Naming New York: Manhattan Places and How They Got Their Names

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New York is the oldest continually occupied city in America, yet its rich history is largely obscured by development. New Yorkers are surrounded by hundreds of place names, from those that survive from Manhattan's earliest days as a Dutch trading post to those that reflect the city's rich colonial, African and immigrant heritage. They provide a veritable encyclopedia of the city's history. Buildings may come and go, but place names are surprisingly durable.

Naming New York is a comprehensive compilation and explanation of the names of Manhattan's streets, alleys, avenues, plazas, parks and corners. It surveys names currently in use and includes the oldest and the newest honorific "add-on" names, from Astor Place to Yitzak Rabin Way.

Whether you're a history or trivia buff, tourist, or just fascinated by place names, learning about the origins of these mostly unexamined sources enriches one's experience of the city, and transforms a simple neighborhood errand into a trip through time.

For example:

Bowery: In the 17th century, Dutch farms known as "bowerij" were laid out in this section of Manhattan along the path of an old Indian trail. Known since that time as the Bowery, the thoroughfare became the first section of the Post Road from New York City to Boston.

Houston Street: For William Houstoun, 1757-1812, of a prominent Georgia family, who married a daughter of Manhattan landowner Nicholas Bayard III. The Georgia provenance of the name accounts for its pronunciation and spelling both of which distinguish it from the Texas city.

Wall Street: Follows the line of the city wall that the Dutch erected in 1653 across the northern perimeter of New Amsterdam to protect against attack from the British in New England.

Author Biography: Sanna Feirstein is a docent at the New-York Historical Society.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Even natives to the Big Apple are unlikely to know many of the facts that Feirstein has uncovered in this little gem.
Library Journal
Ever wondered why Wall Street is called that? Because it follows the line of the palisade wall that the Dutch erected across the northern perimeter of New Amsterdam in 1653 to protect against attack from the British. It is exactly this kind of place name information about Manhattan's streets, avenues, plazas, parks, and corners that this thorough compilation provides. Whether discussing the names derived from the original Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam or the places named after modern notables, Feirstein, a docent at the New York Historical Society, maintains a friendly tone that does not diminish this tome's educational value. Peppered with various historical illustrations, this is a fun read for any New Yorker or for those planning to visit the city, but it may be a bit over the head of those familiar with only the most notable landmarks of the city. Recommended for public libraries with a strong clientele interested in the history of the Big Apple.--Sandy Knowles, Henderson Cty. P.L., NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
New York Historical Society docent Feirstein has written a historically rich guide to New York City that will entertain both New Yorkers and tourists as they walk through the Big Apple. The histories of the city's major neighborhoods, as well as the history of their names divide the book into sections, the remainder of which contains the names of streets, parks, plazas, corners, alleys, and avenues in that neighborhood and the history of each name. The guide is illustrated with b&w photos of New York's illustrious folk. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"Even natives to the Big Apple are unlikely to know many of the facts that Feirstein has uncovered in this little gem."

-Publisher's Weekly

"Sanna Feirstein has given us an entertaining, lively and well-researched account of how the names of Manhattan's streets, squares, and neighborhoods came to be. This book can be read for pleasure and profit by history buffs and tourists alike. Hats off!"

-Kenneth T. Jackson,Columbia University and Editor-in-Chief of The Encyclopedia of New York City

"Naming New York is more than a compendium of names, it is a mini-encyclopedia unto itself, a paradise regained for anyone interested in why places are named what they are. This is great stuff."

-John Tauranac,author of Manhattan Block by Block

"Sanna Feirstein has compiled a fascinating study of the derivation of New York City's street names, ranging from the most obvious to the most obscure. She has turned up information that will surprise even those who know the city well. Everyone who relishes walking through New York City will enjoy this invaluable resource."

-Andrew S. Dolkart,author of Morningside Heights

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814727126
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 207
  • Sales rank: 1,486,518
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Sanna Feirstein is a docent at the New-York Historical Society.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2014

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2001

    NY History By Neighborhood

    This is a wonderful book for New Yorkers and tourists alike.It is a fun way to appreciate the historical development of the island of Manhattan.I used it to explore Manhattan neighborhood by neighborhood. What's in a name? Everything, as this this book makes clear.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2001

    If Your Know What You're Doing, You'll Buy This

    I've read many history-related books in my day, but not one has been as accessible and easy to read as Naming New York. Feirstein does an incredible job of taking information and presenting it in an interesting and informative way. After reading each entry, I came away with a new fact or detail about New York. Naming New York makes one aware that history constantly surrounds us, and before reading this book, I never quite appreciated this fact.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2001

    I love New York and this book

    I have lived in my great hometown, New York City, for over 30 years. Regardless of this fact, I never actually knew half of the history that surrounds each and every street. Feirstein has an eloquent way of putting historical facts that could once seem daunting, into an accessible, fun, and original style. Much better than other tourist books on the city, 'Naming New York' encompasses a eloquence and a personal feel. It can be appreciated not only by people new to the city but by long time residents like myself. Do buy this book. You won't regret it.

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