Whatever happened to Manhattan’s 13th Avenue?

It’s true, there really once was a 13th Avenue on Manhattan’s West Side—built on landfill in the 1830s starting at about 11th Street and going to 25th Street. Here’s part of it on an 1899 map from the New York Public Library digital collection.

It seemed to exist as a dreary access road to shipping piers, ferry terminals, dumping grounds, and factories, according to several articles in the New York Times archive.

“There are no sidewalks to speak of on Thirteenth-avenue and no surface indications of pavements,” one 1886 article reported. “A foot path winds through it, showing the course pedestrians take to dodge the deeper mud holes in wet weather.”

An 1883 story reported, “[Thirteenth Avenue] begins in a very humble and unpretentious way, but during its brief course of about a dozen blocks it gradually improves in width and general appearance.

“Unfortunately, however, at the very point where it begins to promise great things, and the casual pedestrian feels inclined to fancy it, the avenue ends abruptly in a high board fence, which proves an impassable barrier to all except the most accomplished acrobats.”

The article goes on to describe some of the people who hung around 13th Avenue: Italian immigrant women who pick through trash, night watchmen, and lumbermen.

Exactly when 13th Avenue was de-mapped for good is a mystery.

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9 Responses to “Whatever happened to Manhattan’s 13th Avenue?”

  1. oldeastsidr Says:

    Apparently there is (was?) a blog about 13th Avenue. This page
    gives a little history and eyeopening facts about the avenue where even the police did not want to go at night. There are more pages in the blog, but unfortunately my workplace computer blocks the pages :(

  2. Nabe News: December 9 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    [...] it or not, there was once a 13th Avenue on the west side.  It was built on a landfill in the 1830s, and ran the length between 11th and [...]

  3. petey Says:

    james thurber wrote a piece for the new yorker about 13th avenue, it’s collected in “The Beast In Me”, don’t have the date to hand but can post it later if i remember.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    I’ll look for Thurber’s piece; I may have some of his stuff lying around. Thanks!

  5. 13th Avenue, New York, NY « everydaytrash Says:

    [...] of my favorite NYC blogs, Ephemeral New York, has a great post up today about Manhattan’s ill-fated 13th Avenue. Like so many things in this city, the [...]

  6. Bob Says:

    According to Wikipedia, 13th Avenue was dug up to construct the Chelsea Piers — so the land no longer exists. True or not, I don’t know.

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