We live with history in our built environment; history enriches our lives and gives us a sense of place. 
These are stories about historic places.

The Tales Our City Maps Tell—
Monument Lane

By Brian J Pape, AIA, LEED-AP

I love maps of all kinds–ancient mariners’ maps, explorers’ maps, geography maps, demographic maps, trail maps and city plans. I may be a history buff but I am definitely a map nerd. For years, ever since I noticed there was once a street called “Monument Lane” on an old Village map, I’ve wondered about the location of the street and the monument. Well, I finally decided to dig into it and fortunately was able to find more information. Oldstreets.com, compiled and annotated by Gilbert Tauber, provides valuable historic notes.

In those early years, Greenwich was not yet part of New Amsterdam town or even New York City. It was farm country with a few farmsteads and country lanes. One of them was Sand Hill Road although I haven’t run across a map with that label. Sand Hill Road ran from the Bowery westward to Minetta Brook, continuing from there on as an angled path going northwesterly before turning west to the Hudson River. This portion running to the river was called Great

Kill Road but it’s not labeled in this map and would later be renamed Gansevoort Street in 1837.

Monument Lane was an extension of Sand Hill Road to an obelisk located at what now is the north side of 14th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. In the 1775 map above, it is all named “Road to the Obelisk.” The monument was erected in 1762 to honor General James Wolfe, hero of the Battle of Quebec. Initially, the name Monument Lane probably referred only to the extension but it was sometimes applied to all of Sand Hill Road west of Minetta Brook and even to the entire road from the Bowery westward. The monument itself was removed prior to August 1773.

By the time the city commissioners came up with the new grid street plans, Greenwich Lane could denote all or part of the old Sand Hill Road, particularly the part west of Minetta Brook, and just below 14th Street where it turned west to the river. It was also called Greenwich Lane, seen in the 1811 map above. Great Kill Road became Gansevoort Street in 1837. Greenwich Lane between Sixth Avenue and Broadway was closed in 1825. The easterly portion from Minetta Brook, named Art Street in 1811, connects to 8th Street and proceeds east. Later, the potter’s field at the Minetta Brook would be turned into a parade ground after 1826 and a park in 1850.

The remainder of Greenwich Lane was renamed Greenwich Avenue in 1843. Greenwich Avenue extends only from 6th Avenue near West 8th Street, northwest to almost 14th Street at 8th Avenue. It is cut off from Gansevoort Street. The portion east of Minetta Brook was roughly near Washington Square North/ Waverly Place.

Map Credits: There are three original manuscript copies of the 1811 Plan. The interactive version presented here is from the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations (MssCol 605). The map is drawn in ink on paper, wax seals are attached at the bottom and it measures 106 x 30 7/16 inches. To support its interactivity, the 1811 plan has been georectified. The avenues run parallel to the island, tilting to the northeast, rather than true north. The deviation from true north is close to 29 degrees. The georectification enables users to relate the 1811 plan to the city today by using the slide to transition between past and present or by typing a modern address in the address finder.

Brian J. Pape is a citizen architect in private practice, serving on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, on the Landmarks Committee, the State Liquor Authority Committee, and Quality of Life Committee, and as assistant secretary (speaking solely in a personal, and not an official capacity), Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, is a member of AIANY Historic Buildings and Housing Committees, is a LEED-AP “Green” certified architect, and is a journalist specializing in architecture subjects.