Maiden Lane (Manhattan)

Maiden Lane (Manhattan)

Maiden Lane is an east-west street in the Financial District of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Its eastern terminus is at South Street, near the South Street Seaport. It continues west, terminating at Broadway, near the World Trade Center site.

The street received its name in New Amsterdam, as Maagde Paatje, a "footpath used by lovers along a rippling brook" according to the WPA Guide to New York City,[1] a "pebbly brook" that ran from Nassau Street to the East River. where wives and daughters washed linen according to the city historians Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace.[2]

The street was formally laid out in 1698, the first street north of still-palisaded Wall Street.[3] By 1728, a market was held at the foot of Maiden Lane, where it ended at Front Street facing the East River; by 1823, when it was demolished and disbanded,[4] the Fly Market,[5] selling meat, country produce and fish under its covered roofs, was New York's oldest.[6]

In September 1732, a company of professional actors arrived from London and took an upstairs room near the junction of Pearl Street which was fitted up with a platform stage, and marked the origin of professional theater in New York; by the time the company was disbanded in 1734, their building was known as the Play House[7].

Maiden Lane was a street of shops by the end of the 18th century, even before the new fashion for multi-paned shop windows caught on in the city.[8] In 1827 the skylit New York Arcade, banking on the fashionable success of London's Burlington Arcade (1819), spanned the block between Maiden Lane and John Street east of Broadway with forty smart shops; "it had not the success that had been anticipated," Charles Haynes Haswell recalled, "and survived but a few years".[9] Maiden Lane was soon one of the first city streets to be lit with gas lamps.[10]

Looking up Broadway from the corner of Maiden Lane (at right) c1885-87

The slip at the foot of Main Lane was infilled in the early 19th century, accounting for the widened stretch in the last blocks before South Street, the present waterfront.[11] The water of the erstwhile brook ran down the center of the street, until 1827, when a suggestion was made in Common Council to close it over and lead rainwater to the side gutters.[12]

One of the handful of mid-19th century commercial structures still standing in the Financial District, is the building 90-94 Maiden Lane, built for Roosevelt & Son, with a cast-iron front (attributed to Charles Wright, 1870-71) by Daniel D. Badger.[13]

Until the early 20th century Maiden Lane was the center of the jewelry district, which relocated on West 47th Street. At Broadway, the bronze and glass clock embedded in the sidewalk by William Barthman Jewelers still keeps time; in 1946 the New York police department estimated that it was trodden on by 51,000 people every weekday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.[14]

Maiden Lane is the street referred to in the 1936 American crime film 15 Maiden Lane.


  1. ^ WPA Guide, (1939) 1982:93.
  2. ^ Henry Moscow, The Street Book: An Encyclopedia of Manhattan's Street Names and Their Origins, (Fordham University Press), 1979:73; Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A history of New York City to 1898, 1999:54.
  3. ^ Daniel Van Pelt, Leslie's History of the Greater New York, vol. I :100
  4. ^ Charles Hemstreet, Nooks & Corners of Old New York, 1899:23.
  5. ^ Keeping its Dutch name vly "valley", for the long-gone mstream-bed at the foot of Maiden Lane.
  6. ^ Burrows and Wallace 1999:125, 354.
  7. ^ T. A. Brown, A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, 1902:
  8. ^ Burrows and Wallace 1999:
  9. ^ Charles Haynes Haswell,Reminiscences of an Octogenarian of the City of New York (1816 to 1860)[1] 1896:216.
  10. ^ Burrows and Wallace 1999:437, 439.
  11. ^ Hemstreet 1899:13.
  12. ^ Haswell 1896:215.
  13. ^ (New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission) Guide to New York City Landmarks, 2009:14 inv. no. 29. Badger also supplied the cast-iron for the landmarked E. V. Haughwout Building (1857).
  14. ^ Kevin Walsh, Forgotten New York: The Ultimate Urban Explorers Guide to All Five Boroughs, 2006:141.

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