Uptowns and High streets instead of Downtowns and Main streets

In the United States, the term “downtown” generally refers to the central, most dense part of a city or town, where the tallest buildings are. And the principal street is generally literally called “Main Street.”

There are notable exceptions, however. New York City doesn’t follow this rule.

And there are various anomalies across the country.

For example, in Ohio, the college town of Oxford has an Uptown and a High Street instead of a Downtown and a Main Street.

On the opposite end of the state, the parallel college town Athens also has an uptown and a High Street.

What other U.S. towns and cities are like this? (Places that use “uptown” and “downtown” as directional indicators like Manhattan don’t count.)

As mentioned in another thread, Charlotte, NC calls it’s most dense, central part of town “uptown”.

I think, based on my experience growing up in the area, the city promoted the use of “uptown” to make it sound more glitzy and glamorous, and promote it as more of an entertainment district akin to New York’s Broadway (IIRC in Manhattan Broadway is uptown; Wall Street is downtown). Although Charlotte doesn’t exactly have business and entertainment districts segregated in that manner, in fact there is a major performing arts venue located within the skyscraper that was built as the headquarters of NCNB (now Bank of America through a series of mergers).

I’m thinking of so many towns that I’ve lived in that have a Downtown (sometimes even around a central Town Square/Zocalo/Plaza), but never an Uptown. Come to think of it, the Arts/Theater District is always… Downtown. (things’ll be great…)

I’ve gotta up my game and find an Uptown.

“High Street” is a British thing from what I can tell. Every town has its “High Street”, which is analogous to Main Street in a US city or town. I’d think that if a US city/town has a “High Street”, they’re being a little pretentious.

Uptown vs. Downtown… as I’ve seen it, “Downtown” is the Central Business District, where the government buildings, etc… are, and typically if there are any large buildings, they’re downtown. Uptown is usually another concentration of commercial/entertainment buildings outside of the CBD. In Houston, it’s supposedly the Galleria/Post Oak area, with Midtown being something similar, but adjacent to Downtown. In Dallas, Uptown is immediately north of Downtown and is more entertainment/residential than commercial.

Schenectady, Troy, or Albany have a “Main St,” but all are short minor streets nowhere near the downtown.

Schenectady and Albany have “State Street” (they’re actually connected); Troy has both “Congress Street” and “Hoosick Street.”

All three use “Downtown,” though.

My former bf’s father came to visit from England and had no idea what “downtown” meant. That kind of surprised me. They’re from a less metropolitan area but doesn’t anyone refer to “downtown London”?

I’m not British, but I think they would say “central London” or something like that. Most European cities seem to use “central business district” for what Americans would call downtown.

My understanding of London is that it is divided up into boroughs, two of which are called the “City of London” and the “City of Westminster.” The City of London is casually referred to as “the City.” So what we Americans might consider to be “downtown London,” they just call “the City.” Similar to how New Yorkers refer to Manhattan as “the City,” even though the City of New York in both political and socio-economic senses encompasses much more than Manhattan.

Oxford and Athens, Ohio, were first settled by European-Americans over 200 years ago. I doubt the pretension theory. On the other hand, they were formed as college towns, so maybe they were consciously copying aspects of Oxford and Cambridge, England.

“City Centre” is something I’ve seen a fair amount as well.

In many towns and cities, the downtown area has become less of a hub for working and shopping over the past several decades of malls, office parks, big box stores, and urban sprawl.

How often is this true in reality? In my very limited experience, I can’t think of any towns or cities where this is true, though there are some where “Main Street” may well be what used to be the principal street long ago when it was first named.

Its easy to spot, the lights are much brighter there.

The fictional “New Haven Uptown Uniplex” once showed up in a “Simpsons” episode. I always assumed this was just the Harvard-educated writing staff getting in a jab at Yale (“haha, as if a city that dinky could even have an ‘uptown’!”), though a Google search turns up more than a few results for “uptown New Haven”…

The country town near where I grew up is called Echuca, on the Murray in northern Victoria.
When founded the town’s main, indeed only street, was called High Street, which was obviously the main street.
The town expanded but after a while it was realised that, as High Street was the lowest part of town and regularly flooded, that this was not in the long term interests of the civics so they moved the main street up the hill to Hare Street.
So the main street is uptown Hare Street and downtown is High Street.

(And why the fuck does Discourse autocorrect to proper capitalisation main street to Main Street but not high street? Spooky)

Thinking about some towns in this area, Auburn, CA has a High Street instead of Main Street.

The town I live in has neither a Main Street nor a High Street, nor does it really have a downtown. The area that historically would have been downtown is typically referred to as the Historic District, and is pretty much all restaurants, bars, and small boutiques. What historically would have been the main street through that district is called Sutter Street. Outside of the Historic District, it’s all suburban sprawl.


I’m not sure I see the connection to the arts, here. And it looks like a basically factual question, so I’ll move it to GQ.

Not really. Even the locals in London have only a hazy idea of the boundaries between the boroughs and so more specific descriptions tend to be used. That is particularly true of ‘Westminster’, which is almost never used to mean ‘the City of Westminster’ but instead the much smaller area around the Houses of Parliament and as a metonym for Parliament.

Even ‘the City’ is rarely used with much precision, as it is more usually just a metonym for the financial industry, much of which is no longer located in the actual ‘Square Mile’. Also, most people don’t really think of that as the centre of London. Nowhere in London is ‘downtown’.

Then there was the attempt to rebrand Bloomsbury as ‘Midtown’. That proved to be too dumb even for estate agents.

London does have lots of ‘High Streets’. But only because that is the traditional name for the major street in English towns and villages and those streets existed in villages that only later found themselves part of London.

Broadway the street runs the entire length of the island from top to bottom, and crosses Wall Street. Broadway as referring to the theatre district is Midtown.

As an urban historian, I often use “uptown” in an informal way to indicate the largest secondary business district that arose during the streetcar or early auto age, generally 1900-1930. Typically these were “bright light” districts that included movie theaters, music venues, and possibly junior department stores and multistory professional office buildings housing physicians, dentists, and secretarial schools. Cities the size of Chicago or Philadelphia, of course, had several outlying “shopping centers,” but one was typically dominant for entertainment.

Many otherwise monocentric cities have these: Chicago’s and Minneapolis’s Uptowns, Atlanta’s Midtown, St Louis’s Delmar Loop, Kansas City’s Plaza, Portland’s Hollywood.

In Seattle, Lower Queen Anne - the area around Seattle Center and the Space Needle, bordered by Queen Anne Hill, Belltown, and South Lake Union - is sometimes called “Uptown”.