Before his work on the Manhattan grid, Simeon De Witt planned an extension of Albany on a grid plan.
Like many river-port cities, Albany began life as a series of blocks stretched tight against the shoreline, then grew back from the shore in parallel ranks of blocks. By the end of the 18th century, the city fathers dreamed bigger, and in 1794 De Witt produced a plan to guide the city’s expansion on a more “rational” basis. He aligned a grid of streets to three roughly parallel valleys. He named the streets parallel to the valleys after animals (Lion Street, Deer Street, Tiger Street) and the crossing streets after birds (Swan Street, Dove Street).
De Witt’s plan served as a template for Albany’s growth. His grid was extended inland, and even the pattern of birds’ names continued. De Witt’s blocks were originally about 400 by 700 feet—larger even than Philadelphia’s—but over time all were divided by cross streets running vertically, so that all the blocks are now about 200 by 700 feet, close to the 200-by-800-foot block that was the standard in the New York City’s Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. BH