If anyone was asked to name the most heard of street – road, highway, boulevard, whatever – in the world, the universal answer will be ‘Broadway’! Reaching far back into history, and glorified in so many works of fiction and poetry, this thoroughfare could be the most identifiable single element of the great city of New York!
This is the oldest north-south arterial road in New York, existing from pre-Dutch times, when it was just a trail used by the native Americans. With the Dutch settling at the southern end of Manhattan island in 1620s, it became a country road extending north, beyond the gates of the settlement at present-day Wall Street. Today Broadway runs the length of Manhattan, starting at Bowling Greens in the south and moving out of Manhattan past 220th Street. (Actually, it extends further another 20 miles, to end at Sleeping Hollow in Westchester county, but it’s the Manhattan part that matters, right?)
Broadway could not be contained within the grid system of New York City roads, adopted in 1811, and goes diagonally for most of its way through midtown. That also explains the curious shapes of some of the buildings at Broadway’s intersections. A prime example of this will the Flatiron Building.
Starting with an impromptu parade on October 28, 1886 to celebrate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, Broadway has always been the place for parades. A parade could be to honour a visiting head of state or someone with a major achievement, or to celebrate a victory in a sports event or anything else significant. Thus did Broadway get the sobriquet ‘Canyon of Heroes’.
The new generation may not – will not – remember the quarter inch ticker tapes that carried the stock prices from the exchanges and spewed out by the stock ticker machine. As the lower part of Broadway has always been lined on either side by financial institutions and brokerage firms, they had a lot of this ticker tape lying around. So what was more natural than showering some of it on the procession going down on Broadway… yep, just like confetti! And thus did the parades on Broadway get the name ticker tape parades.
These days, the ticker tape parades go from Battery Park to the City Hall. And each parade is commemorated by a granite strip with the name of the person being honoured set into the sidewalk of the Canyon of Heroes.
Only, instead of the ticker tape, paper from the shredder is most often used!
Along the Broadway are Wall Street, Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street fame, Trinity Church, City Hall Park, Union Square, Times Square, Columbus Circle and Central Park, Columbia University, The Cloisters, and a host of other interesting places.
And these days Broadway has become a synonym for theatre in NYC! Mainly for the reason that the theatre district where the majority of the playhouses are located, is right on the Broadway. And from there, you have off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway performances as well! And if you want to snag some discount tickets, that can be done at the ticket kiosk at Times Square too!
A random thought… wouldn’t it be great to do a full walking trip of the Broadway, from one end of Manhattan to the other? Say for example, start at Broadway Bridge at the top of Manhattan and walk all the way to Bowling Green… sounds awesome! So here it is… before this summer is over, I’m going to do that. It takes me around 15 minutes to walk a mile; 13 miles in a day will be easy-peasy! One more item added to the summer fun!