42nd Street (Manhattan)
Route map: Bing
looking west from Seventh Avenue (2004)
|Other name(s)||Lincoln Highway (west of Broadway)|
|West end||West Side Highway|
|East end||FDR Drive|
42nd Street is a major crosstown street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, known for its theaters, especially near the intersection with Broadway at Times Square. It is also the name of the region of the theater district (and, at times, the red-light district) near that intersection. The street has held a special place in New Yorkers' imaginations since at least the turn of the 20th century, and is the site of some of New York's best known buildings, including (east to west) the United Nations, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
During the American Revolutionary War, a cornfield near the present location of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street was where General George Washington angrily attempted to rally his troops after the British landing at Kip's Bay, which scattered many of the American militiamen. Washington's attempt put him in danger of being captured, and his officers had to persuade him to leave. The rout eventuially subsided into an orderly retreat.
In 1835, the city's Street Committee, after receiving numerous complaints about lack of access for development above 14th Street, decided to open up all lots which has already been plotted on the city grid up to 42nd Street, which thus became - for a time - the northern boundary of the city.
Cornelius Vanderbilt began the construction of Grand Central Depot in 1869 on 42nd Street at Fourth Avenue as the terminal for his Central, Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines, because city regulations required that trains be pulled by horse below 42nd Street. The Depot, which opened in 1871, was replaced by Grand Central Terminal in 1913.
Between the 1870s and 1890s, 42nd Street became the uptown boundary of the legitimate theatre district, which started around 23rd Street, as the entertainment district of the Tenderloin gradually moved northward.
The corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, at the southeast corner of Times Square, was the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across the United States, which was conceived and mapped in 1913.
Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley's 1933 film musical 42nd Street, starring 30s heartthrobs Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, displays the bawdy and colorful mixture of Broadway denizens and lowlifes in Manhattan during the Depression. In 1980, it was turned into a successful Broadway musical which ran until 1989, and which was revived for a four-year run in 2001. In the words of the Al Dubin and Harry Warren title song, on 42nd Street you can find:
- Little nifties from the Fifties, innocent and sweet,
- Sexy ladies from the Eighties who are indiscreet,
- They're side by side, they're glorified,
- Where the underworld can meet the elite
- Naughty, gawdy, bawdy, sporty, Forty-second Street!
From the late 1950s until the late 1980s, 42nd Street, nicknamed "The Deuce", was the cultural center of American grindhouse theaters, which spawned an entire subculture. The book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed, describes in detail the unique blend of people who made up the theater-goers,
depressives hiding from jobs, sexual obsessives, inner-city people seeking cheap diversions, teenagers skipping school, adventurous couples on dates, couples-chasers peeking on them, people getting high, homeless people sleeping, pickpockets...
while the street outside the theatres was populated with:
phony drug salesman ... low-level drug dealers, chain snatchers ... [j]unkies alone in their heroin/cocaine dreamworld ... predatory chickenhawks spying on underage trade looking for pickups ... male prostitutes of all ages ... [t]ranssexuals, hustlers, and closety gays with a fetishistic homo- or heterosexual itch to scratch ... It was common to see porn stars whose films were playing at the adult houses promenade down the block. ... Were you a freak? Not when you stepped onto the Deuce. Being a freak there would get you money, attention, entertainment, a starring part in a movie. Or maybe a robbery and a beating.
For much of the mid and late 20th century, the area of 42nd Street near Times Square was home to activities often considered unsavory, including peep shows. A comedian once said, "They call it 42nd Street because you're not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it."
In the early 1990s, city government encouraged a clean-up of the Times Square area. In 1990, the city government took over six of the historic theatres on the block of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, and New 42nd Street, a not-for-profit organization, was formed to oversee their renovation and reuse, as well as to construct new theatres and a rehearsal space.
Since the mid-1990s, the block has again become home to legitimate theatres and several multi-screen mainstream movie theatres, along with shops, restaurants, hotels, and attractions such as Madame Tussauds wax museum and Ripley's Believe It Or Not that draw millions to the city every year. This area is now co-signed as "New 42nd Street" to signify this change.
(from East to West):
- Headquarters of the United Nations, First Avenue
- Tudor City apartments, First Avenue
- Ford Foundation, between First and Second Avenues, former site of the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled (now known as the Hospital for Special Surgery)
- News Building (formerly the New York Daily News Building), Second Avenue
- Chrysler Building, Lexington Avenue
- Chanin Building, Lexington Avenue
- Cipriani's 42nd Street, formerly the Bowery Savings Bank, between Lexington and Park Avenues
- Pershing Square, Park Avenue
- Grand Central Terminal, Park Avenue
- One Vanderbilt (planned), Vanderbilt Avenue
- New York Public Library Main Branch, Fifth Avenue
- W. R. Grace Building, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- SUNY College of Optometry, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- Bryant Park, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- One Bryant Park, Sixth Avenue
- Bush Tower, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
- Times Square, Broadway and Seventh Avenue
- Times Square Tower, the building from which the ball drops on New Year's Eve, Broadway and Seventh Avenue
- Port Authority Bus Terminal, at Eighth Avenue
- 330 West 42nd Street, formerly McGraw-Hill Building, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
- Holy Cross Church, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
- Westside Theatre, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues
- Theatre Row, between Ninth and Eleventh Avenues
- Silver Towers apartments, at Eleventh Avenue
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises ferry terminal, Twelfth Avenue
Every New York City Subway line that crosses 42nd Street has a stop on 42nd Street:
- Times Square – 42nd Street / Port Authority Bus Terminal (1 2 3 7 <7> A C E N Q R S trains)
- 42nd Street / Fifth Avenue – Bryant Park (7 <7> B D F M trains)
- Grand Central – 42nd Street (4 5 6 <6> 7 <7> S trains)
There are two subway lines under 42nd Street. The IRT 42nd Street Shuttle runs under 42nd Street between Broadway/Seventh Avenue (Times Square) and Park Avenue (Grand Central). The IRT Flushing Line begins at 41st Street/Seventh Avenue, runs between 41st and 42nd from Sixth Avenue to Park Avenue, curves onto 42nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, and continues under the East River to Queens. Each line stops at Times Square and Grand Central; the Flushing Line also stops at Fifth Avenue.
Additionally, MTA Regional Bus Operations's M42 bus runs the length of 42nd Street between the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises ferry terminal on the Hudson River and the headquarters of the United Nations on the East River. Its predecessor, the 42nd Street Crosstown Line streetcar, had used 42nd Street.
In popular culture
- The George M. Cohan song "Give My Regards to Broadway" includes the lyrics "Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street / That I will soon be there".
- Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.260
- Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.338
- Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.579
- Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.944
- Burrows & Wallace (1999), pp.1149-50
- "42nd Street" on the Internet Broadway Database
- Landis, Bill and Clifford, Michelle. Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. ISBN 9780743215831. pp.2-7
- Blumenthal, Ralph, "A Times Square Revival?" The New York Times Magazine (December 27, 1981). Accessed September 6, 2010
- Levine DB (September 2007). "The hospital for the ruptured and crippled moves East on 42nd street 1912 to 1925". HSS Journal 3 (2): 131–6. doi:10.1007/s11420-007-9051-6. PMC 2504267. PMID 18751783.
The new Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled was built on 42nd Street between First and Second avenue. It is currently the location of the Ford Foundation.
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348.
- Bianco, Anthony (2004). Ghosts of 42nd Street: A History of America's Most Infamous Block. New York: HarperCollins Books, ISBN 0-688-17089-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 42nd Street (Manhattan).|
- 42nd Street: A New York Songline – virtual walking tour
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