New Amsterdam’s first paved street

That would be Stone Street, a slip of a road winding between South William and Pearl Streets in the Financial District. In the 1640s it was known as Hoogh (High) Straet, one of 17 streets in New Amsterdam that became muddy when it rained. “A bright Englishman decided to pave the street in front of his lot. This was Stone Street, the first paved street in the city,” reported a New York Times article in 1896.

Stone Street suffered in the late 19th century, when the bulk of the shipping industry moved from the East River to the Hudson. This 1920s photo shows a dingy-looking block:




The 20th century wasn’t much kinder to Stone Street, and parts of it were demapped in the 1970s and 1980s to make way for an office building.

But in 1996 it was made into a historic district, and the little mid-1800s structures—put up after the Great Fire of 1835 destroyed almost all of downtown—attracted restaurants and bars. The old-school paving stones (reproductions of the originals) also gave Stone Street a vintage New York vibe. 


Today Stone Street thrives, a teeny restaurant district tucked inside the canyons of Downtown Manhattan.


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10 Responses to “New Amsterdam’s first paved street”

  1. H Golden Says:

    Thanks for the photos and the history.

    I wonder if Stone Street will continue to thrive, once Goldman Sachs, (whose soon-to-be-vacated building interrupts a “de-mapped” section of Stone Street at Broad Street) moves to its new headquarters at World Financial Center. I think the GS employees, and not the government bureaucrats now moving into the neighborhood, are the main patrons of the street’s establishments.

    I think Stone Street will be very different, in, say, a year after Goldman’s departure. We shall see.

  2. blackbohemian Says:

    I love the tip of the Island and because it gives brief glimpses of NY the way it used to be. I didn’t know it was the 1st paved street in the city, but then again, I’ve taken my home for granted for most of my life. 😉

  3. Richard McDermott Says:

    I am interested in finding information about when and how the other streets in lower Manhattan (especially those in the South Street Historic District) were paved. The Seaport Museum has no information. Belgian block stones did not seem to be widely used before 1840 and I doubt that little rounded cobble stones were widely used before the Belgian blocks.

  4. Nabe News - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] Stone Street, located downtown between Pearl and South William Streets, was the first paved road in New Amsterdam [ENY] […]

  5. Oceane Says:

    My name is Oceane, and I’m an design student in Montreal.
    I’d like to know if I can use the last picture of this article for a project (and eventually put it in my portfolio after). The project is to “destroy” a street with Photoshop (so basically I would add destroyed rocks, fire and broken glasses to the original picture).
    I would like to take the picture “stonestreet2008”.
    My e-mail is
    Thank you in advance!

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Sure–send me the photo if you can. My email contact is under Contact Ephemeral New York

  7. An 1835 fire burns a quarter of New York City « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] horrific as it was, the Great Fire of 1835 had a few upsides. It forced the city, which rebuilt within a year, to organize a professional fire department and shore up building […]

  8. Stephen Gemberling Says:

    What the reporter describes as a dingy looking block is beautiful and looks like any street in a European Capital at that Period. The grey photo may seem dingy to the reporter, but the buildings are solid , fairly new at the time of the photo, and fashionable.

  9. Friday FUSS (favorite urban space survey): Jaclyn Ciringione – Art Director – New York, NY – Projexity Says:

    […] image via […]

  10. What remains of two downtown colonial streets | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] town has a Mill Lane, and Manhattan does too. This slender alley hides between South William and Stone Streets. (On the map at the top, it’s just a faint curvy footpath with what could be a mill […]

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