Next in the Map It! series is Stuyvesant Street, which runs through the northern portion of the East Village between Second and Third Avenues. Today, it’s one of the shortest streets in the city, but did you know at one point it was much longer?
Stuyvesant Street is one of the oldest streets in New York City. Named for Petrus Stuyvesant (1727-1805), the great-grandson of Petrus Stuyvesant (also referred to as Peter, d. 1672 and the last Dutch West India Company director-general of New Amsterdam), the street originally ran through Petrus’ vast farmland beginning at present-day Fourth Avenue. It stretched to the Stuyvesant House, which was located roughly around today’s First Avenue and East 16th Street with views of the East River. Threatened with erasure by the imposition of the orthogonal Manhattan Street grid, on January 25, 1830 the New York Common Council saved it by making it a permanent public street, even as other grid streets were drawn through the immediate vicinity, allowing Stuyvesant Street to remain forever “off the grid.”
As you can see on the map below, Stuyvesant Street was once a prominent thoroughfare in the area, and ran through much of the present-day East Village and past 14th Street. The red line indicates the original street, which was laid out in 1787. The blue lines indicate what actually remains of the street today.
Sanborn maps are a wonderful resource for discovering former streets and they can even help you in understanding how certain buildings and lots are shaped. What may be a curious diagonally-shaped lot today could have once been right off a now de-mapped street. (We encourage you to look through historic maps in the Map Room of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue!) In the case of Stuyvesant Street, however, the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 practically wiped the street off the map, and existing buildings conform to the street grid that characterizes Manhattan north of this area.
To the left is a map from 1815; Stuyvesant Street is visible at the lower end of the image. The map, which includes the gridded streets, also shows St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery and a number of residences that are now located in the St. Mark’s Historic District (designated in 1969). That designation report is available on our Resources page.
The stretch of Stuyvesant Street that ran past St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery was developed as a sitting area in 1938. Just for fun, the aerial map from 1924 below shows what that stretch looked like at that time.
That portion of the street, though long closed, is still visible today in the form of Abe Lebewohl Park. Greenmarkets, benches and concert series provide residents and tourists alike an opportunity to sit and relax in front of one of New York’s most beautiful churches.