Who gave Maiden Lane its name?

A bit of mystery surrounds the origin of innocent-sounding Maiden Lane, one of the first streets laid out by 17th century Dutch colonists.

It may have started as a lovers’ lane.

“Tradition had it that the girls of early Dutch days were wont to stroll by the little stream along what was known first as Maagde Paatje,” says a 1911 New York Times article.

The name might also stem from the street’s rep as New Amsterdam’s clothes-washing center. “Maiden Lane was the site of a freshwater stream where young maidens did their laundry,” explains Gerard R. Wolfe’s New York: A Guide to the Metropolis.

Whether a lovers path or laundry area, Maiden Lane was for a short time home to Thomas Jefferson.

The street eventually hosted a market and then became the city’s jewelry district in the 19th century.

It’s part of the Financial District now, but the name resonates differently than, say, adjacent Gold Street.

“View of South Street, From Maiden Lane,” by William James Bennett, 1827

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8 Responses to “Who gave Maiden Lane its name?”

  1. James D Says:

    All this sounds like wishful thinking to me. Maiden Lane looks like a clear euphemism for what trade actually is likely to have been conducted on what was essentially a peripheral, narrow, damp street in colonial times.

    • Vincent P. Says:

      Hi,
      Nope You are all wrong,I saw a drawing with pictures
      of young women “doing the laundry” by the creek called Maiden
      Lane.But here is a real mystery for which I would
      appreciate help with.For years this underground stream’s trace
      was very obvious and difficult to deal with.This stream invaded
      foundations of the surrounding buildings and the resulting water
      was pumped to a sewer line(s) located above it (40-50 feet up).
      However I noticed its absence at the end of 2009.Maybe the
      new WTC construction has finally resolved this problem.

      Vincent P (no pun)

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I was hoping I’d uncover evidence about that! I think it’s safe to assume that some of the maidens of Maiden Lane may not have just been washing clothes.

  3. Chazcat Says:

    JOHN street is one block over. Uhmm, hmmmm

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    that proves it…

  5. Ed Fitzgerald Says:

    Henry Moscow’s “The Street Book”, a generally reliable source, agrees with the “young girls doing laundry” theory. Nearby John Street was named after John Harperding or Harperdinck, a wealthy Dutch shoemaker.

  6. When Second Avenue was known as Lovers’ Lane | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] York has had several Lover’s Lanes: Maiden Lane may have been one in Dutch colonial days; Central Park and Riverside Park also had tree-lined paths designated for […]

  7. trilby1895 Says:

    “Where maiden Dutch girls washed laundry” in the then-existing stream or a street containing “houses of ill repute”, either one is evocative of a fascinating long-ago New York

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