A remnant of Avenue A on the Upper East Side

Contemporary New Yorkers know Avenue A as a downtown-only street spanning 14th Street to Houston.

So it’s a shock to the system to be faced with evidence that in the 19th and early 20th century city, Avenue A actually picked up again and ran 34 blocks through the Upper East Side, from 59th to 93rd Street.

Proof, aside from several old Manhattan maps? (Like this one, from the 1870s).

Check out the address engraved into the corners of P.S. 158, an elementary school on today’s York Avenue between 77th and 78th Streets.

“Ave. A” it clearly reads. And it should, because when the school opened in the 1890s, this was Avenue A.

York Avenue didn’t get its name until 1928, when the city officially decided to rename Avenue A uptown in honor of World War I hero Sergeant Alvin York (who was actually from Tennessee, but was feted by the city after the war ended).

The renaming had another purpose: It was hoped that a new name would be “symbolic of the rehabilitation of the East Side,” according to a New York Times article.

As far as I know, this is the only remaining vestige of Avenue A’s uptown stretch.

[Second image: NYPL]

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13 Responses to “A remnant of Avenue A on the Upper East Side”

  1. Tommy Dulski Says:

    Love this blog! I have been following you for years. I remember when you used to post several times a week. Now it’s only on Monday, Any chance you will go back to spreading the posts out?

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks Tommy! I would love to be able to post more often. Alas, the day job cuts into my posting time, unfortunately.

  3. Tommy Dulski Says:

    yeah those pesky jobs always get in the way.

  4. Ty Says:

    Good find.

    I read somewhere that the numbering and lettering of our streets and avenues was at one time considered modern and symbolic our desire to be a classless society. We each own an address on a logical grid.

    Of course the numbers themselves took on the weight of meaning like 5th Ave or 42nd Street. Or the bland beige of any upper east side address.

  5. Marilyn Michaels Says:

    I love this site but am yearning to see if pictures exist of the area I was born and raised in, Avenue B from 14 Street to 20th Street, now Stuyvesant Town. I’ve tried every source.

  6. Tom B Says:

    I’m amazed how crisp and sharp the lettering is. Also the beige brick and cornice trim.

  7. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, these 1890s-era school buildings were and still are beauties built to last.

  8. Kiwiwriter Says:

    Alvin York got the now usual tickertape parade when he came to New York, with what was then the usual tickertape. He was offered contracts to perform on Broadway (basically either narrating his feat or re-enacting it) or to endorse products for vast sums of money.

    His answer was simple: “Uncle Sam’s uniform is not for sale.”

    He did receive donations from grateful Americans and put them into a Bible College in his native Tennessee, which still exists, run by his family descendants. They look like him, too.

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