42nd Street (Manhattan)

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42nd Street

Looking west along 42nd Street from Seventh Avenue (2004)
Other name(s) Lincoln Highway (west of Broadway)
New 42nd Street (8th to 7th Avenues)
Maintained by NYCDOT
Length 2.0 mi[1] (3.2 km)
Location Manhattan, New York City
Postal code 10036, 10018, 10017, 10168
West end NY 9A (12th Avenue) in Hell's Kitchen
East end FDR Drive in Murray Hill / Midtown East
North 43rd Street (west of 1st Avenue)
48th Street (east of 1st Avenue)
South 41st Street (west of 6th Avenue)
40th Street (6th to 5th Avenues)
41st Street (east of 5th Avenue)
Commissioned March 1811
Grindhouse movie theaters on 42nd Street in 1985 before its renovation; the 200 block of W. 42nd Street; former Lyric Theatre facade and nearby buildings
Grand Central Terminal at night, as seen from the west on 42nd Street
The Chrysler Building, with its unique stainless-steel top, is one of the most distinctive buildings on 42nd Street
The east end of 42nd Street is very different in tone from the west; looking west from bridge at 1st Avenue. The Ford Foundation Building is visible in the right foreground
Sign marking the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway, which begins on 42nd Street and continues to San Francisco, California

42nd Street is a major crosstown street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, known for its theaters, especially near the intersection with Broadway at Times Square. It is also the name of the region of the theater district (and, at times, the red-light district) near that intersection. The street has held a special place in New Yorkers' imaginations since at least the turn of the 20th century, and is the site of some of New York's best known buildings, including (east to west) the United Nations, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.


Early history

During the American Revolutionary War, a cornfield near the present location of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street was where General George Washington angrily attempted to rally his troops after the British landing at Kip's Bay, which scattered many of the American militiamen. Washington's attempt put him in danger of being captured, and his officers had to persuade him to leave. The rout eventually subsided into an orderly retreat.[2]

John Jacob Astor purchased a 70 acres (28 ha) farm in 1803 that ran from 42nd Street to 46th Street west of Broadway to the Hudson River.[3]

The street was designated by the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 that established the Manhattan street grid as one of 15 east-west streets that would be 100 feet (30 m) in width (while other streets were designated as 60 feet (18 m) in width).[4]

In 1835, the city's Street Committee, after receiving numerous complaints about lack of access for development above 14th Street, decided to open up all lots which has already been plotted on the city grid up to 42nd Street, which thus became - for a time - the northern boundary of the city.[5]

Cornelius Vanderbilt began the construction of Grand Central Depot in 1869 on 42nd Street at Fourth Avenue as the terminal for his Central, Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines, because city regulations required that trains be pulled by horse below 42nd Street.[6] The Depot, which opened in 1871, was replaced by Grand Central Terminal in 1913.

Between the 1870s and 1890s, 42nd Street became the uptown boundary of the legitimate theatre district, which started around 23rd Street, as the entertainment district of the Tenderloin gradually moved northward.[7]

20th century

The corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, at the southeast corner of Times Square, was the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across the United States, which was conceived and mapped in 1913.

Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley's 1933 film musical 42nd Street, starring 30s heartthrobs Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, displays the bawdy and colorful mixture of Broadway denizens and lowlifes in Manhattan during the Depression. In 1980, it was turned into a successful Broadway musical which ran until 1989, and which was revived for a four-year run in 2001.[8] In the words of the Al Dubin and Harry Warren title song, on 42nd Street you can find:

Little nifties from the Fifties, innocent and sweet,
Sexy ladies from the Eighties who are indiscreet,
They're side by side, they're glorified,
Where the underworld can meet the elite
Naughty, gawdy, bawdy, sporty, Forty-second Street!

From the late 1950s until the late 1980s, 42nd Street, nicknamed "The Deuce", was the cultural center of American grindhouse theaters, which spawned an entire subculture. The book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed, describes in detail the unique blend of people who made up the theater-goers,

depressives hiding from jobs, sexual obsessives, inner-city people seeking cheap diversions, teenagers skipping school, adventurous couples on dates, couples-chasers peeking on them, people getting high, homeless people sleeping, pickpockets...[9]

while the street outside the theatres was populated with:

phony drug salesman ... low-level drug dealers, chain snatchers ... [j]unkies alone in their heroin/cocaine dreamworld ... predatory chickenhawks spying on underage trade looking for pickups ... male prostitutes of all ages ... [t]ranssexuals, hustlers, and closety gays with a fetishistic homo- or heterosexual itch to scratch ... It was common to see porn stars whose films were playing at the adult houses promenade down the block. ... Were you a freak? Not when you stepped onto the Deuce. Being a freak there would get you money, attention, entertainment, a starring part in a movie. Or maybe a robbery and a beating.[9]

For much of the mid and late 20th century, the area of 42nd Street near Times Square was home to activities often considered unsavory,[10] including peep shows. A comedian once said, "They call it 42nd Street because you're not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it."


In the early 1990s, city government encouraged a clean-up of the Times Square area. In 1990, the city government took over six of the historic theatres on the block of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, and New 42nd Street, a not-for-profit organization, was formed to oversee their renovation and reuse, as well as to construct new theatres and a rehearsal space.

In 1993, the Walt Disney Corporation bought the New Amsterdam Theatre, which it renovated a few years later. It is now the flagship for Disney's theatrical productions in New York.

Since the mid-1990s, the block has again become home to legitimate theatres and several multi-screen mainstream movie theatres, along with shops, restaurants, hotels, and attractions such as Madame Tussauds wax museum and Ripley's Believe It Or Not that draw millions to the city every year. This area is now co-signed as "New 42nd Street" to signify this change.

Notable places

(from East to West):


Every New York City Subway line that crosses 42nd Street has a stop on 42nd Street:

There are two subway lines under 42nd Street. The IRT 42nd Street Shuttle runs under 42nd Street between Broadway/Seventh Avenue (Times Square) and Park Avenue (Grand Central). The IRT Flushing Line curves from Eleventh Avenue to 41st Street, under which it runs until Fifth Avenue; shifts to 42nd Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues; and continues under the East River to Queens. Each line stops at Times Square and Grand Central; the Flushing Line also stops at Fifth Avenue.

Additionally, MTA Regional Bus Operations's M42 bus runs the length of 42nd Street between the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises ferry terminal on the Hudson River and the headquarters of the United Nations on the East River. Its predecessor, the 42nd Street Crosstown Line streetcar, had used 42nd Street.

In popular culture

See also



  1. Google (August 31, 2015). "42nd Street (Manhattan)" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  2. Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.260
  3. Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.338
  4. Morris, Gouverneur, De Witt, Simeon, and Rutherford, John [sic] (March 1811) "Remarks Of The Commissioners For Laying Out Streets And Roads In The City Of New York, Under The Act Of April 3, 1807", Cornell University Library. Accessed June 27, 2016. "These streets are all sixty feet wide except fifteen, which are one hundred feet wide, viz.: Numbers fourteen, twenty-three, thirty-four, forty-two, fifty-seven, seventy-two, seventy-nine, eighty-six, ninety-six, one hundred and six, one hundred and sixteen, one hundred and twenty-five, one hundred and thirty-five, one hundred and forty-five, and one hundred and fifty-five--the block or space between them being in general about two hundred feet."
  5. Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.579
  6. Burrows & Wallace (1999), p.944
  7. Burrows & Wallace (1999), pp.1149-50
  8. "42nd Street" on the Internet Broadway Database
  9. 1 2 Landis, Bill and Clifford, Michelle. Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. ISBN 9780743215831. pp.2-7
  10. Blumenthal, Ralph, "A Times Square Revival?" The New York Times Magazine (December 27, 1981). Accessed September 6, 2010
  11. Levine DB (September 2007). "The hospital for the ruptured and crippled moves East on 42nd street 1912 to 1925". HSS Journal. 3 (2): 131–6. doi:10.1007/s11420-007-9051-6. PMC 2504267Freely accessible. PMID 18751783. The new Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled was built on 42nd Street between First and Second avenue. It is currently the location of the Ford Foundation.


Further reading

External links

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