The commissioners of streets and roads in the City of New York appointed in and by an act relative to improvements touching the laying out of streets and roads in the City of New York and for other purposes passed the third day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seven, according to the form and effect of the said act remark on the map hereunto annexed.
That as soon as they could meet and take the oath prescribed they entered on the duties of their office and employed persons to make surveys of Manhattan island, which they personally reconnoitered so as to acquire the general information needful to the correct prosecution of their work, which has been much delayed by the difficulty of procuring competent persons on those œconomical terms, which they prescribed to themselves and by seasons peculiarly unfavorable.
That one of the first objects which claimed their attention was the form and manner in which the business should be conducted; that is to say, whether they should confine themselves to rectilinear and rectangular streets, or whether they should adopt some of those supposed improvements by circles, ovals, and stars, which certainly embellish a plan, whatever may be their effect as to convenience and utility. In considering that subject, they could not but bear in mind that a city is to be composed principally of the habitations of men and that strait-sided and right-angled houses are the most cheap to build and the most convenient to live in. The effect of these plain and simple reflections was decisive.
Having determined, therefore, that the work should in general be rectangular, a second, and in their opinion an important consideration was so to amalgamate it with the plans already adopted by individuals as not to make any important change in their dispositions. This, if it could have been effected consistently with the public interest, was desirable, not only as it might render the work more generally acceptable, but also as it might be the means of avoiding expense. It was therefore a favorite object with the Commissioners and pursued until after various unsuccessful attempts had proved the extreme difficulty, nor was it abandoned at last but from necessity. To shew the obstacles which frustrated every effort can be of no use. It will perhaps be more satisfactory to each person who may feel aggrieved to ask himself whether his sensations would not have been still more unpleasant had his favorite plans been sacrificed to preserve those of a more fortunate neighbor.
If it should be asked why was the present plan adopted in preference to any other. The answer is because after taking all circumstances into consideration, it appeared to be the best; or in other and more proper terms, attended with the least inconvenience.
It may to many be matter of surprise that so few vacant spaces have been left and those so small for the benefit of fresh air and consequent preservation of health. Certainly if the City of New York were destined to stand on the side of a small stream such as the Seine or the Thames, a great number of ample places might be needful. But those large arms of the sea which embrace Manhattan Island render its situation, in regard to health and pleasure as well as to the convenience of commerce, peculiarly felicitous. When, therefore, from the same causes the price of land is so uncommonly great, it seemed proper to admit the principles of œconomy to greater influence than might, under circumstances of a different kind, have consisted with the dictates of prudence and the sense of duty.
It appeared proper, nevertheless, to select and set apart on an elevated position a space sufficient for a large reservoir when it shall be found needful to furnish the city, by means of aqueducts or by the aid of hydraulic machinery, with a copious supply of pure and wholesome water. In the meantime, and indeed afterwards, the same space may be consecrated to the purposes of science when public spirit shall dictate the building of an observatory.
It did not appear proper, only it was felt to be indispensable, that a much larger space should be set apart for military exercise, as also to assemble, in case of need, the force destined to defend the city. The question, therefore, was not and could not be whether there should be a Grand Parade but where it should be placed and what should be its size. And here again it is to be lamented that in this late day the parade could not be brought further south and made larger than it is without incurring a frightful expense.
The spot nearest to that part of the city already built, which could be selected with any regard to œconomy, is at the foot of those heights called Inklangbergh, in the vicinity of Kips Bay. That it is too remote and too small shall not be denied; but it is presumed that those who may be inclined to criticism on that score may feel somewhat molified when the collector shall call for their proportion of the large and immediate tax which even this small and remote parade will require.
Another large space, almost as necessary as the last, is that which, in no distant period, will be required for a public market. The City of New York contains a population already sufficient to place it in the rank of cities of the second order and is rapidly advancing towards a level with the first. It is perhaps no unreasonable conjecture that in half a century it will be closely built up to the northern boundary of the parade and contain four hundred thousand souls. The controuling power of necessity will long before that period have taught its inhabitants the advantage of deriving their supplies of butcher's meat, poultry, fish, game, vegetables, and fruit from shops in their neighborhood. The dealers in those articles will also find it convenient, and so will those from whom they purchase, to meet at one general mart. This has a tendency to fix and equalize prices over the whole city. The carcass butcher, gardener, farmer, &c., will be able to calculate with tolerable accuracy on the rate at which the supplies he furnishes can be vended, and the reasonable profit of the retailer being added will give a price for the consumer varying rather by the quality of the article than by any other circumstance. It is no trifling consideration that by this mode of supplying the wants of large cities there is a great saving of time and of the articles consumed.
To a person engaged in profitable business one hour spent in market is frequently worth more than the whole of what he purchases, and he is sometimes obliged to purchase a larger quantity than he has occasion to use so that the surplus is wasted. Moreover, the time spent by those who bring articles of small value from the country in retailing them out bears such great proportion to the articles themselves as to increase the price beyond what it ought to be. In short, experience having demonstrated to every great aggregation of mankind the expediency of such arrangement, it is reasonable to conclude that it will be adopted hereafter, and therefore it is proper to provide for it now. Neither it is wholly unworthy of consideration that the establishment of a general mart will leave open the spaces now appropriated to that object in parts of the city more closely built than is perfectly consistent with cleanliness and health.
The place selected for this purpose is a salt marsh and, from that circumstance, of inferior price—tho in regard to its destination of greater value—than other soil. The matter dug from a large canal thro the middle, for the admission of market-boats, will give a due elevation and solidity to the sides; and in a space of more than three thousand feet long and upward of eight hundred wide there will, it is presumed, after deducting what is needful for the canal and markets, be sufficient room for carts and waggons without incommoding those whose business or curiosity may induce them to attend it.
To some it may be a matter of surprise that the whole island has not been laid out as a city. To others it may be a subject of merriment that the commissioners have provided space for a greater population than is collected at any spot on this side of China. They have in this respect been governed by the shape of the ground. It is not improbable that considerable numbers may be collected at Haerlem before the high hills to the southwestward of it shall be built upon as a city; and it is improbable that (for centuries to come) the grounds north of Haerlem Flat will be covered with houses. To have come short of the extent laid out might therefore have defeated just expectation, and to have gone further might have furnished materials to the pernicious spirit of speculation.
For the better understanding of the map, it will be proper to recollect, in examining it, that the term avenue is applied to all those streets which run in a northerly direction parallel to each other. These are one hundred feet wide, and such of them as can be extended as far north as the village of Haerlem are numbered (beginning with the most eastern, which passes from the west of Bellevue Hospital to the east of Haerlem Church) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. This last runs from the wharf at Manhattan Ville nearly along the shore of Hudson’s River, in which it is finally lost, as appears by the map. The avenues to the eastward of number one are marked A, B, C, and D. The space between the First and Second Avenue is six hundred and fifty feet; from the Second to the Third Avenue is six hundred and ten feet. The spaces from the Third to the Fourth, from the Fourth to the Fifth (which is the Manhattan Avenue or Middle Road), and from the Fifth to the Sixth Avenues, are each nine hundred and twenty feet. The spaces west of number six are each of them eight hundred feet. The westerly side of the Avenue A begins at the intersection of the northerly side of North Street by the westerly side of Essex Street. The westerly side of Avenue B begins at the intersection of the northerly side of North Street by the westerly side of Arundle Street. The westerly side of Avenue C begins at the intersection of the northerly side of North Street by the westerly side of Pitt Street; and the westerly side of the Avenue D begins at the intersection of the northerly side of North Street by the westerly side of Columbia Street. Those passages, which run at right angles to the avenues, are termed streets and are numbered consecutively from one to one hundred and fifty-five. The northerly side of number one begins at the southern end of the Avenue B and terminates in the Bowery Lane. Number one hundred and fifty-five runs from Bussing's Point to Hudson’s River and is the most northern of those which it was thought at all needful to lay out as part of the city of New York, excepting the Tenth Avenue, which is continued to Haerlem river and strikes it near King’s Bridge. These streets are all sixty feet wide except fifteen, which are one hundred feet wide, viz.: numbers fourteen, twenty-three, thirty-four, forty-two, fifty-seven, seventy-two, seventy-nine, eighty-six, ninety-six, one hundred and six, one hundred and sixteen, one hundred and twenty-five, one hundred and thirty-five, one hundred and forty-five, and one hundred and fifty-five. The blocks or spaces between them being in general about two hundred feet.
The southern side of Third Street touches the northeastern corner of the house occupied by Mangle Minthorne opposite the southerly side of Jones Street, and the blocks between the First and Third streets are of equal width. The northern side of Fifth Street touches the southerly side of Monument No. 5, and the blocks between Third and Fifth Streets are of equal breadth. The northerly side of Sixth Street touches the southerly side of Monument No. 6. The northerly side of Seventh Street touches the southern side of Monument No. 7, and none of the streets from the first to the seventh, inclusive, extend beyond the Bowery, near the eastern side of which Monuments Nos. 5, 6, and 7 are placed.
The northerly side of Eighth Street touches the southwestern corner of a house built on the northerly side of Stuyvesant Street, heretofore so called, and easterly side of the Bowery. The northerly side of Ninth Street touches the southerly side of Monument No. 9. The northerly side of Tenth Street touches the southerly side of Monument No. 10, and after crossing the Sixth Avenue becomes the southerly side of the same Tenth street. The northerly side of Eleventh Street touches the northerly side of Monument No. 11. The three last-mentioned monuments are placed near the easterly side of the Bowery road; and the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Streets extend westwardly to Greenwich Lane. The southerly side of Sixteenth Street touches the northerly side of Monument No. 16, placed near the western side of the Bloomingdale Road. The blocks between Eleventh and Sixteenth Streets are of equal breadth, and the Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets extend westward to Hudson’s River, being interrupted nevertheless by a northeasterly angle of Greenwich Lane. All the streets except First and Second Streets (which run into North Street) extend eastwardly to the Sound, or East River, and all the streets from Thirteenth Street northward extend from river to river, saving where they are interrupted by public places or squares. The southern side of Twenty-first Street touches the northern side of Monument No. 21, placed near the western side of the Bloomingdale road, and the blocks between Sixteenth and Twenty-first Streets are of the same width. The northern side of Forty-second Street touches the southern side of Monument numbered 1 and 42, placed four-tenths of a foot eastward of the westerly side of the First Avenue, and the blocks between the Twenty-first and Forty-second Streets are of equal width. The northern side of the Seventy-first Street touches the southern side of Monument numbered 5 and 71, whose westerly side is placed on the eastwardly side of the Fifth Avenue, and the blocks between the Forty-second and Seventy-first Streets are of the same width. The northwardly side of Eighty-sixth Street touches the northwardly side of Monument numbered 5 and 86, whose westerly side is placed on the eastwardly side of the Fifth Avenue, and the blocks between the Seventy-first and Eighty-sixth Streets are of the same width. The northwardly side of Ninety-sixth Street touches the southwardly side of Monument numbered 5 and 96, whose westerly side is placed on the eastwardly side of the Fifth Avenue; and the blocks between the Eighty-sixth and Ninety-sixth Streets are of the same width. The northwardly side of the One hundred and Twenty-fifth Street touches the southwardly side of Monuments marked 1 and M, whose eastwardly side is four-tenths of a foot eastward of the western side of the first avenue, and the blocks between the Ninety-sixth and One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Streets are of the same width. The southerly side of the One Hundred and Fifty-third Street touches the southern side of the ten-mile stone on the Kings Bridge Road at the surface of the earth, and all the blocks northward of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street are of the same width. All the avenues extend southward to the boundary marked out by the statute except the Fourth, which stops at the Fifteenth Street, being there lost in Union place. This place is an irregular trapezium, bounded (as appears on the map) westwardly by Bloomingdale Road, southwardly by Tenth Street, eastwardly and northwardly by the Bowery Road, the Broadway (which is continued out to the Parade), Fifteenth Street, the Fourth Avenue, and Sixteenth Street. This place becomes necessary, from various considerations. Its central position requires an opening for the benefit of fresh air; the union of so many large roads demands space for security and convenience, and the morsels into which it would be cut by continuing across it the several streets and avenues would be of little use of value.
There are sundry small places equally the children of necessity, viz.: one bounded northerly by Second Street, southwardly by North Street, and westwardly by the Avenue C; another bounded northwardly by First Street, southwardly by North Street, and westwardly by the First Avenue; and a third being the space south of Seventh Street and west of the Third Avenue.
The Market Place already mentioned is bounded northwardly by Tenth Street, southwardly by Seventh Street, eastwardly by the East River, and westwardly by the First Avenue. The Parade is bounded northwardly by Thirty-second and Thirty-fourth Streets, southwardly by Twenty-third street, eastwardly by the Third Avenue from Twenty-third to Thirty-second Street, and by the Eastern Post road from the Thirty-second to the Thirty-fourth Street, and westwardly by the Seventh Avenue; being in its greatest length from east to west little more than thirteen hundred and fifty yards, and in its breadth from north to south not quite one thousand.
Bloomingdale Square is bounded northwardly by Fifty-seventh Street, southwardly by Fifty-third Street, eastwardly by the Eighth and westwardly by the Ninth Avenue.
Hamilton Square is bounded northwardly by Sixth-eighth Street, southwardly by Sixty-sixth Street, eastwardly by the Third and westwardly by the Fifth avenue.
Manhattan Square is bounded northwardly by Eighty-first Street, southwardly by Seventy-seventh Street, eastwardly by the Eighth and westwardly by the Ninth Avenue.
Observatory Place, or square for reservoirs, is bounded northwardly by Ninety-fourth Street, southwardly by Eighty-ninth Street, eastwardly by the Fourth, and westwardly by the Fifth Avenue.
Haerlem Marsh is bounded northwardly by the Hundred and Ninth Street, southwardly by the Hundred and Sixth Street, eastwardly by the sound, and westwardly by the Fifth Avenue.
Finally, Haerlem square is bounded northwardly by the Hundred and Twenty-first Street; southwardly by the Hundred and Seventeenth Street, eastwardly by the Sixth and westwardly by the Seventh Avenue.
The position of all the monuments will be seen on the map and also the several elevations taken above high-water mark. In witness whereof the said commissioners have hereunto set their hands and seals the twenty-second day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eleven.