Walking Broadway: Thirteen Miles of Architecture and History

Walking Broadway: Thirteen Miles of Architecture and History

by William Hennessey


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Walking Broadway encapsulates the architectural history of Manhattan with fourteen walks that guide readers along New York's most famous street.

Walking Broadway offers readers an architectural tour of the entire length of Broadway from Bowling Green to the Harlem River. Through fourteen structured walks the book not only presents the history of New York's most famous avenue, but also explores its architecture in depth, block by block, building by building.

This is a book about what can be seen and experienced on Broadway today. Buildings are chosen for discussion first and foremost because they are interesting to look at. In a relaxed and engaging style, the author presents the building's story, explores the reasons why it is there, and explains why it looks the way it does. Along the way, the reader not only has the chance to discover fascinating and unusual buildings, but also gains a comprehensive understanding of the historic, social, economic, and political forces which shaped Broadway's growth and character.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580935357
Publisher: The Monacelli Press
Publication date: 06/16/2020
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 448,816
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Art historian William Hennessey has taught at Vassar College, the University of Kansas, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Michigan and directed the art museums at each of those institutions. From 1997 to 2014 he was director of the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. Hennessey is the author of catalogues and articles on a variety of art and design topics, including nineteenth-century architecture and twentieth-century industrial design.

Read an Excerpt

For most people, “Broadway” means show business—bright lights, glittering marquees, glamorous crowds, all the excitement that is part of the theater. This was certainly the case for me as a stage-struck teenager living in suburban New Jersey during the 1960s. Virtually every weekend I would hop on the train and head into the city to take my place among the standees at the back of a Broadway theater, haunt stage doors, or throw myself into acting classes in a creaky old studio in the tower above Carnegie Hall. I was in love with “Broadway” and determined to have a life in the theater.
As time passed, I discovered that there was more to New York than Broadway and more to Broadway than the theater district. I began to spend Saturday mornings before a matinee wandering the streets, exploring neighborhoods and attempting to capture their look and feel in photographs. Along the way, I became curious about the varied architectural styles I encountered.
A plan began to take shape: I would walk the island from one end to the other. Starting at the Battery, I would follow Broadway all the way to the Bronx, tackling this nearly fourteen-mile trek of discovery in manageable segments. In the following months, I found myself spending more time walking and less standing at the back of the theater. But then the inevitabilities of teenage life intervened, and my  progress slowed. The “Broadway Project” ultimately petered out somewhere around Houston Street. I departed for college, grad school, and a museum career. Now half a century later, my wife and I have moved back to the city we have always loved. What better moment to pick up where I left off?
So, what kind of a book is this? On the most fundamental level it’s about walking and looking, about observing and wondering. It’s also a book about a specific street, focused on what we can see and experience in real time as we walk. Finally, this is a book for both fireside and curb side, designed both to be read at home and to be taken out as a guide to the streets.
In our daily lives, we set out on foot for a variety of reasons—to get to work, to run errands, for exercise, or for the pleasure of a relaxing stroll. No matter what its impetus, a walk can be a journey of discovery. When we walk, we can set our own pace. We may press briskly ahead toward a destination, or choose to amble, pausing whenever we like to  look up or down or around. We give ourselves permission to study things in time, not just in passing. As we move along, structures catch our eye and prompt questions: “What an interesting/peculiar place.  I wonder what it is.” “Why is it here?” “What goes on inside?” “Who built it?” “When?” “Why does it look that way?” “Would I like it better if I knew more about it?” As we walk, our impressions of individual buildings coalesce into an overall sense of the personality of a neighborhood or district. We gain an understanding of how the city grew and developed and why neighborhoods, the villages that make  up the metropolis, look and feel the way they do.
In the end, this is a book about the experience of looking at and thinking about the architecture of a remarkable city—building by building, block by block. And what better way to proceed than with a series of walks up New York’s oldest and longest avenue?

Table of Contents

Preface 6

Broadway: A Historic Overview 9

Using This Book 11

Walk 1 Bowling Green to Fulton Street 15

Walk 2 Fulton Street to Canal Street 33

Walk 3 Canal Street to Houston Street 53

Walk 4 Houston Street to 14th Street 71

Walk 5 Union Square to 23rd Street 93

Walk 6 23rd Street to 32nd Street 107

Walk 7 32nd Street to 42nd Street 119

Walk 8 Times Square to 57th Street 129

Walk 9 Columbus Circle to 70th Street 147

Walk 10 70th Street to 96th Street 163

Walk 11 96th Street to 122nd Street 185

Walk 12 122nd Street to 153rd Street 203

Walk 13 153rd Street to 178th Street 215

Walk 14 178th Street to the Harlem River 229

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