Why Tenth Avenue in Manhattan Was Widely Known as ‘Death Avenue’ in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Why Tenth Avenue in Manhattan Was Widely Known as ‘Death Avenue’ in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

The Smithsonian Channel series Searching for Secrets explains why Tenth Avenue in Manhattan was widely known as “Death Avenue” in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century due to street trains that ran through the main thoroughfare.

A train line had been established along the far west side of the city in order to serve the meatpacking factories in the area. These trains were responsible for a number of tragic deaths due to very little regulation of the times. City officials recruited and employed cowboys from the American West to announce the trains and clear people from the street, but the effort was short-lived as the trains were moved overhead in 1933.

A freight train in the middle of Manhattan? With cowboys riding ahead of it to warn away pedestrians? It’s true–but you have to go all the way back to 1846 for the origins of this ‘Only in New York’ story.

After a while, those trains went out of commission but the tracks eventually turned into The High Line elevated park.