Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles
In the early seventeenth century, in a backwater Dutch colony, there was a wide, muddy cow path that the settlers called the Brede Wegh. As the street grew longer, houses and taverns began to spring up alongside it. What was once New Amsterdam became New York, and farmlands gradually gave way to department stores, theaters, hotels, and, finally, the perpetual traffic of the twentieth century's Great White Way. From Bowling Green all the way up to Marble Hill, Broadway takes us on a mile-by-mile journey up America's most vibrant and complex thoroughfare, through the history at the heart of Manhattan.
Today, Broadway almost feels inevitable, but over the past four hundred years there have been thousands who have tried to draw and erase its path. Following their footsteps, we learn why one side of the street was once considered more fashionable than the other; witness the construction of Trinity Church, the Flatiron Building, and the Ansonia Hotel; the burning of P. T. Barnum's American Museum; and discover that Columbia University was built on the site of an insane asylum. Along the way we meet Alexander Hamilton, Emma Goldman, Edgar Allan Poe, John James Audubon, "Bill the Butcher" Poole, and the assorted real-estate speculators, impresarios, and politicians who helped turn Broadway into New York's commercial and cultural spine.
Broadway traces the physical and social transformation of an avenue that has been both the "Path of Progress" and a "street of broken dreams," home to both parades and riots, startling wealth and appalling destitution. Glamorous, complex, and sometimes troubling, the evolution of an oft-flooded dead end to a canyon of steel and glass is the story of American progress.
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Part lively social history, part architectural survey, here is the story of Broadway--from 17th-century cow path to Great White Way.
Meticulously researched...Leadon's tale is a whirl of characters...It is a whirl, too, of events...graced with wry wit.--Clyde Haberman
[An] entertaining look at how the growth and development of New York City's most famous street paralleled that of Manhattan...A welcome complement to more daunting and encyclopedic volumes on New York's history.
Impressively detailed...A lively history of one of the most famous streets in America.
A new history of the street that tells the story of modern America.--David Taylor
Wonderful. This isn't only a history of Broadway--it's a history of the entire city told through the story of the most famous street in America. Engagingly written and full of vivid characters. I couldn't put it down.--Kenneth T. Jackson, editor-in-chief, The Encyclopedia of New York City