CITY ON A GRID ------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc email@example.com www.nyskies.org 2016 January 26 Introduction ---------- A few NYSkiers sat a talk at the Mid-Manhattan library on 2016 January 25 about the street pattern of Manhattan. North of It was presented by Gerard Lpe[[e;. aitjpr pf tje nppl 'City on a grid', which he had for signing after the talk. The little auditorium was filled to overflowing in spite of the mass of leftover snow and ice from the blizzard that sweeped over the city over the preceding weekend. I myself walked to the library from work, carefully pstepping around heaped snow and slippery ice. I arrived at the library at quite 6PM EST but the auditorium was not yet open. Elecators to it were not turned on yet. others gathered in the library by the elevator for the notice to adcend to the auditoriium. Once upstairs, I found, from the next elevator ride, NYSkier Steve kaye., who saved a seat for me. The talk started at 6:30 and would last, with question--ansert, thru 8PM. Because the topic is thoroly explored in Koeppel's book and there is an extensive litterature about the street layout on manhattan, I discuss here some special features of the pattern. Manhattan street grid ------------------- North of SoHo and Greenwich village the streets on Manhattan are orthogoanl, forming rectangular blocks, This pattern is almost perfectly intact from Houston St thru 155th St. North of 155th St the pattern gets irregular, altho the street numbers continue to the Spuyten Diubil tip of the island. At first there is nothing overly remarkable about this arrangement, being that a gridiron street layout is a common feature in many american cities, specially those west of the Allegheny mountains. Philadelphia, for one older East Coast town, has a gridiron layout and Washington, built in the late 1790s, has one with an overlay of diagonal avenues. Houston Street is 'zero street' and the streets, the east-west or crosstown roads are serially numbered without interruption to 155th St. The north-south, or thrutown, toads, are numbered 1st Avenue on the East River side of manhattan to 12th Avenue on the Hudson River side. Where the island widens, like in Alphabet City and East Village, and again in the Upper East Side, 'negative' avenues are lettered A east tohe waterfront. The farthest east lettered avenue is avenue D. The major anomaly in this grid is Broadway, running along the grid until Union Square, then veering diagonal in a crooked path to the Upper West Side, thrn aligning again with the grid. Yjos was mpt [art pf the palnned pattern, as explained later. In this piece all dimensions are rounded to the meter. Of xourse, in the older era the colonial measures were employed, such as 'foot' and 'mile'. For quick work one foot is 30cm and one mile is 1600m. Manhattan Island -------------- Manhatttan Island stands at the mouth of Hudsonm or North, River where it meets New York harbou and Atlantic Ocean. Manhattan was a naturally hilly island, with a spine of high ground north-south along it and numerous hills and valleys all over.Today most of the relief is leveled but the names are preserved in the various 'Hill' and 'Heights' districts here and there over the idalnd. There is one major 'Valley' a deep one that couldn't reasonably be filled in. The west end of 125th St sits in the floor of manhattan Valley, where it veers norhtward off of the grid. The island is about 22km long north-south and about 4km wide. Manhattan probably will not soon add land to lengthen it but it is gettin wider from landfill along the east and west flanks. The longest crosstown street, at the widest section of the island, is 14th Street, still intact river to river. 13th St was the longest but some long while ago it was cut for a superblock into two shorter segments. Broadway is the longest thrutown street, spanning the full length of Manhattan from Bowling Green at the south end to Suyuten Duyvil at the north end. Waters isolate Manhattan form other land. The Hudson, or North, River flanks it on the west separating it from New Jersey. East River on the east separates it from Long Island. New York harbbor on the south and Harlem River on the north, separating it from the mainland of United States, complete the insulation of Manhattan. None of the rivers' are real rivers but ridal straits feeded by both the harbor and, a nit away from Manhattan, Long Island Sound. Their waters are salty ike the ocean. At first New York City was just manhattan. Other lands around it were occupied by independent towns,and villages. In about 1880 the south part of the Bronx, across harlem river, was annexed to the City. Brooklyn and Queens, across East River, and Staten Island, across the harbor, united into the city in 1898. The five districts are the 'boros' of he present greater city of new York. New York City asserted domain over the entire waterways around it, limited only by the boundary between it and sthe adjoining state of new Jersey. For it the frontier of the City is in the mid line of Hudson River but for the other waters it's on the farther shore. The early City ------------ The original streets of Manhattan were laid out by the Dutch, covering the area bounded by Broadway, Wall Steet, and East River. This pattern is now landmarked with no interference permitted by new construction. In fact, at least one new skyscraper, a tiny one by Manhattan standards, in Nassau St spand two blocks but the interveing Dutch strret passes thru it as a pedestrian walk. qAs the City grew more streets wre set down in an irregular pattern, some aligning with the close-by soreline, others continued existing streets. At the start of the War for Independence New York extended as far north as Fulton Street and City Hall Park. I use, for sanity sake, modern names for locations. City Hall Park was then called the Commonsm a staple feature of English towns in America. There was little residence north of City Hall Park, only the large lands used for farming with a few houses and utility buildings here and there. These were situated according to local circumstances with no regard to coordinate with other structures. By the end of the 19th century the city population was about 60,000, recovering from the horrific loses of the War. Virtually all lived in south of City Pall Park. It was evident that for the city to grow, it must march upward, 'ptoen' in modern terms, along the island. It was time to plan a rational consisten street scheme for this northward expansion. The project --------- In the late 17990s there wasalready some system of streets on Manhattan north of the built-up section. The City owned just about the whole island and started to promote development along it. It had a set of lots, rectabgular and lined up with the axis of Mahattan. The north-south sides aim to azimuth 29-1/2 degree and the east-west side aim into 119-1/2 degree. There was no thought of streets as such for the land was adverised as country and farm lnad. Landowners could do what thry wanted within the lots. This land sold slowly for being so 'far' from the built-up area at the southern end of Manhattan and by the early 1800s there aeere many unsold lots left. They were more or less neglected and no longer strongly promoted. It was by the start of the 19th century clear that for the city to grow it had to expand northward along the island. Remember tha 'New York' was only Manhattan, with no jurisdiction across the waters to other land. Since the irregular colonial streets were so clumsy, congested, and hazardous, there should be some orderly layout of streets north of the developed zone of Manhattan. A committee was set up by the New Yori State, at the City's request, to work up a scheme of streets into which the city could expand in an orderly consistent manner. I don't recall a special name and koeppel simply called it the 'committee' or commisison.. It ws given four years to turn in its report to the city. The committee ----------- Koeppel elanorated much about the life and staus of the committee members, there being three. I pass over that and move to the taks this committee. It had very few criteria to satisfy, the most important being that new streets had to be 18m wide at least andshould cover as much of the island as practical. The new street pattern will start at what is now Houston St with a few exceptions. Greenwich Village, exteniding across Houston St, was already built-up and was left out of the plan. Several streets already improved in Lower East Side and East Village were also allowed to stay in place. Other than that, the new streets overlaid and superceded all lot lines not lined up with them. An other most iimportant feature of the committee was that its report, what ever it was, is law. Yjere was no public review and comment or other level of approval. What the report showed is how the City will grow, period. As it turned out the committee did almost nothing for the first three years. Two members, John Rutherfourd and Gouverneur Morris, were wealthy landed new Yorkers who passed up the authroized pay for their committee work. They were also busy caring for their own interests, including work on the Erie canal. The third, Simeon deWitt. commuted from Albany and disliked the City. He put in accounts for reimbursements, some disputed. For one point he sometimes missed the last horse-car ride to Albany on Friday, when the sevice shut down for the weekend. He wanted pay for having to stay in the city until service resumed on Monday. He did get pay for Saturday but not for Sunday, which was counted as the Sabbath, when no work was allowed. In January 1811 with only a couple moths left before the April 1811 deadline for the committee report, the group stormed their work. Koeppel didn't quite say so, but it was likely from what I heard that the committee saw the existing farm lots and used them as the core of their plan. Most of the work, including survey and mapping was done for the lots. Maybe this is expalained in Koeppel's book? It's RutherfUrd! ------------ - Koeppel gave deep accounts of the three members of the street commission, which I skip here. One person, John rtutherfurd does call for some discussion. The Rutherfurd family was one of several wealthy landed sectors of City life in the Revolutionary era and well into the 19th century. It had large lands on Manhattan and in northern new Jesey. One annoying feature of the Rutherfurd name is its revoltingly common misspelling. Many places are named 'Rutherford', with an 'o' and not a 'u'. The duty papers assigning John to the commission called him 'Rutherford'! As much as the family, including John on the committee, protested and corrected the error, it persists up to the prpresent day. The twon built on his former lands in new Jersey is 'Rutherford'!. The street on Manhaatan in his former farm is 'Rutherford' Place! A new residence tower near this street is 'the Rutherford'! The grand plan ------------ The commission's report was given to the City Council in March 1811 and immedaitely beecame law. It consisted of a 2-1/2m long map of Manhattan with the new streets and a booklet of notes. From this scrawny document would emerge the City of the 19th and later centuries. Streets were ddelineated as a rectilineat grid of rectangular blocks. There were no diagonal or curved streets. The grid started at Houston St, then far north of the built-up part of Manhattan. Streets south of Houston St which were already cut were left alone. The plan said nothing about any all-new streets below Houston St and many new streets there didn't mesh into the grid. The plan also left alone Greenwich Village and some extraneous streets already laid out north of Houston St. From Houston St the patern was a mechanical recatngular grid marching clear up the island far north of any substantial permanent habitation. It ended at 155th St becasue, as the cmmission believed, the terrain north of there was too hilly to live on and it would take many centuries[!] before the City would populate up to 155th St.. Koeppel didn't explain but it could be that thr commission trended the history of New York. From 1609, when the City was first settled, to 1809, within the committee's tenure, spanned 200 years. In that time the City spread from Wall St to City Hall Pk. It would in deed take an ong time to spread to 155th St, some 15km farther north. The gridiron streets aligned with the older farm lots with the warning to the farm owners that a slice of their land will eventually be taken to lay down new streets. The east-west streets wre spaced 80m apart. The north-south avenues were 280m apart. The avenues, following the north-south axis of Manhattan, aimed into azimuth 29-1/2 to 209- 1/2 degree. Streets awere orthoogonal into 119-1/2 to 299-1/2 degree. The steets were numbered 1 thru 155 from south to north. Avenues were numbered 1 thru 12 east to west.Where thr island bulgrf out east of 1st Av, addtional avenues were mapped,lettered A thru D eastward. The avenues were 30m wide while the streets were 18m wide. One benefit of this arrangement was that early in the 1800s growth northward creeped along the riverfronts, leaving the inland largely vacant. Industry and sihpping were on the shore, with residences nearbu. Traffic was mostly corsstown, along the close-spaced streets. Koeppel mentioned that the pattern wasn't completely regular, with details in his book. For example the 'alphabet' avenue blocks were shorter than the number avenues, of about 240m length. There were also minor variations in the spacing of the crosstown streets. These small irregularities do not compromise the fundamental gridiron plan. Above 155th St ------------ North of 155th St the island was considered topographicly too rugged to inhabit. Streets tjere were evenrually cut thru more sympatheticly to the relief, following the contours of hills. 155th St is near the root of Manhattan's panhandle, w only a few hundred meters wide, with steep vertical relief. For new streets above 155th St, the crosstown roads continued the numbering, up to about 215th St at the north tip of the island. The streets are spaced and aligned irregularly against the gridiron. The avenues continue northward, with a few supplemental ones, many with proper names. These weave along the land contours. With the expected long time, many centuries, thought to take to develop the far north,the City got a bonus. Much of the panhandle was sequestered into parks to preserve the aspect of colonial New York. There are the 1700s Fort Tryon, the last open-surface creek on Manhattan, colonial stashes of oyster sheells, and caves where the first explorers huddled in. When the City acquired the Bronx, it extended the street numbering into it along existing or capriciously bcut streets. The numbering goes to about 265th St along the west side of the Bronx. Because the streets are irregularly spaced, the numbers do not match across the Bronx. Only some of the avenues cross the Harlem River nto the Bronx. The others die at the riverfront or contiune as named roads in the Bronx. Open land and parks ----------------- The commission's plan offered no parks or other open spaces, WITH one small eceprion. The belief was that with Manhattan so narrow the waterfront is always a short walk or ride away. At the shore all needed light and air was available. The exception was an open field at about 23rd St and 4th Av called 'the Parade'. This was perhaps a place for local militia or army companies to practice marching and to stage public shows. Broadway, extended north from City Hall along the grid, would end there. It was never constructed, being supplanted by other later parks. Madison Square is the nearest one to the Parade's site. WithIN ten or so years after 1811 parks started sprouting up here and there within the mapped blocks. Some were land donated or sold to the City specificly for open space. Others were laid out by the City itself. In most instances the park boundary lined up with the grid. Sometimes the boundary was within a block, in which case new streets were laid down around it. Where a park covered several blocks, the interior streets were either demapped or easements were left for them. Central Park, the grandest of Manhattan parks, was never part of the plan. its territory was to be developed along with all the other streets around it. The Park was devised in 1853 when the land it occupies was still mostly not inhabited. Any existing residences were oblitterated during Park construction. Topography -------- Besides the horizontal layout of streets, the plan called for a general leveling of the terrain. As streets were actually cut thru, hills in the way will be cut down and valleys will be filled in. There are hills and valleys on Manhattan, all low and shallow, with Manhattan Valley as the prime exception. The hills in Central Park for instance, were preserved or artificially built. Part of the reason for smoothing out the land was that until decades later the only transport method was foot and hoof. Horses and mules and oxes can handle only gentle gradients. Steep ones would severely impede circulation thru the expanding City. The level land a also speeded up the northward growth, bringing remote parts of the island within a couple hours of Lower Manhattan. Broadway ------ There was no Broadway in the master plan. It was supposed to continue north from lower Manhattan, align to the grid, and terminate at 23rd St in the Parade. The road was a well-travelled colonial road sometimes called Albany Post Road. It was the main route north from the City to towns along the Hudson River to Albany, the state capital. Businesses along Broadway put up a battle to keep the street. In the end, Broadway was left alone in it developed sections. It was moved in line of the grid in the Upper West Side. Broadway is the only significant deviation from the hard-wired street pattern. It forms triangle and rhomboid blocks within the grid, giving opportunities for setting down parks . The row of Union Sq, Madison Sq, Herald Sq, Times Sq, Columbus Cr, Lincoln-Dante Sq, and Sherman-Verdi Sq are today's legacy of keeping Broadway intact. Two-way crosstown streets ----------------------- Koeppel was at a loss to explain the choice of today's two-way crosstown streets. He thought at first all the streets were 18m wide and that much later certain ones were widened as the City reached them. The wider, 30m, streets were in the original plan. They seem to be irregular in spacing, from 9 to 15 blocks. Some intersect Broadway near an avenue but since Broadway was not part of the plan, this seems to be just a coincidence. Others are no where near Broadway, like the two-way streets on the Upper East Side. Koeppel would love to discover how these streets were selected. Lexington and Madison Avenues --------------------------- These were variations from the plan in later decades at the pressure of real estate interests. Lexington Av was named for the Revolutionary battle. Madison Av was named for president Madison. A south extension of Lexington Av is Irving Pl, for the writer. With the commission's plan in force, New York stipulated that the blocks may not have alleys and lanes thru them. This was a sanitary, safety, and fire consideration. All of the newer streets within the blocks are full-width corridors. Today we could use a few extra avenues but there is probably no hope of ever putting them in. Far too much of the existing blocks is developed. What did happen is that many walkways were built, mostly in the block-thru ground floors of office buildings. These have entrances on adjacent crosstown streets and often allow foot traffic to pass between them. There are also several footways outdoors, like in Paley Park and other 'vest-pocket' parks. These are usually built with an adjacent property as a public bonus. The property gets some extra development benefits, such as added building height or tax abatement. thru parks and campuses. An opposite feature is to preserve a street when it is within a super-block. When two or more blocks are assembled to build a larger structure, sometimes the interior street must be left open. The Port of Authority bus depot lets 41st St pas thru as a tunnel on the street level. It is roofed over by the depot. 6th and 7th Avenues ----------------- Greenwich Village, already well developed in the early 1800s, was left out of the master plan, even tho it straddled Houston St. It seemed that it would be left alone for good, as it was for the rest of the 19th century. In the 1910s the City was building new subway lines, one being the 7th Av line. It branched off of the then existing red line in Broadway north of Times Sq to the south end of 7th Av in Greenwich Village. To get the line prolonged into Lower Manhattan, a ruler was placed on a city map to connect 7th Av to Varick St. The path was then cut and cleared of existing structures. The new street, 7th Av South, clipped off triangles and rhomboids of blocks and sheared off building protruding into its corridor. In the 1920s the new blue line subway was built. To get from 6th Av, starting at Houston St in the grid, to Church St in Lower Manhattan, a line was ruled off connecting the two streets. Again buildings were sweeped out for the new street. More triangles and rhomboids were clipped off. More buildings were truncated. These new roads devastated the Village. Over the decades as memory faded these streets are considered part of the Village charm. The triangles and rhomboids are postage-stamp parks, sitting alcoves, artwork displays, trees. Yet an other insult to the Village was committed by the new orange line in the 1930s. It runs under Houston St east from 6th Av into Lower East Side. This line was to pass under East River to Brooklyn that was never fully completed. The original Houston St was too narrow for the transit corridor. The street was widened along its south side to fit the subway. All along Houston St are sheared off buildings and lost lots. A piece of the original street runs west from 6th Av into West Village. Name changes ---------- Streets in New York are either formally renamed or are given parallel names or aliases. In the latter case, both names are in circulation. Crosstown streets are almost free of aliases with only a few exceptions. 125th St is also King Boulevard, after the 1960s civil rights advocate. In other towns with a King Av, St, Py, &c, the 'King' name dominates over the road's former name. In Harlem, where 125th St is the spine of this Black district, the 'Knig' name is disused. For every one this street is still '125th St'. Many avenues, on the other hand, have aliases or full replacement names in select reaches. In Harlem, 6th Av north of Central Pk is both lenox Av and Malcolm X Bv. 7th Av and 8th Av, both north of the Park, are also Powell Bv and Douglass Bv. 8th Av adjacent to Central Pk is Central Pk W, Av A and Av B in Yorkville are York Av and East End Av. 4th Av north of Union Sq is Park Av S and then, at 40th St, plain Park Av. These are only a few examples. One avenue, 6th Av, south of the Park, was in the 1930s renamed Avenue of the Americas. Shields of Latin American countries were mounted on its lamp poles. In spite of fanatical efforts by the City to enforce the new name, this road is for all New Yorkers still '6th Av'. Addresses along the avenue are '6th Av' or 'Av of the Americas'. Imposing the grid --------------- In the early 1800s there still plenty of nEw Yorkers who remembered the excesses of colonial rule. The United States was starting to exercise itself as a nation of free people. Would the committee's street grid be carried forward by some due process of democratic public involvement? Would it be only loosely followed, with abundant waivers? Would it be filed away and forgotten? By 1815 people realized that the new street layout was for real. New structures were required to line up with the phantom streets and lots within the phantom blocks. Enforcement was effectively a regimen of decree and dictate from the City. There was little due process way to protest the cutting or even staking out of a street and the removal of interfering structures. Urban growth proceded along the methods of a dictatorship on the scale of any in Europe. Perhaps even 20th century Stalin would be envious of New York's sovereign dominion in its treatment of urban growth. . The scene as the city spread north was a scattering of buildings in open fields all neatly lined up, maybe only one building to a future block and spaced several blocks apart. When the street was actually cut thru,.any structure still projecting into the way of the street was ordered removed. A few were allowed to be bodily moved into compliant orientation. Scenes of collapsed older buildings, violating the grid pattern, are depicted in 19th century paintings and photographs. Compensation ---------- When property was seized to improve the new street, the landowner was compensated. The City paid for the captured land. Of course, the land holder argued the purchase price was way too low but he had to accept the City's offer. Once in a while a stronger land holder got some extra payment by a court adjustment. The City in the following year after the land capture sent a revised bill for property tax. It was much higher than previously. The reason was that with the new street thru the property, the value of the land was much greater and called for a higher tax assessment . The capture compensation was a one-shot receipt from the City but the property tax was an annual payment to the City. Hamilton Grange ------------ One example of a structure moved away from a new street is Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton's farm house in Hamilton Hts. He built it in 1802 on a 120,000m2 lot, positioned to overlook the Harlem Valley. He lived there only until 1804 when he lost a duel against political enemy Aaron Burr. The Hamilton family stayed in the grange thru 1832, then sold the farm with the house to real estate interests. The land changed hands several times until in 1889 St Luke's church bought parcel for a new church. The church and house had to confirm to the new streets of the grid being cut thru in the 140s and Convent Av. He church was forced to either move the house off of the street or lose it. It moved Hamilton Grange, by then in a decayed state, to its new lot, squared it onto the new street, and built its church next door. Part of the church extended in front of the house. Sometime in the early 20th century the church gave the house to the National park Service, who made it a National Historical Site. A statue of Hamilton was placed in the front yard. In this condition hamilton Grange stayed, with interim repairs, until 2008. The US NPS and NYC parks Dept coordinated a second move of hamilton Grange into adjacent St Nicholas Park. There is sits today in a rural setting, still overlooking the Harlem Valley. Today the statue stands in front of the vacant former site of the grange. Blank faces --------- One odd feature of the new buildings was the finishing of its sides. To maximize the use of a building lot, it was usual to fill the entire ground area with the new building. There was no garden, driveway, yard. Buildings on adjacent lots abutted each other with no space between them. This situation derived from the small size of a standard lot in a gridiron block, 67-1/2m by 30m. This may have been adequate for construction of the early 19th century but was too small for buildings needed by the late century. It was often tough to purchase contingent lots to assemble one for a large structure,forcing developers to make the most of the one lot they have. A side that abutted the lot line was left bare and rough, even if it was visible in the open with empty lots around it. Eventually an other building will go up on the adjoining lot to cover up this raw side. This feature continues thru today. When a building is demolished for replacement, the unfinished flanks of its adjacents are again exposed. A walk along 6th and 7th Av and Houston St in Greenwich Village reveals numerous instances. Uptown, downtown -------------- In the beginning the concept of travel on Manhattan was more or less free-range, modulated by local topography. For the most part growth was along the waterfronts, clustered around industry, shipping, utility services. People lived close by for easy commute on foot or horse. There was no real notion of 'uptown' and 'downtown' traffic. After the Civil War the City expanded rapidly northward, requiring people to live more in the middle of the island and to commute north- south along it. The direction south, toward Lower Manhattan, was 'downtown'. Northward movement away from Lower Manhattan was 'uptown'. Note carefully that these terms are directions of travel and NOT locations or districts. Many other towns have a 'downtown' where the bigger stores and offices are but there is no such a place on Manhattan. In fact, the building up of Manhattan progressed erraticly with several nodes or hubs here and there. We have major commercial hubs in Greenwich Village, Union Sq, Yorkville, Harlem. Between these hubs are low density development with mostly smaller shops and services. As these districts were connected by the new streets and specially by railroads, streetcars, and then els and subways, the concept of uptown and downtown was engraved into the New York mind. There is no general term for traveling east or west, like 'westtown' or some such. We travel 'crosstown' for either direction. There is also no general term for north-south travel without stating the direction. Perhaps 'thrutown' can be applied? Manhattanhenge ------------ This fantastic feature of the gridiron plan was utterly inconceivable in the 1800s and Koeppel did not mention it in his talk. Litterature about the attractions of the City do allude to it. For most of the 19th century New York was a low-level city, with occupied floors no higher than the fifth or maybe sixth. In the late 19th century, to cope with the need for ever more floorage, the skyscraper was developed. The first ones were 15-25 stories tall, mostly in Lower Manhattan. By the early 20th century 30-40 story towers rised up in the midtown districts. Tall residence towers sprang up on the east and west sides of Central Park. The once-open sky view along the gridiron streets was encroached into by the tall towers now maarching along the streets. The view along the streets, specially the narrow crosstown streets, was bizarre. Only wedges of sky were exposed, hemmed in by the towers along the street. It so happens that the crosstown streets aim into the range of azimuths of local sunset in the late spring and mid summer. They also points into the sunrise in late autumn and mid winter. When the Sun sets in the line of the streets, a Stonehenge effect occurs. The solar disc nests between the towers at the far end of the street! The scene reminds the observer of the solar line-up at the Stonehenge monument in the IK. The sunset line-up occurs each year on May 29-31 and again on July 9-11. The tolerance comes from the relaxed definition of 'sunset' used by some astronomers. The dates are +/-+20 days from the summer solstice, when the Sun's setting azimuth eqquals that of the crosstown street, 229-1/2 degree. Between these two periods the Sun sets to the right of the street. For the rest of the year he sets to the left. A A similar apparition occurs for the autumn-winter sunrise. This is rarely noticed due to the harsh weather and early hour. Astronomers probably first noticed this show among themselfs in the 1950s. It was raised to a routine spectacle after Halley's Comet in 1980s. Astronomers gathered in small groups at street corners to watch the setting Sun fit nitida mente between the skyscrapers. There was no formal call to observe this event. Astronomers often took it in spontaneous while on the street in summer. In 2002 an extra issue of Natural History magazine featured 'City of Stars' by Dr Neil Tyson. He described several astronomy elements of buildings which are little appreciated. One was the Stonehenge sunset, illustrated with Tyson's own photo taken along 34th St. He melded 'Manhattan' and 'Stonehenge' into a new word 'Manhattanhenge'. So many copies of this issue were handed out for free at the American Museum of Natural History that a significant portion of cityfolk got one and learned of the Stonehenge sunset event. Since the first next instance after the magazine came out, that of May 2003, Manhattanhenge became an insanely spontaneous public celebration of the celestial orb. It also spawned fan clubs and some silly cults. By 2006 or so Manhattanhenge was a grand social and civic show for the City. Observers pour onto the island from the surrounds, perhaps for a day-trip for other cultural activity, to station on one of the dozens of suitable streets. There is no official tally of observers. NYSkiers from sampling observing reports and dialog with other astronomers estimates at least a full myriad of viewers for each of the six sunsets. If all six days have clear skies, something like 60,000 people purposely enjoy this celestial event! In 2013 the Oxford English Dictionary enrolled 'Manhattanhenge' as a fully valid word. Its definition is off the mark but the intent is appreciated. The grid's astronomer ------------------- John Rutherfurd's grandson, Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, is a special figure for astronomy. He is much underrecognized in the orthodox astronomy histories. He was both a lawyer and astronomer, with education at Williams College in Massachusetts. Aster retiring from law he built an observatory on his land near 17th St and 2nd Av, complying with the grid of streets. He was a pioneer in astrophotography, inventing perhaps the first true astrograph, a telescope with a camera built into the tail piece. He specialized in lunar photography and improved stellar photography. Rutherfurd was a pioneer in promoting astrometric use of photographs. This would replace or supplement eye measurements at the telescope and create a permanent unbiased record of the observations. He was among the first astrophysicists in America, inventing the grating spectroscope, with a more uniform dispersion of the spectrum and a brighter image. He developed spectrography, noticing that star spectra arranged into several distinct kinds. He corresponded with Father Secchi in Italy to build the first stellar classification scheme. He rose in prominence to be a trustee of Columbia College, now University, and donated his astronomy property to it upon his death. he was also in the US delegation to the International Meridian Conference to establish the global longitude system and international date line. . The observatory at Columbia University, with newer equipment, is the Rutherfurd -- spelled correctly -- Observatory. Much of his original telescope is in the Smithsonian Institution and the Rutherfurd Museum near Hackettstown NJ. Conclusion -------- It is absolutely amazing how so mundane a city fixture as its street pattern can have so rich and incredible a story behind it. All the more so for the mechanical right-angle streets of manhattan's gridiron, seemingly just a sheet of quadrille graph laid on a topographic map of the island. What more could there be to the scheme? Mr Koeppel's nook is a scholarly piece, he being author of other works on American history. The gridiron is also explained in webs and print, often with replicas of documents and maps. A crowning newer application of the 1811 plan is Manhattanhenge, tying the City to the celestial world.