April 3, 2020

Street Knowledge

Modern Wall Street is on a site where, in 1652, Manhattan’s Dutch settlers built a cannon-fortified wooden wall 9 feet tall and 2,324 feet long to defend against the British. The earthen parts of the wall were pre-existing fortifications against slaves and Native Americans. Sadly, slaves were also sold on Wall Street for about 100 years of its history as a trading center.

Broadway, the Manhattan street famous for theater productions and the city’s oldest thoroughfare, was named that by the British after they encountered this unusually wide road. The Dutch had done the widening and called it “Gentleman’s Way,” but hadn’t done the original building; both European nations were building on Wickquasgeck Road, originally cut by Native Americans.

In the early 1700’s, New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street was named not for the liquor (which didn’t exist yet) but for the then-ruling French royal family. The liquor was named after this family, though there is debate over whether this name came by way of Bourbon Street or Bourbon County (also named for those royals) in Kentucky.