Fifth Avenue is a major thoroughfare in the center of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York, United States. The section of Fifth Avenue that crosses Midtown Manhattan, especially that between 49th Street and 60th Street, is lined with prestigious shops and is consistently ranked among the most expensive shopping streets in the world. The “most expensive street in the world” moniker changes depending on currency fluctuations and local economic conditions from year to year. For several years starting in the mid-1990s, the shopping district between 49th and 57th Streets was ranked as having the world’s most expensive retail spaces on a cost per square foot basis. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Fifth Avenue as being the most expensive street in the world. Some of the most coveted real estate on Fifth Avenue are the Penthouses perched atop the buildings.
Fifth Avenue originates at Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village and runs northwards through the heart of Midtown, along the eastern side of Central Park, where it forms the boundary of the Upper East Side and through Harlem, where it terminates at the Harlem River at 142nd Street. Traffic crosses the river on the Madison Avenue Bridge. Fifth Avenue serves as the dividing line for house numbering in Manhattan. It separates, for example, East Fifty-ninth Street from West Fifty-ninth Street. From this zero point for street addresses, numbers increase in both directions as one moves away from Fifth Avenue, with 1 West Fifty-ninth Street on the corner at Fifth Avenue, and 300 West Fifty-ninth Street located three blocks to the west of it.
The lower stretch of Fifth Avenue extended the stylish neighborhood of Washington Square northwards. The high status of Fifth Avenue was confirmed in 1862, when Caroline Schermerhorn Astor settled on the southwest corner of Thirty-fourth Street, and the beginning of the end of its reign as a residential street was symbolized by the erection, in 1893, of the Astoria Hotel on the site of her house, later linked to its neighbor as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (now the site of the Empire State Building). Fifth Avenue is the central scene in Edith Wharton’s 1920 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence. The novel describes New York’s social elite in the 1870s and provides historical context to Fifth Avenue and New York’s aristocratic families. Originally a narrower thoroughfare, much of Fifth Avenue south of Central Park was widened in 1908, sacrificing its wide sidewalks to accommodate the increasing traffic. The midtown blocks, now famously commercial, were largely a residential district until the turn of the twentieth century. The first commercial building on Fifth Avenue was erected by Benjamin Altman who bought the corner lot on the northeast corner of Thirty-fourth Street in 1896, and demolished the “Marble Palace” of his arch-rival, A. T. Stewart. In 1906 his department store, B. Altman and Company, occupied the whole of its block front. The result was the creation of a high-end shopping district that attracted fashionable women and the upscale stores that wished to serve them. Lord & Taylor’s flagship store is still located on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building and the New York Public Library.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the very rich of New York had migrated to the stretch of Fifth Avenue between Fifty-ninth Street and Ninety-sixth Street, the stretch where Fifth Avenue faces Central Park. Entries to the park include Inventor’s Gate at Seventy-second Street, which gave access to the park’s carriage drives, and Engineers’ Gate at Ninetieth Street, used by equestrians. A milestone for Fifth Avenue came in 1916, when the grand corner mansion at Seventy-second Street and Fifth Avenue that James A. Burden had erected as recently as 1893 was demolished to make way for a grand apartment house, 907 Fifth Avenue, of twelve stories around a central court, with two apartments to a floor; its strong cornice above the fourth floor, just at the eaves height of its neighbors, was intended to soften its presence. This was the first such replacement. In January 1922, the city reacted to complaints about the ongoing replacement of Fifth Avenue’s mansions by apartment buildings by restricting the height of future structures to 75 feet (23 m), about half the height of a ten story apartment building.Architect J. E. R. Carpenter brought suit, and won a verdict overturning the height restriction in 1923. Carpenter argued that “the avenue would be greatly improved in appearance when deluxe apartments would replace the old-style mansions.” This area contains many highly notable apartment buildings, including 810 Fifth Avenue and the Park Cinq, many of them built in the 1920s by architects such as Rosario Candela and J. E. R. Carpenter. A very few post-World War II structures break the unified limestone frontage
Fifth Avenue carries one-way traffic downtown (southbound) from 135th Street to Washington Square Park, with the changeover from two-way traffic taking place on January 14, 1966, at which time Madison Avenue was changed to one way uptown (northbound). Two-way traffic on Fifth Avenue is allowed north of 135th Street only. From 124th Street to 120th Street, Fifth Avenue is cut off by Marcus Garvey Park, with southbound traffic diverted around the park via Mount Morris Park West.
Fifth Avenue is one of the few major streets in Manhattan along which streetcars did not run. Instead, Fifth Avenue Coach offered a service more to the taste of fashionable gentlefolk, at twice the fare. On May 23, 2008, The New York Times reported that the New York City area Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bus division is considering the use of double-decker buses on Fifth Avenue once again, where they were operated by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company until 1953,and again by MTA from 1976 to 1978.
Fifth Avenue is the traditional route for many celebratory parades in New York City; thus, it is closed to traffic on numerous Sundays in warm weather. The longest running parade is the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Parades held are distinct from the ticker-tape parades held on the “Canyon of Heroes” on lower Broadway, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held on Broadway from the Upper West Side downtown to Herald Square.
The Latino literary classic by New Yorker Giannina Braschi, entitled “Empire of Dreams,” takes place on the Puerto Rican Day Parade on Fifth Avenue
Between 49th Street and 60th Street, is lined with prestigious boutiques and flagship stores and is consistently ranked among the most expensive shopping streets in the world.
Most of the world’s luxury boutiques are located on Fifth Avenue, which include Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Giorgio Armani, Fendi, Versace, Harry Winston, Cartier, Omega, Chanel and many more.
Fifth Avenue is home to Luxury department stores Lord & Taylor. Saks Fifth Avenue. Barneys & Bergdorf Goodman.
Fifth Avenue is home to New York’s fifth most photographed building, the Apple Store.
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