Cortlandt Street (Manhattan)

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Looking east down Cortlandt Street from One Liberty Plaza; the building with the green mansard roof is 174 Broadway, also known as 1 Maiden Lane. When Cortlandt Street crosses Broadway it becomes Maiden Lane.

Cortlandt Street is located in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City. It has varied in length over time, but it currently runs east to west for the one block from Broadway to Church Street, then continues an additional block as the non-vehicular Cortlandt Way from Church to Greenwich Street. At its eastern end, the street continues as Maiden Lane.

The street, which was laid out and set down c.1735, was during the early 20th century the site of Radio Row, a small business district which specialized in the sale and repair of radios. It was razed in the mid-1960s for the building of the World Trade Center.


The street is named after Oloff Van Cortlandt and his family. Van Cortlandt, who arrived in New Amsterdam in 1637, was a rich brewer and leading citizen of the colony – he was burgomaster from 1655 to 1666 – and owned the land on which the street was laid.[1][2] His son Stephanus Van Cortlandt was the mayor of New York from 1677 to 1678, and again from 1686 to 1688. He was the city's first native-born mayor. Stephanus' brother Jacobus Van Cortlandt was mayor from 1710 to 1711 and from 1719 to 1720. Both served under British rule.[2] [notes 1]

The Cortlandt Street Ferry Depot in 1893

The street has existed since before the American Revolution. Of the numerous extant maps of the city, it first appears in "Mrs. Buchnerd's Plan" which depicts the colony in 1732-35, however it does not appear on the "Carwitham Plan" of 1730 or the "Lyne-Bradford Plan" from 1731.[4] Prior to that time, the land on which Cortlandt Street would be laid was the southern border of Trinity Church's "Church Farm" – previously known as the "King's Farm" – which went as far north as what is now Christopher Street. [notes 2]

The Unitarian preacher John Butler rented a hall on Cortlandt Street in 1794 and lectured before crowds that his critics considered to be "truly alarming" in size. He was opposed by mainstream preachers, who vehemently criticized him in their sermons.[7]

In 1807, Robert Fulton began scheduled ferry service from the foot of Cortlandt Street to Albany, New York. The boat, initially called the North River Steamboat, later became known as the Clermont.[8] Ferries also ran from the Cortland Street Ferry Depot to New Jersey.

Herman Melville's family lived on Cortlandt Street from around 1821 to 1824, during Melville's childhood, as part of their rise in status in the city after their relocation from Boston, where Melville's father was a successful merchant.[9]

Radio Row in 1936, photographed by Berenice Abbott
The former entrance to the East River Savings Bank

In 1887, the Brill Brothers men's clothing store chain opened its first store at 45 Cortland Street. Max and Maurice Brill, whose name is on the Brill Building in midtown, expanded the one store into a chain of eight. Down the block, at 41 Cortlandt Street, the first Childs Restaurant was opened in 1889.[10]

Business owner and entrepreneur Harry L. Schneck opened City Radio on Cortlandt Street in 1921. This was a small business that sold radios and radio parts, which at the time was quite a novelty.[11] Over the following decades, the area developed into a business district in its own right, becoming known as Radio Row.

In 1966, the Radio Row district was demolished and its streets were de-mapped to make way for the construction of the World Trade Center. Cortlandt Street, which until then ran to West Street, was cut back several hundred yards to Church Street, making it only one block long. In 1968, both the Singer Building and the City Investing Building were deconstructed to make way for the monolithic One Liberty Plaza, a full block 54-story office tower.[12] 22 Cortlandt Street was built directly across from it and both projects were overseen by the Emery Roth & Sons architecture firm.

The de-mapped portion of Cortlandt Street was re-mapped as "Cortlandt Way" in 2014 as part of the development of the new World Trade Center. The newly opened portion, which is not accessible to vehicles, lies between Three and Four World Trade Center.[10]


Located at 26 Cortlandt Street is the Neo-classical/Art Deco former East River Savings Bank building, designed by Walker & Gillette and built from 1931 to 1934; it was later expanded upwards. The building is listed in the AIA Guide to New York City.[13] It is now a Century 21 department store.


Cortlandt Street is the location of subway stations for the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue (1) and BMT Broadway (N,R,W) lines. The former station was destroyed as a result of the 9/11 attacks, and is expected to re-open in 2018.[14] The station on the BMT Broadway Line (N,R,W) was closed for a year after the attacks, and then again in 2005 to allow for construction of various parts of the new World Trade Center, including a passageway linking the station to the Fulton Street Transit Center. The northbound platform was re-opened in 2009 and the southbound in 2011.[15][16]


Informational notes

  1. ^ The family's name also appears on Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the land of which was given to Jacobus' wife, Eva, by her adoptive faher, Frederick Philipse. The land was bought from their descendants by New York City and turned into a park in 1888.[2][3]
  2. ^ Later, in 1762, the church's vestry would have that land surveyed and laid out in a grid pattern of streets – one of the earliest uses of the grid in Manhattan[5] – on which they offered plots to artisans and laborers at very affordable rents.[6]


  1. ^ Feirstein, Sanna (2001), Naming New York: Manhattan Places & How They Got Their Names, New York: New York University Press, p. 26, ISBN 978-0-8147-2712-6 
  2. ^ a b c Moscow, Henry (1978), The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins, New York: Hagstrom Company, p. 42, ISBN 0823212750 
  3. ^ Staff (June 1986) "Van Cortlandt Park History" Adminstrator's Office, Van Cortlandt & Pelham Bay Parks, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
  4. ^ Augustyn, Robert T. & Cohen, Paul E. (1997), Manhattan in Maps: 1527-1995, New York: Rizzoli International Press, pp. 55,57,61, ISBN 0847820521 
  5. ^ Koeppel, Gerard (2015), City on a Grid: How New York Became New York, Boston: Da Capo Press, pp. 11–12, ISBN 978-0-306-82284-1 
  6. ^ Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.187
  7. ^ Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.396
  8. ^ Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.343
  9. ^ Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.702
  10. ^ a b Dunlap, David W. (July 31, 2014) "At World Trade Center Site, Rebuilding Recreates Intersection of Long Ago" The New York Times
  11. ^ Simon, Jordan (July 25, 2016). "The History of "Radio Row," NYC's First Electronics District". Gothamist. Archived from the original on 2016-07-28. 
  12. ^ "One Liberty Plaza". Emporis. 
  13. ^ White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot & Leadon, Fran (2010), AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, p. 40, ISBN 9780195383867 
  14. ^ Dunlap, David W. (April 29, 2015) "At Cortlandt Street Subway Station, Art Woven From Words" The New York Times
  15. ^ Chan, Sewell (November 26, 2009) "After 5 Years, Cortlandt Street Station Partly Reopens" The New York Times
  16. ^ Dunlap, David W. (December 24, 2011) "After Years of Halting Steps, A Transit Hub Begins to Take Shape" The New York Times


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