1902 Encyclopedia > New York City > General Aspect. Harbour Defense. History.

New York City
(Part 2)

General Aspect. Harbour Defense. History.

General Aspect. – The appearance of New York everywhere but in the leading thoroughfares is usually disappointing to strangers. The pavement of all the streets, except Broadway and Fifth Avenue, is bad, and the street cleaning in all but the principal streets is very defective. The lower part of the city, which is the center of trade, is generally well kept, and contains a large number of imposing buildings. Wall Street in particular, which is now, after Lombard Street, the most important haunt of moneyed men in the world, has several banks of effective architecture, together with the United States customhouse; while Broad Street, which runs off from it at right angles, besides having the stock exchange, is being rapidly occupied at its upper end by handsome buildings of vast proportions intended for the offices of merchants and bankers. After the city had spread beyond Wall Street, the well-to-do portion of the population and the leading retailers seem to be have clung to Broadway as the great line of traffic and trade. For one hundred years the wealthy residents built their houses along it, or, if in the streets running off from it at right angles, as near it as possible; and the shops followed them up closely. As population grew during this period the private dwellings of the better class simply moved up farther on Broadway and the adjacent streets, leaving the old houses to be converted into shops. The farther from Broadway, and the nearer the river on either side, the cheaper land was, and the poorer the class of houses which sprang up on it. This fondness for Broadway in a great degree explains the aspect of the city. About a mile and a half from the Battery, or southernmost point of the island, the cross streets which up to this line are mostly named after local notables of the colonial period, become designated by numbers, and are separated by equal intervals, known as "blocks" of which twenty form a mile. Up to Eight Street, Broadway divides the streets which cross it into east and west. After Eight Street, Fifth Avenue, which begins at a handsome square, known as the Washington Square, lying a short distance west of Broadway, becomes the dividing line, and continues to be so out to the Harlem River, a distance of 8 miles. Broadway at Fourteenth Street runs into Union Square, which contains statues of Washington (equestrian), La Fayette, and Lincoln, and is surrounded by large shops’ it then trends westerly towards the Hudson River, and thus crosses Fifth Avenue (which runs due north) at Twenty-Third Street, where it enters Madison Square, another open space, on the west side of which are clustered several of the largest hotels in the city. Fifth Avenue has played for the last forty years the same part, as the fashionable street, which Broadway played in the preceding period. It was long the ambition of wealthy men to live in it. It is lined from Washington Square to the Central Park, a distance of 3 miles, with costly houses, mostly of brown stone and red brick, without much architectural pretension, and producing from the preponderance of the brown stone a somewhat monotonous effect, but perhaps unequalled any where as the indication of private wealth. Fashion has long permitted, and of late has encouraged, resort to the side streets as places of abode, but the rule is nevertheless tolerably rigid that one must not go beyond Fourth Avenue, two blocks on the east side, or Sixth Avenue, one block on the west side, if one wishes to live in a good quarter. Within the district thus bounded the city presents a clean and orderly appearance, but mainly owing to the exertions of the householders themselves.

Harbor Defence. For this the city depends on forts situated at the western entrance to Long Island Sound, at the Narrows (a passage between the upper and lower bays), and in the harbor itself. All these are confessedly powerless against a fleet armed with modern ordnance. The forts at the entrance of the Sound are Fort Schuyler, situated on Throgg’s Neck, and a fort on Willett’s Point on the opposite shore. The defences at the Narrows consist of Forts Wadsworth and Tompkins and several detached batteries on the Staten Island shore, and of Fort Hamilton and several batteries on the opposite Long Island shore. The forts in the bay are small and weak structures, and comprise Fort Columbus, Castle William, and some batteries, all on Governor’s Island, and Fort Gibson on Ellis Island. Fort La Fayette, made famous during the war of the rebellion as a prison, was destroyed by fire in 1868, and Bedloe’s Island, on which stood Fort Wood, is now given up for the reception of Bartholdi’s statue of Liberty.

History. – The history of the first Dutch settlements at Manhattan , and of their transference to England, is sketched in the article on NEW YORK STATE. Down to the Revolution the history of the city is to all intents and purposes that of the province at large. The population grew slowly but steadily, and so did the trade of the place, - the Dutch language and influence, however, gradually giving way to the English. During the revolution the city, while containing a large body of loyalist, shared in the main the feelings and opinions of the rest of the country, but was cut off from active participation in the struggle by being occupied at a very early period of the war by the British troops, and it was the scene of their final departure from American soil on November 25, 1782. Since the Revolution its history has been principally the record of an enormous material growth, the nature and extent of which are described in other parts of this article. It was the capital of the State of New York from 1784 to 1797 though the legislature met several times during this period at Albany and Poughkeepsie. From 1785 to 1790 it was the seat of the general Government, and there the first inauguration of Washington to the presidency occurred on the 30th of April 1789.

Read the rest of this article:
New York City - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-18 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries