From Wall St. to Harlem, the stories behind iconic NYC landmarks revealed

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In the city so nice that they named it twice, place names hold a lot of meaning. 

In 1609, Dutch settlers named the territory we now call New York “Nieuw Amsterdam.” It got its current moniker after British invaders charged by the Duke of York successfully commandeered the terrain in 1664.

As for the iconic borough of Manhattan, it got its name from the Lenape Native Americans, who referred to a small section of the land as “Manahatta” — which means “place where we gather wood for bows and arrows.”

The elaborate name-histories of New York City’s most celebrated centers, streets and sites are woven together from the cultures and customs detailed in the new book “Names of New York: Discovering the City’s Past, Present, and Future Through Its Place-Names,” by NYU Liberal Studies professor Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. 

“Place names, the labels we attach to maps and the areas that we inhabit, are powerful signifiers of the history we emerged from and the ways that we navigate our present,” Jelly-Schapiro, 41, told The Post.

But the geographer doesn’t overlook the nature in which the city was obtained.

“To engage the roots of any place’s names is to chart a history of power — to peel back layers of history to uncover those who’ve arrogated to themselves the right to affix new labels on maps,” Jelly-Schapiro writes.

“What’s key about these indigenous names is that they were placed on maps by the
same colonists who pushed the region’s first people from their land.”

His book explains everything from how Gramercy Park — derived from the Dutch term “Krom Moerasje,” which means small crooked marsh — to Coney Island — grounds the Dutch named for its high population of “conyne” or rabbits — got their monikers.

Ever wonder how the iconic Bowery earned its title or why the city’s most famous Financial District strip is known as Wall Street? Well, wonder no more. 


In New York, if you hear someone say, “Let’s get the show on the road,” the road they’re referring to is Broadway. The city’s twinkling heart of culture and theater, Broadway was originally named the Wickquasgeck Trail by the native Lenape. In the early 1600s, the Dutch created a road on that trail and called it de Heere Straat or “Gentlemen’s Street.”

Mr. Stewart'S House 54th St. Betw. Broadway & 7th NYPLbroadway-2

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