City Streets: What’s In A Name?

Have you ever wondered who or what streets are named after? If someone tells you to hang a right on Ludlow Street, don’t you, at least for a second, think "what’s a Ludlow?"

The truth is there are tons interesting stories behind NYC street names. The Street Book by Henry Moscow takes a historical look at many of the Big Apple’s thoroughfares. Here’s a little sampling:

Ludlow Street
The Namesake: Lieutenant Augustus C. Ludlow, a naval hero of the War of 1812 to whom Captain James Lawrence said: "Don’t give up the ship."

Ludlow, 21, took command of the frigate Chesapeake when Lawrence was mortally wounded in battle with the British ship Shannon off Boston Harbor. His actual orders from Lawrence were: "Tell the men to fire faster and not give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks." But Ludlow himself was hit fatally and the two men are buried in one grave at Trinity Church.

Pearl Street
The Namesake: mother-of-pearl, the oyster shells that virtually paved the street when it was the East River shore.

Before landfill left Pearl Street high and dry several blocks from the river, it was often called simply The Strand. The frist city hall stood at 71-73 Pearl Street, a parking lot when this book went to press. The City Hall had begun life in 1641 as the Stadt-Herberg, or City Tavern: a five-story stone structure, it was built by Governo William Kieft, who had tired of entertaining visitors to New Amsterdam at home and needed an inn to which to send them. Twelve years later, the tavern became City Hall.

Harry Howard Square
The Namesake: Harry Howard, a foundling born in 1822, who became head of the city’s fire department in 1857.

A fireman before he was appointed chieft, Howard personally saved 100 lives. He introduced the system of permanent alert in the department; as a result, fire insurance companies had to cut their rates. Howard never married because his sweetheart’s parents refused to accept a foundling as a son-in-law. So Howard and his beloved lived out their lives as an engaged couple.

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