Bond Street & 64th Street, Southwest Corner

Monday, April 19, 2010

The northernmost corner

Originally posted April 14, 2010

Surely (?) everyone knows that Ninth Avenue crosses Broadway between West 64th and West 65th Streets, just across from Lincoln Center. Actually it's called Columbus Avenue above 59th Street, and has been since 1890, when it was renamed in anticipation of the coming 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of America.

No doubt — though I can't say I actually know — this was a developers move to add some class to an emerging neighborhood, just as later on part of the Lower East Side became the "East Village" and Hell's Kitchen became "Clinton."

I digress, but let me follow Sterne's example and add a digression upon the digression — and yet another one on top of that: you know his wonderful line in Tristram Shandy:
Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine …
but now backing up one step, the newly rechristened Columbus Avenue extended all the way up to 122nd Street, until the section above 110th Street was subsequently renamed Morningside Drive … and on the 1811 Commissioner's "grid" plan Ninth Avenue extended all the way up to 155th Street and later beyond that, including parts of what is now St. Nicholas Avenue and St. Nicholas Place (for more Ninth Avenue arcana, and much else as well, see the delightful Old Streets of New York).

Okay. Ninth/Columbus Avenue crosses Broadway between West 64th and West 65th Streets. But a surprising number of people — I was certainly one of them — don't know that Ninth Avenue resumes under its own name again at West 201st Street in Inwood,  and continues up to and just beyond West 208th Street, where since 1926 it has been interrupted by the MTA subway yards.

It then resumes again at West 215th Street, continuing up past West 220th Street, where it bends to the west and a block later, where West 221st Street would have been, tees into Broadway just below the Broadway or Harlem River Bridge —which actually crosses the Harlem Ship Canal (a better known bit of New York arcana) which orphaned Marble Hill from the Island of Manhattan when it was dug in 1895.


Broadway & Ninth Avenue at the Broadway Bridge, Northeast Corner

The IRT subway line — now the #1 train — use the upper deck of the Broadway Bridge, while traffic and pedestrians use the lower deck. The IRT tracks are elevated at this point, and indeed, the IRT from Dyckman Street, running north for about a mile, first along Nagle, then along Tenth Avenue, and then along Broadway, is the last surviving "El" in Manhattan.

The bridge itself has some history to it. The first bridge here, where the Harlem River and Spuyten Duyvil Creek met, was the "King's Bridge," built in 1693 — "KIng's" because it was a toll bridge except for soldiers and other agents of the King. In 1758 in act tantamount to rebellion, merchants and farmers in the area built a "Free Bridge," which was destroyed by the British in 1776 and rebuilt after the war.

The digging of the Ship Canal in 1895 occasioned the building of a new bridge, a single-deck swing bridge, which was subsequently replaced by a double-decker to accommodate the then new subway line. (The old single-deck deck bridge was reinstalled downstream as the University Heights Bridge). The present bridge, a lift design, dates from 1960. (For more on the Broadway Bridge and other New York City Bridges see the NYC DOT.)

The second, northern re-intersection of Ninth Avenue and Broadway is the northernmost intersection on the island of Manhattan, and the northeast corner the northernmost corner proper, though there is a nominal (and signed and gated) pair of corners on the west side of Broadway as well.

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