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Posts in Early Republic
[The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections] Myth #9: A System of Block and Lot Divisions

[The Manhattan Street Grid Plan: Misconceptions and Corrections] Myth #9: A System of Block and Lot Divisions

By Gergely Baics and Leah Meisterlin

The New York City grid is often understood as a foundational system of land subdivision and cadastral allotment. Accordingly, the grid divides Manhattan into a highly regularized system of rectangular shaped blocks, subdivided into lots, making standard (and stackable) units of real estate available for urban development. The grid accomplishes the city’s apportionment through its collection of more frequently spaced and narrower east-west cross-streets and less frequently spaced and wider north-south avenues — each serving as partition and demarcation between the blocks with their nested lots. Indeed, conceptualizing the grid as a system of subdivided blocks highlights its underlying cadastral logic. Previous posts (#4 and #6) have addressed two myths following from this line of reasoning, specifically the extent to which block sizes determined lot sizes, and how the relentless regularity of blocks and lots contributed to rampant real estate speculation.

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Defending New York After the Revolution: The Governorship of John Jay

Defending New York After the Revolution: The Governorship of John Jay

By Robb K. Haberman

A specter haunted the city and port of New York during the Quasi-War (1798-1800) and the years preceding it. With the young republics of France and the United States engaged in undeclared naval warfare, New Yorkers feared a seaborne strike would lay waste to their community and cripple its thriving maritime commerce. Although unrealized, these fears were certainly justified; despite attempts to construct an adequate system of defense, the city remained incapable of withstanding assault. Indeed, in March 1798, one official highlighted New York’s vulnerability, noting that its immense wealth and property “invite invasion” and that it would be helpless if set upon by a “single Twenty Gun privateer.” Many residents recalled with bitterness the great fire of 1776, a conflagration that had destroyed a quarter of the city, and feared that New York would soon be revisited by a similar trauma.

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The Unruly City: Paris, London and New York in the Age of Revolution

The Unruly City: Paris, London and New York in the Age of Revolution

​Reviewed by Miriam Liebman

In recent years, scholars have published numerous books on the Age of Revolutions and the connections between the countries involved; usually the United States, Great Britain, and France. These books have focused on people and ideas. But in The Unruly City: Paris, London, and New York in the Age of Revolution, Mike Rapport, a professor of modern European history at the University of Glasgow, takes a different approach, focusing instead on the geography of “the city” and how it may or may not have been more conducive to revolution. Venturing into the transatlantic history of revolution, he is concerned principally with the importance of place to success and failure particularly the ways “spaces and buildings in these cities both symbolically and physically became places of conflict, how the cityscape itself became part of the experience of revolution and may even have helped shaped its course.” For Rapport, space itself has agency, which in this study has two meanings: a specific place or the city, itself. The Unruly City explores not only how New York City’s (and London’s and Paris’s) landscape propelled and hindered democratic revolution, but also how people interacted with the urban geography.

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Myth #8: Static Manhattan, Part II

Myth #8: Static Manhattan, Part II

By Gerard Koeppel and Jason M. Barr

Today, the image of Manhattan is as a vertical city — a place that, as E. B. White saw it, “has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow.” With our eyes focused skyward, we think little of the city’s horizontal expansion, as the grid plan seemingly set Manhattan in stone, literally and figuratively.

This is the final installment of the authors' series The Manhattan Street Grid: Misconceptions and Corrections.

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