Broadway is a prominent avenue in New York City, United States, which runs through the full length of the borough of Manhattan and continues northward through the Bronx borough before terminating in Westchester County, New York. It is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in the city, dating to the first New Amsterdam settlement. The name Broadway is the English literal translation of the Dutch name, Breede weg. A stretch of Broadway is famous as the heart of the American theatre industry.
Broadway was originally the Wickquasgeck Trail, carved into the brush destination of Manhattan by its Native American inhabitants. This trail originally snaked through swamps and rocks along the length of Manhattan Island. Upon the arrival of the Dutch, the trail soon became the main road through the island from Nieuw Amsterdam at the southern tip. The Dutch explorer and entrepreneur David de Vries gives the first mention of it in his journal for the year 1642 (“the Wickquasgeck Road over which the Indians passed daily”). The Dutch named the road “Heerestraat“. In the mid-eighteenth century, part of Broadway in what is now lower Manhattan was known as Great George Street. In the 18th century, Broadway ended at the town commons north of Wall Street, where Eastern Post Road continued through the East Side and Bloomingdale Road the west side of the island. In the late 19th century the widened and paved part of Bloomingdale Road north of Columbus Circle was called “The Boulevard” but on February 14, 1899 the name “Broadway” was extended to the whole old road.
Broadway runs the length of Manhattan Island, from Bowling Green at the south, to Inwood at the northern tip of the island. South of Columbus Circle, it is a one-way southbound street. Starting in 2009, vehicular traffic is banned at Times Square between 47th and 42nd Streets, and at Herald Square between 35th and 33rd Streets as part of a pilot program; the right-of-way is intact and reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. From the northern shore of Manhattan, Broadway crosses Spuyten Duyvil Creek via the Broadway Bridge and continues through Marble Hill (a discontinuous portion of the borough of Manhattan) and the Bronx intoWestchester County. U.S. 9 continues to be known as Broadway through its junction with NY 117.
Because Broadway is a true north–south route that parallels the Hudson River and precedes the grid that the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 imposed on the island, Broadway diagonally crosses Manhattan, its intersections with avenues marked by “squares” (some merely triangular slivers of open space) that have induced some interesting architecture, such as the Flatiron Building.
The section of lower Broadway from its origin at Bowling Green to City Hall Park is the historical location for the city’s ticker-tape parades, and is sometimes called the “Canyon of Heroes” during such events. West of Broadway as far as Canal Street was the city’s fashionable residential area until circa 1825; landfill has more than tripled the area and the Hudson shore now lies far to the west, beyond TriBeCa and Battery Park City.
Broadway marks the boundary between Greenwich Village to the west and the East Village to the east, passing Astor Place. It is a short walk from there to New York University near Washington Square Park, which is at the foot of Fifth Avenue. A bend in front of Grace Church allegedly avoids an earlier tavern; from 10th Street it begins its long diagonal course across Manhattan, headed almost due north.
At Union Square, Broadway crosses 14th Street and continues its diagonal uptown course from the Square’s northwest corner. Union Square is the only location wherein Broadway is discontinuous in Manhattan.
At Madison Square, location of the Flatiron Building, Broadway crosses Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street.
At Herald Square, Broadway crosses Sixth Avenue (the Avenue of the Americas). Macy’s Department Store is located on the western corner of Herald Square; it is one of the largest department stores in the world.
One famous stretch near Times Square, where Broadway crosses Seventh Avenue in midtown Manhattan, is the home of many Broadway theatres, housing an ever-changing array of commercial, large-scale plays, particularly musicals. This area of Manhattan is often called the Theater District or the Great White Way, a nickname originating in the headline “Found on the Great White Way” in the February 3, 1902 edition of the New York Evening Telegram. The journalistic nickname was inspired by the millions of lights on theater marquees and billboard advertisements that illuminate the area.
After becoming New York’s de facto Red Light District in the 1960s and 1970s (as can be seen in the films Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy), since the late 1980s Times Square has emerged as a family tourist center, in effect being Disneyfied following the company’s purchase and renovation of the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street in 1993. Until June 2007, The New York Times, from which the Square gets its name, was published at offices at 239 West 43rd Street; the paper stopped printing papers there on June 15, 1997.
At the southwest corner of Central Park, Broadway crosses Eighth Avenue at West 59th Street; on the site of the former New York Coliseum convention center is the new shopping center at the foot of the Time Warner Center, headquarters of Time Warner.
North of Columbus Circle, Broadway retains planted center islands as a vestige of the central mall of “The Boulevard” that became the spine of the Upper West Side.
At the intersection of Columbus Avenue and West 65th Street, Broadway passes by the Juilliard School and Lincoln Center, both well-known performing arts landmarks, as well as a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon or LDS Church), known as the Manhattan New York Temple.
At the intersection with 72nd street, the triangle of tiny Verdi Square is surrounded by several notable apartment buildings, including The Ansonia, and the Florentine palazzo occupied by Apple Bank for Savings.
At its intersection with 78th Street, Broadway shifts direction, to continue directly uptown aligned approximately with the Commissioners’ grid. Past the bend are The Apthorp and the First Baptist Church in the City of New York (1891), built for a Baptist congregation in New York since 1762. The road heads north passing such important apartment houses as The Belnord, the Astor Court Building, and the Art nouveau Cornwall.
At 99th Street Broadway passes between the controversial skyscrapers of The Ariel East and West.
At 107th Street Broadway intersects with West End Avenue to form Straus Park with its Titanic Memorial by Augustus Lukeman.
Further north, Broadway follows the old Bloomingdale Road as the main spine of the Upper West Side, passing the campus of Columbia University at 116th Street in Morningside Heights, in part on the tract that housed the Bloomingdale (Lunatic) Asylum from 1808 until it moved to Westchester County in 1894. Still in Morningside Heights, Broadway passes the handsome, park-like campus of Barnard College. Next, the beautiful Gothic quadrangle of Union Theological Seminary and the brick buildings of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with their beautifully landscaped interior courtyards face one another across Broadway. On the next block is the Manhattan School of Music. Broadway then runs past the proposed uptown campus of Columbia University, and the main campus of CUNY—City College; the beautiful Gothic buildings of the original City College campus are out of sight, a block to the east. Also to the east are the handsome brownstones of Hamilton Heights.
Broadway achieves a verdant, park-like effect, particularly in the spring, when it runs between the uptown Trinity Church Cemetery and the former Trinity Chapel, now the Church of the Intercession, New York near 155th Street. The springtime plantings in the median, maintained by Trinity Church, are spectacular.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital lies on Broadway near 166th, 167th, and 168th Streets in Washington Heights. At this point, Broadway becomes part of US 9. The intersection with Saint Nicholas Avenue at 167th Street forms Mitchell Square Park.
Broadway crosses the Harlem River on the Broadway Bridge to Marble Hill and then enters The Bronx, where it is the eastern border of Riverdale and the western border of Van Cortlandt Park. After leaving New York City, it is the main north–south street of western Yonkers, New York, before becoming Albany Post Road at the northern border of Tarrytown, New York.
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