Stone Street. New York City’s first paved street. Financial District.
Stone Street is a narrow cobblestone alley that was first developed by Dutch colonists in the 1600s. Its claim to fame is that it is New York City’s first paved street and as such it is recognized as a historic landmark.
It’s the main part of an area currently known as the Stone Street Historic District. Nestled among skyscrapers in the Financial District, it’s something of a time machine back into another era of New York City’s history. The street is the site where British merchants traded and sold goods, where American colonialists passionately spoke of independence and where tracts of land were purchased and sold (completely disregarding the earlier inhabitants of the area).
The Dutch West India Company first sold this area to European property owners in the mid 1600s. It was around 1658 that the street was paved. The name Stone Street actually came about in the late 1700s. Prior to being named Stone Street, this alley was called Hoogh Straet and then Brouwer Street and also spent some time as Duke Street. Since the street is so close to the waterfront, it was the site of a tremendous amount of commercial activity for two centuries.
In the mid 1800s, the area was destroyed by the Great Fire. Even though the Great Fire leveled hundreds of buildings in the area, the Stone Street district bounced back due to New York City having the leading maritime port in the country. However, in the mid twentieth century the area saw a decline due to maritime activity moving to the west side of Manhattan. In the mid 1990s, funding was secured to restore the area back to its former glory.
Shot with the Sony a99 a few days ago on a bitterly cold winter day here in New York City, I can’t think of a better time to experience this historic alley. It comes to life in the summer when it is full of chairs and tables linked to the many dining establishments that now inhabit the buildings along Stone Street. But it’s in the winter when the light barely reaches through to the ground and when the breeze from the river cuts through to the bone that it makes an indelible mark on the heart.
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