The Elevated Railroad, Harlem, 1816

January 9, 2014

Tenth Avenue runs through the Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods on the west side of the borough, and then as Amsterdam Avenue, through the Upper West Side, Harlem and Washington Heights. Much of these areas were working class or poor for much of the 20th century. The street has long been noted for its commercial traffic, and had grade-level railroad lines through the early 20th century. In the 19th century, when the West Side Line ran along the Avenue, a “Tenth Avenue Cowboy” was paid to ride a horse and warn people of an approaching street running train. The lines were later elevated above street level.

“Amsterdam Avenue” was intended to recall the Dutch roots of Manhattan’s earliest colonization in the 17th century. According to Sanna Feirstein’s Naming New York:

What is now Amsterdam Avenue was laid out in the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan as 10th Avenue and opened from 59th Street to Fort George Avenue in 1816. The name was changed in 1890 in a bid on the part of Upper West Side landowners to confer a measure of old-world cachet to their real estate investments in an area that had yet to catch on. The new avenue name supported the speculators’ claim that this section would become “the New City” and a “new, New Amsterdam.”

Tenth Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue were converted to carry one-way traffic southbound in two stages. South of its intersection with Broadway the avenue was converted on November 6, 1948 . The rest to 110th Street was converted on December 6, 1951 . Amsterdam Avenue continues to carry two-way traffic north of 110th Street.

During the real estate boom of the late 20th century, Amsterdam from 59th Street to 100th Street became one of New York’s most expensive residential districts

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