December 17 - NYC's First One-Way Street

Posted on December 17, 2016

Did you know that New York City's Manhattan is laid out in a grid, with avenues running north-and-south and streets running east-and-west? 

Almost all of the streets and avenues allow only one-way traffic. There are a few larger "thoroughfares" that have two-way traffic -- and they tend to be the streets/avenues named in subway stops. The east-and-west streets are numbered (for example, 14th Street, 59th Street, etc.). In general, even-numbered streets are for eastbound traffic and odd-numbered streets are for westbound traffic.

This all sounds very organized, very civilized, but of course it wasn't always this way. Way back in the late 1700s, New York City had grids of avenues and streets, but there were no cars, and there was a lot less traffic, and all streets accommodated traffic going either direction. 

But there was one time of the day (actually, night) when there was traffic. In the area around City Hall, there were several theatres, and every time a show was about to start, or a show let out, carriages dropping off or picking up audience members would conglomerate into a chaotic mess. 

On this date in 1791, authorities ordered that all carriages must drop off or pick up with their horses' heads pointing toward the East River. 

And thus, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, New York City had its first one-way street!

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