Jump to content

Sixth Avenue

Route map:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

KML is not from Wikidata
Sixth Avenue
Avenue of the Americas
The "skyscraper alley" of International Style buildings along the avenue looking north from 40th Street to Central Park
NamesakeThe Americas
OwnerCity of New York
Maintained byNYCDOT
Length3.7 mi (6.0 km)[1]
LocationManhattan, New York City
South endChurch / Franklin Streets in Tribeca
Herald Square in Midtown
North endCentral Park South / Center Drive in Midtown
EastFifth Avenue (north of Waverly Pl)
WestVarick Street (south of Houston Street)
Seventh Avenue (Houston Street to 34th Street)
Broadway (between 34th and 45th Streets)
Seventh Avenue (between 45th and 59th Streets)
CommissionedMarch 1811

Sixth Avenue, also known as Avenue of the Americas, is a major thoroughfare in New York City's borough of Manhattan, on which traffic runs northbound, or "uptown". It is commercial for much of its length.

Sixth Avenue begins four blocks below Canal Street, at Franklin Street in Tribeca, where the northbound Church Street divides into Sixth Avenue to the left and the local continuation of Church Street to the right, which then ends at Canal Street. From this beginning, Sixth Avenue traverses SoHo and Greenwich Village, roughly divides Chelsea from the Flatiron District and NoMad, passes through the Garment District and skirts the edge of the Theater District while passing through Midtown Manhattan. Although it is officially named "Avenue of the Americas", this name is seldom used by New Yorkers.[2][3][4]

Sixth Avenue's northern end is at Central Park South, adjacent to the Artists' Gate entrance to Central Park via Center Drive. Historically, Sixth Avenue was also the name of the road that continued north of Central Park, but that segment was renamed Lenox Avenue in 1887 and co-named Malcolm X Boulevard in 1987.[5]


Looking north from 14th Street in 1905, with the Sixth Avenue El on the right
The historic Ladies' Mile shopping district that thrived along Sixth Avenue left behind some of the largest retail spaces in the city. Beginning in the 1990s, the buildings began to be reused after being dormant for decades.

Sixth Avenue was laid out in the Commissioners' Plan of 1811. As originally designed, Sixth Avenue's southern terminus was at Carmine Street in Greenwich Village, and it continued northward to 147th Street in Harlem. Central Park was added to the street grid in 1857 and created an interruption in Sixth Avenue between 59th and 110th Streets. Proposals to extend the street south of Carmine Street were discussed by the city's Board of Aldermen as early as the mid-1860s.[6] The IRT Sixth Avenue Line elevated railway (the "El") was constructed on Sixth Avenue in 1878, darkening the street and reducing its real-estate value. In the early and mid-1800s Sixth Avenue passed by the popular roadhouse and tavern, Old Grapevine, at the corner of 11th Street, which at the time was the northern edge of the city.[7]

In late 1887, the Harlem portion of what was then considered Sixth Avenue was renamed Lenox Avenue[8] for philanthropist James Lenox; a century later it was co-named Malcolm X Boulevard, in honor of the slain civil rights leader Malcolm X.[9][10]

Starting in 1926, as part of the construction of the Holland Tunnel, Sixth Avenue was widened and extended from Minetta Lane to Canal Street.[11] Smaller side streets in the extension's path were also demolished or incorporated into the extended avenue.[11] The Sixth Avenue extension also allowed for the construction of the Independent Subway System (IND)'s Eighth Avenue Line, which was to run below Sixth Avenue south of Eighth Street.[12] To accommodate the new subway, buildings were condemned and demolished to extend Sixth Avenue southward.[12] Construction of the extension resulted in considerable dislocation to existing residents, as ten thousand people were evicted to make way for the Sixth Avenue extension.[13] One historian stated that most of the displaced residents were "Italian immigrants who knew no other home in America".[14] According to the WPA Guide to New York City, the extension resulted in blank side walls facing the "uninspiring thoroughfare" and small leftover spaces. Dozens of buildings, including the original Church of Our Lady of Pompeii, were demolished.[15] After the renumbering of the street's properties in 1929,[16] the Sixth Avenue extension was opened to traffic in 1930,[17] and the subway line was completed two years later.[18] Sixth Avenue, the only numbered avenue to extend south of Houston Street, thus became the southernmost numbered avenue in Manhattan. House numbering of existing buildings was adjusted.[12]

By the 1930s, a coalition of commercial establishments and building owners along Sixth Avenue campaigned to have the El removed. The El was closed on December 4, 1938, and came down in stages, beginning in Greenwich Village in 1938–39.[15] The replacement Sixth Avenue subway, which ran between Houston and 53rd Streets with a transfer to the Eighth Avenue line at West Fourth Street, opened in 1940.[19]

The demolition of the Sixth Avenue elevated railway also resulted in accelerated commercial development of the avenue in Midtown. Beginning in the 1960s, the avenue was entirely rebuilt above 42nd Street as an all-but-uninterrupted avenue of corporate headquarters housed in glass slab towers of International Modernist style.[20]: 394  Among the buildings constructed was the CBS Building at 52nd Street, by Eero Saarinen (1965), dubbed "Black Rock" for its full-height black-granite piers;[21][20]: 406–410  this designated landmark is Saarinen's only skyscraper.[22] Another group of modernist structures along Sixth Avenue in midtown was the "XYZ Buildings" (1971–1974) at 1211, 1221, and 1251 Sixth Avenue.[20]: 410–416 

On March 10, 1957, Sixth Avenue was reconfigured to carry one-way traffic north of its intersection with Broadway in Herald Square.[23] The rest of the avenue followed on November 10, 1963.[24]

In the mid-1970s, the city "spruced up" the street, including the addition of patterned brick crosswalks, repainting of streetlamps, and new pedestrian plazas. Special lighting, rare throughout the rest of the city, was also installed.[25]

Sign for Venezuela on Sixth Avenue

Renaming and co-naming[edit]

The avenue's official name was changed to Avenue of the Americas in 1945 by the City Council, at the behest of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia,[26] who signed the bill into law on October 2, 1945.[27] The intent was to honor "Pan-American ideals and principles"[28] and the nations of Central and South America, and to encourage those countries to build consulates along the avenue.[29] It was felt at the time that the name would provide greater grandeur to a shabby street,[30] and to promote trade with the Western Hemisphere.[31]

After the name change, round signs were attached to streetlights on the avenue, showing the national seals and coats of arms of the nations honored. However, New Yorkers rarely used the avenue's newer name,[4] and in 1955, an informal study found that locals used "Sixth Avenue" more than eight times as often as "Avenue of the Americas".[32] The move was also criticized as "propaganda" by those who wanted to return to the original name.[33] Since then, the thoroughfare has been labelled as both "Avenue of the Americas" and "Sixth Avenue" in recent years. Most of the old round signs with country emblems were gone by the late 1990s, and the ones remaining, which were only present between Canal Street and Washington Place in Greenwich Village and in Midtown around 57th Street began showing signs of age.[31] However, starting in March 2023, the city began to install new signs along most of the length of the avenue, in addition to replacing the remaining original signs, which were aging.[34][35]

Notable buildings and events[edit]

Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village

Sights along Sixth Avenue include Juan Pablo Duarte Square;[36] the polychrome High Victorian Gothic Jefferson Market Courthouse, currently occupied by the Jefferson Market Library;[37] the surviving stretch of grand department stores of 1880 to 1900 in the Ladies' Mile Historic District that runs from 18th Street to 23rd Street;[38] the former wholesale flower district; Herald Square at 34th Street,[39] site of Macy's department store;[40] and Bryant Park from 40th to 42nd Streets.[41] The corporate stretch above 42nd Street contains the Bank of America Tower, W. R. Grace Building, International Center of Photography, Rockefeller Center (including the Time-Life Building, News Corp. Building, Exxon Building, McGraw-Hill Building, and Radio City Music Hall) and the CBS Building.

Sixth Avenue is the site of the annual Village Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village[42] and the Dominican Day Parade in Midtown.

Mass transit[edit]

Sixth Avenue is served by the New York City Subway with the IND Sixth Avenue Line (B, ​D, ​F, <F>, and ​M trains) north of Houston Street, and the IND Eighth Avenue Line (A, ​C, and ​E trains) south of Greenwich Avenue. The Harlem portion of Sixth Avenue (Lenox Avenue) is served by the IRT Lenox Avenue Line (2 and ​3 trains) north of Central Park North (110th Street).[43] The PATH's Uptown Hudson Tubes to New Jersey also run under Sixth Avenue (JSQ–33, HOB-33, and JSQ-33 (via HOB) trains) from 9th to 33rd Streets.[44]

In popular culture[edit]

The avenue is referenced both in the name and in the lyrics of "6th Avenue Heartache" by The Wallflowers.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google (September 13, 2015). "Sixth Avenue" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  2. ^ Moscow, Henry (1978). The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins. New York: Hagstrom Company. ISBN 978-0-8232-1275-0., p.24
  3. ^ Finnegan, Jack (2007). Newcomer's Handbook For Moving to and Living in New York City. First Books. p. 43. Avenue of the Americas, a name rarely used by New Yorkers
  4. ^ a b Cudahy, Brian J. (1995). Under the Sidewalks of New York. Fordham University Press. p. 132. New Yorkers stubbornly resist calling Sixth Avenue by the name it has officially borne since the La Guardia years
  5. ^ Bodovitz, Sandra (July 20, 1987). "What's in a Street Rename? Disorder". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  6. ^ "Street Improvements" (PDF). The New York Times. August 12, 1877. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  7. ^ "Village Landmarks – The Old Grapevine Tavern". NYPL. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "Honoring the Lenox Family". The New York Times. October 5, 1887. p. 4. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  9. ^ Gray, Christopher (June 15, 2003). "Streetscapes/200-218 Malcolm X Boulevard, From 120th to 121st Street; A Once-Noble Row of Houses Hopes for Renewal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 25, 2007.
  10. ^ Malcolm X Boulevard Archived June 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, New York City Department of City Planning. Accessed May 25, 2007.
  11. ^ a b Adams, Mildred (September 19, 1926). "Traffic Now Forces Huge Street Cutting; Sixth Avenue Extension to Focal Point on Canal, Street Is Perhaps the Most Extraordinary of Its Kind in the Entire History of New York City". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Walsh, Kevin (April 15, 2003). "Deep Sixth: a walk up Avenue of the Americas – Forgotten New York". forgotten-ny.com. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  13. ^ "10,000 Must Leave Condemned Houses; City's Order to Persons in Path of Sixth Av. Extension Comes as Surprise to Many". The New York Times. July 29, 1926. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  14. ^ Gold, Joyce. From Trout Stream to Bohemia: A Walking Guide to Greenwich Village History (1988:49)
  15. ^ a b WPA Guide to New York City (1939) 1984:138
  16. ^ Bird, Christiane (2022). A Block in Time: A New York City History at the Corner of Fifth Avenue and Twenty-Third Street. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 256. ISBN 9781632867445.
  17. ^ "To Open 6th Av. Extension; Walker and Miller to Take Part in Ceremony Today". The New York Times. September 18, 1930. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  18. ^ Crowell, Paul (September 10, 1932). "Gay Midnight Crowd Rides First Trains in the Subway; Throngs at Stations an Hour Before Time, Rush Turnstiles When Chains Are Dropped". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  19. ^ "New Subway Line on 6th Ave. Opens at Midnight Fete; Mayor and 2,000 Guests Jam Two 'First Trains'--Supper and Show Mark Event". The New York Times. December 15, 1940. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  20. ^ a b c Stern, Robert A. M.; Gilmartin, Gregory; Massengale, John Montague (1983). New York 1900: Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism, 1890–1915. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-0511-5. OCLC 9829395.
  21. ^ "Passage: Black Rock". CBS News. March 29, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  22. ^ "CBS Building" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. October 21, 1997. p. 3.
  23. ^ Ingraham, Joseph (March 11, 1957). "Midtown Gets New Traffic Pattern". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  24. ^ Stengren, Bernard (November 13, 1963). "One-Way Traffic Plan Tangled At 3 Broadway 'X' Intersections". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  25. ^ "Forgotten Street Scenes: Secrets of Sixth Avenue". Forgotten NY. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  26. ^ "Name of 6th Ave. to Be Changed To the Avenue of the Americas; Council Votes Proposal at Mayor's Request, 12 to 1, After a Debate Rages for 2 Hours --Isaacs Fears Oblivion for Historic Sites". The New York Times. September 21, 1945. p. 23. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  27. ^ "6th Avenue's Name Gone With the Wind; Sure Sign of Sixth Avenue's Passing". The New York Times. October 3, 1945. p. 21. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  28. ^ "Avenue of the Americas" Archived August 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine on the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council website
  29. ^ "The other name for Sixth Avenue" on Ephemeral New York (January 3, 2010)
  30. ^ Barry, Dan (September 21, 2005). "About New York; No Way To Name An Avenue". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  31. ^ a b Gonzalez, David (July 4, 2008). "Few Emblems of Americas Remain on Their Avenue". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  32. ^ Esterow, Milton (October 3, 1955). "After Ten Years, It's Still 6th Ave.; Impromptu Survey Finds Old Name Favored Over Ave. of Americas by 8.5 to 1". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  33. ^ "NY's Avenue of the Americas Linked to Latin American Independence". NBC News. January 25, 2016. Archived from the original on December 14, 2020. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  34. ^ McGoldrick, Meaghan (January 31, 2023). "'A place we can all call home': City unveils restored medallions on Avenue of the Americas | amNewYork". www.amny.com. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  35. ^ "NYC DOT, Mayor's Office of International Affairs and Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Unveil First Restored Medallions Along Avenue of the Americas". www.nyc.gov. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  36. ^ "Duarte Square". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  37. ^ *NYC Architecture Site
  38. ^ "Ladies' Mile District Wins Landmark Status". The New York Times. May 7, 1989. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 14, 2024.
  39. ^ Herald Square – NYC Parks
  40. ^ "Store Count and Square Footage – Macy's, Inc". Macy's, Inc. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  41. ^ Bryant Park Corporation
  42. ^ "Village Halloween Parade". halloween-nyc.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  43. ^ "Subway Map" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. September 2021. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  44. ^ "Maps – PATH". www.panynj.gov. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  45. ^ "Sixth Avenue Heartache by The Wallflowers Songfacts". songfacts.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015.

External links[edit]