The Garment District, Flower District, Swing Street—the city has always been chopped into specialty areas.
And in the 1920s with the rise of broadcast radio, Cortlandt and Dey Streets were home to Manhattan’s radio district, aka Radio Row.
The row was more than that; dozens of shops lined local streets.
“Cortlandt once ran from the Hudson River up to Broadway, but now only one block—from Trinity Place to Broadway—remains,” wrote The New York Times in 1981.
“The rest, displaced by the World Trade Center, was a rabbit warren of electrical shops with books on radios stacked up on sidewalks and piles of tubes, condensers, old radios and old radio cabinets set alongside.”
Radio Row adapted to changing times in the 1950s. Stores that sold televisions and hi-fis moved in alongside the radio shops.
Its demise had little to do with the fall of radio and instead can be blamed on the World Trade Center.
In 1961, politicians called for the use of eminent domain to raze Radio Row’s small blocks so the Twin Towers could be built.
Radio Row’s store owners tried fighting it out in court. They lost, getting just $3,000 each from the state to go elsewhere.
[Top photo: Radio Row in the 1960s, copyright Antique Broadcast Classified. Right: a crowd gathers on November 22, 1963, after JFK is assassinated in this Library of Congress photo]