of NYC.


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