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Chaz Hutton
So here's my favourite little quirky thing in New York, which to me is a perfect embodiment of New York's attitude, and a direct result of New York's street grid, arguably two of the city's most famous aspects…
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
To get started we really have to go waaaay back. Here’s a map of the city back when it was still called New Amsterdam. You can see a few streets starting to form, including one next to a defensive wall (no points for guessing what that street is called)
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
So New Amsterdam became New York and the city continued to expand out. You can see a few grids appearing. The Delancey family had started making their own grid, but supported the crown during the revolution and so afterwards were exiled and their land given to New York.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
The city had been planning on laying out a grid for future development for years, and a few options had been suggested and put forward, but nothing had really stuck, here’s one that could have been called the The Mangin–Goerck Plan.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
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Eventually they put together a commission, consisting of these guys below. Doesn’t really matter who they are, but they had enough sway to really make this thing happen.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Next thing they did was get this hot-shot John Randel Jr. in to survey the land. He was only 20 at the time, and got busy trudging up the island surveying everything and occasionally being arrested for trespassing. Here he is posing and regretting the job he just took on.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Eventually they settled on a design for the street grid. Now called "The 1811 Commissioners plan" - it looked like this.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Few things to note: The avenues at the edges of the island were deliberately but closer together, the view being that there would be more development along the waterfront rather than in the interior - as such, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue were added in later...
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Also, there was initially no Central Park, which got added in a few decades later. Anyway, once they’d decided to do this, they sent Randle out with a team to mark out every intersection. Here's one of Randals 'farm maps' where he could work out where the grid would need to go.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Randel's team would mark out every intersection with a little marble post inscribed with the street numbers. Sometimes rocks made the erection of these markers impossible, so instead Randel and his team would blast a little hole in the rock, insert a metal bolt into the rock.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
One of these metal bolts had to be used for the intersection of 66th st and 6th avenue. It wouldn't be till much later that they allocated space for Central Park, and so the intersection was never made, which means... you guessed it: You can still find the original bolt.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Also, constructing the streets was pretty wild as well, whole hills were removed in order to get things level, and in a lot of cases, existing farm houses were left in some pretty awkward positions. Here’s the The Brennan farmhouse, at 84th and Broadway, in 1879 for instance.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
...and here's a rock still yet to be removed between 93rd and 94th Streets, on a Riverside Drive, as recently as 1903.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Anyway, what I really want to talk about is the points at which this new commissioners grid started intersecting with the older grids which were going in different directions...
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
As any New Yorker knows, when that happens, you start to get a lot of confusing little triangular blocks. The point at where Christopher Street, Grove Street, Washington Place, West 4th Street and 7th Avenue all crash into each other is one of those spots.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
This intersection wasn’t always so complicated. Prior to 1914, 7th Avenue stopped at Greenwich street, however at about this time it was decided to extend 7th Avenue down to Varick Street in order to extend the subway. The plan was to go from this...
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
If you have a look closely, you'll see a building called the Voorhis gets almost completely destroyed. The owner of the building, David Hess was, as you can imagine, PRETTY ANGRY about this plan and fought tooth and nail to get it overturned.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
Sadly, for David Hess and his building, he failed and within a year the tenants had been removed and the entire plot of land the building stood on was seized by the city... ...or more accurately, *almost* the entire plot.
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Chaz Hutton Jul 20
Replying to @chazhutton
You see, David Hess’s heirs, having studied the survey, later discovered that the city had missed a small corner of the property, a diminutive triangle about the size of a large pizza slice, had somehow managed to fall just outside of that ruthless 7th avenue cut-through...
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