One of the wonderful things about New York is how much of the city veers off the rectangular street grid codified by the Common Council in 1811.
The sudden bend on Broadway at East 10th Street is one of those street grid exceptions. And as one story goes, it’s the result of a single man intent on preserving his family farm.
Henry Brevoort Sr. was a descendant of the Brevoort family, which settled in New York from Holland in the 17th century.
His farm was on the outskirts of the early 19th century city, spanning 86 acres from present-day Ninth Street to 18th Street and bounded by Fifth Avenue and the Bowery.
In 1815, with New York’s population swelling and moving northward, city officials announced plans to expand Broadway to 23rd Street and have it run in a straight line.
Straightening Broadway meant that the busy thoroughfare and the urbanization it would bring would cut right through Brevoort’s estate.
He protested, and the city relented: Broadway would curve to avoid the orchards on Brevoort’s farm, on today’s 10th Street.
Brevoort must have been a persuasive (or stubborn) guy. He apparently disrupted the street grid again by barring “the opening of 11th Street between Broadway and the Bowery in the 1830s and [1840s] to prevent the destruction of the old family farm house,” states brooklynhistory.org.
“Broadway was simply angled to run parallel to the Bowery as these streets reached Union Square,” writes Luther S. Harris in Around Washington Square.
“The city found no pressing need to extend 11th Street east through this relatively narrow strip of land at the expense of a rectory and school for Grace Church.”
Grace Church, of course, has graced the 10th Street bend with its Gothic beauty since 1846. The Brevoort family sold parcels of farmland to church planners so it could be built there, soon a fashionable section of the city.
The actual story may have been lost to history. But in one way or another, we have Henry Brevoort to thank for this scenic bend on Broadway.
[Top photo: NYPL, 1913; second photo: MCNY, 1908, x2010.11.791; third image: NYPL, 1960; fourth image: MCNY 1920, x2011.34.116; fifth image, 1884, NYC Vintage Images]