New York Factoid-O-Rama #1

Ramblings About Houston Street, Bad Spelling, and the Best Deli in NYC.

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Sam Houston

This might blow the minds of people outside of New York City. Here in NYC there is a road that runs from east to west across the island of Manhattan named “Houston Street.” The wide road extends to the very edges of the island and forms a boundary for the island’s “villages”–East, Greenwich, and West–and is home to the world-famous Katz’s Delicatessen. Given its name, it comes as a surprise to most persons outside of New York City to learn the street is not named for Sam Houston, the legendary hero of Texas. In fact, it is not even pronounced as “HYOO-stən”!

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William Houstoun

The street is actually named for the spectacularly coiffed William Houstoun (pronounced as “HOW-stən”), one of the delegates who attended the Continental Congress in 1787. As a Founding Father, the New York City chose to honor Mr. Houstoun with a street in his name, but his last name apparently fell victim to a person who was likely the unseen loser of a third grade spelling bee, thus what was meant to be “Houstoun Street” was forever entered as “Houston Street” on the road itself and in all city records. Misspelling aside, when you come to NY and ask a local for directions, expect blank stares when you ask for directions to a street in Texas, and expect long-lasting belly laughs should you pronounce “HOW-stən” as “HYOO-stən.”

Now consider that the miscreant responsible for the above (or his descendants, followers, or like-minded sickos) probably struck again when Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano was honored by the city fathers with a bridge in his honor, though with his name wrongly spelled with just one “z” on the bridge and on each and every sign leading to it within the entire city). Additionally, the name of farmer Jonathan Randel also fell victim to the misspelling madmen when he was honored with an island in his name, but the name applied to the landmass was wrongly spelled as “Randall’s Island.” Somehow, and in defiance of all precedent, Polish-Lithuanian military engineer Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko (say that three times fast) has a bridge that spans the city’s Newtown Creek named after him, and his name is spelled correctly (!) on the span.

(Back to Katz’s…the deli is over a century old and still serving up New York’s best authentic Jewish deli food.  I’ve eaten pastrami sandwiches from the deli and loved them all. To be 100% honest, I’ve eaten many pastrami sandwiches from Katz’s, and many corned beef sandwiches, and many cheesesteak sandwiches, and many Reubens, and…  Hey, just visit Katz’s, okay?  Your taste buds will thank you.)

All the best,
Keith V.

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