The Riddle of N. Moore St.

Text and photo by Brian J Pape, AIA

A masked gentleman walking his cute little dog called out my name as I was walking past. He had read my article in May’s Village View about the Pier 26 Science Playground at the end of N. Moore Street. I had mischievously asked “is there a South Moore Street?” without checking further.

This gentleman, Mark, suggested that the street may have actually been named for Nathaniel Moore, and abbreviated as N. Moore, something I would never have thought of! I promised Mark that I would look into that.

What abundant information was found. Indeed, at some point in the city’s history, it was believed that the street was named for Nathaniel Moore (1782-1872), president of Columbia College from 1842 to 1849 (today’s Columbia University). The City Board of Estimates (today’s City Council) referred to it as Nathaniel Moore Street for some resolutions and legal transactions, such as selling city-owned property at West Street to Shearson Lehman American Express (now Citicorp Building, shown above, looking west along N. Moore). The local Community Board, starting in the 1970s, had been claiming that interpretation also for Nathaniel Moore Street.

Although there is no South Moore Street in Manhattan, there is the older Moore Street at the southern tip of Manhattan near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, halfway between Broadway where Fort Amsterdam once stood, and Broad Street, a former canal.

It used to end at the shoreline of the harbor, but now it runs between skyscrapers from Water Street (One New York Plaza) to Pearl Street, both streets named for their shoreline locations at one time. There are no building entrances addressed on Moore Street and many maps don’t even label it. It has almost disappeared.

The current Wikipedia entry for N. Moore Street says the Tribeca street was named in 1790 for  Bishop Benjamin Moore (1748–1816), the second bishop of the Trinity Church Episcopal Diocese,  the president of King’s College and the father of Clement Clarke Moore, author of The Night Before Christmas/A Visit from St. Nicholas, written in their West 22 Street home in 1823, on  land that was once the farm estate of his grandfather Captain Thomas Clarke. Moore divided the estate into parcels in 1834 for an elegant residential neighborhood.

Bishop Moore gave Holy Communion to the dying Alexander Hamilton at a house on Jane Street in the West Village.

Thanks to the excellent investigative reporting by that grand madam of journalism, the New York Times, in July 14, 1984, by David W. Dunlap, looking deeply into city and church records of the time, we begin to get to the bottom of this riddle.

Nathaniel would have been only seven years old when the Tribeca Moore Street was named by the Trinity Church vestry in 1790. There are no records of any reasons it would have been named for Nat. More credible is the honor that goes to Bishop Moore, an accomplished 41 year-old and leader of Trinity Church. N stands for North, to avoid confusion with the older Moore Street further south.

Riddle solved?