NYC Streets


When Europeans first arrived in Manhattan, the area of the present Broad Street was a marsh. Ditches were soon dug to drain it. Later the ditches were widened and deepened to form canals that could accommodate small boats, at least at high tide. By the late 1640s the canals were lined with sheet piling to stabilize both their banks and the narrow streets on either side. The largest canal was the Heere Gracht, which is now Broad Street from Pearl to Beaver Streets. Its narrower continuation, from Beaver Street to a point just south of Exchange Place, was called the Prinzen Gracht. Both were named, perhaps in jest, after two elegant canals that had recently been built in Amsterdam. The Bever Gracht was a branch canal along what is now Beaver Street from Broadway west to about the present New Street. A drawback of the canals was that they also served as open sewers and stank terribly. The British filled them up in 1676.

There were some early schemes for a navigable canal in the vicinity of the present Canal Street but the canal that was actually built was purely a drainage canal.

In 1827 the Haerlem Canal Co. was granted permission to build a canal across Manhattan from the mouth of Harlem Creek, about the present 108th Street on the East River, to Manhattanville on the Hudson River. There was a groundbreaking ceremony the following year but the project never progressed much beyond that.

About 1816 Curtis and John Bolton converted two tidal creeks just south of Marble Hill into a power canal to run the mill of their nearby marble quarry. In the 1890s the Bolton Canal, also known as the Dyckman Canal, was enlarged to form part of the United States Ship Canal, connecting the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.

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