The cross streets carved into tenement corners

It’s fun spotting these: the names of cross streets embossed or engraved on the corners of tenement buildings. From the Lower East Side to Harlem, many still exist.

But what’s their purpose, actually?

Perhaps city officials didn’t care enough about poor neighborhoods to post official street signs on each corner, so having the cross streets on a building helped strangers know where they were.

Or maybe these addresses were intended to be seen by elevated train riders, who had a window-seat view of the second story of every building on the avenue.

They could also exist just to give drab, cookie-cutter tenements a little pizzaz. In any event, more of these street addresses in Manhattan and Brooklyn can be found here.

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7 Responses to “The cross streets carved into tenement corners”

  1. Mykole Mick Dementiuk Says:

    That’s a great explanation, from the elevated! I was aware of the sign up on 5th St, back then we lived on 4th St, yet no one told me what it was for. There was an elevated train on 1st Ave and 5th St would be a marker as the riders speed along. Thanks ENY, for bringing the city a little closer then it was.

  2. Margie Mulligan Says:

    For whatever reason they were displayed I think they are wonderful and give an interesting touch to the city… 💕

  3. moose Says:

    I have just one side of one left on my tenement building in Jersey City, never by any train.

  4. evileva1 Says:

    Clever thinking! However are these on all the buildings in the neighborhood? Just curious!

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