Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Houston Street? Who is it really named after!!

The funny thing about working in bars in NYC is how much you have to know about the area where you work in order to do your job. For example, when I worked at Fraunces Tavern, much of my day was spent informing patrons about who the place was named after (Samuel “Black Sam” Fraunces), where George Washington gave his farewell to his troops (The Long Room) and what other historical buildings were in the area (Federal Hall, Trinity Church, New York Stock Exchange among others). Now that I am once again working in the East Village, a whole slew of new questions have come about (In addition to some old ones). There is one question in particular that I would like to share the answer with you.

Sam Houston It never fails that I get people from Texas asking me where Houston (“HEW” ston) Street is. When I tell them that it is Houston (“HOW” ston) Street they often give me the look which says “Why is it pronounced Houston (“HOW” ston) if it says Houston (“HEW” ston). At first I thought that it was named after Texas native Sam Houston. Then I thought that maybe it was New York City’s way of being different to change the pronunciation of the name. After getting tired of making excuses, I decided to find out why Houston Street pronounced the way it is. So here goes.

William Houstoun The street is not named after Sam Houston. It is named after William Houstoun (1755-1813), a native of Savannah Georgia. Who was William Houstoun you may ask, well here he is. William Houstoun was a lawyer from Georgia who was a member of the delegation from Georgia to both The Continental Congress from 1783 through 1786 and The Constitutional Convention in 1787. Pretty impressive but why is he linked with NYC.

Houstoun married into the Bayard family by wedding Mary Bayard on June 10, 1786. They were married until her death on August 7, 1806. The Bayard family lands laid within the areas of today’s West and East Villages and Houstoun Street cut through the middle of the land. Now see how I spelled the street as Houstoun instead of Houston. In my research, the street was correctly spelled as Houstoun Street up to the early 1800’s. When the spelling was changed to Houston Street is not known but if I find it out I will update the post.

Upon his death in on March 17, 1813, his body was brought to NYC from Savannah and interred at St. Paul’s Chapel.

So there is the actual origin behind Houston Street, NYC.

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