I was going to mention that- I’d bet in a lot of cities, there isn’t a :“principal commercial street or main thoroughfare” for the city as a whole but instead, there’s one in every neighborhood. And they can’t all be called “Main Street”
Main Street in Rochester is the street that runs through the middle of Downtown and serves as a division point for other streets.
East Avenue is the fancy residential street and Monroe Avenue is the trendy shopping street.
It’s “Second Street.” My guess is that it’s because in numbered steeet systems “First Street” is often skipped in favor of Main Street, Central Avenue, or something else. And in some places there’s might not be a Main Street.
But Main Street is the seventh most common.
That’s what I meant by my parenthetical "or maybe even just ‘a’ ". Or substitute the phrase “Main Street is one of the principal commercial streets or main thoroughfares.” Like I said, in Chicago I don’t even think there is a Main Street. The 'burbs commonly have them, though.
So far, Dallas looks like it’s leading the list in terms of cities. Queens – wouldn’t Queens Blvd or Roosevelt be a more important/bigger street there? But I guess Main could fit my reworded question above.
There’s almost some sort of vaudeville comedy routine lurking in there:
“In the ranking of most common street names in the US, Second is first; Third is second; First is third; Fourth is fourth, Park is fifth, Fifth is sixth, etc.”
Minneapolis has both a Downtown and an Uptown.
Downtown is the central district, historical origin of the city, and contains most of the business & corporate headquarters, and government buildings like city hall, courthouses, etc.
Uptown is about 2 miles away, south & slightly west, and is filled with entertainment venues: restaurants, theatres & movie houses, nightclubs, and so forth. Also a lot of trendy apartment buildings.
That’s why I said there’s one in every neighborhood regarding a “principal commercial street or main throughfare”. Sure, Queens Boulevard is a bigger street than Main Street ( it’s 200 feet wide with 12 lanes for a good part of it ) but except for a trip or two to a mall and a doctor’s office once, I haven’t been anywhere on Queens Blvd in years. Mostly, I drive down Queens Blvd to get to the bridge - a good part of it is really more like a highway with traffic signals than a commercial street and except for the malls , it has the same type of stores and restaurants that the commercial strips in other neighborhoods have.
Downtown literally means it’s at a lower elevation. It’s literally true because towns are founded along rivers (medieval Italian hill towns excepted). The lowest elevation in any town is the riverbank, where settlement began and where the major business and administrative buildings are most likely to still be. Uptown is naturally going to be a location topographically up out of the river valley.
Canada - in Montreal, St. Lawrence/St-Laurent separates the streets designated “East” from those designated "West:. However - everyone calls it “the Main” or “le Main” (in French). It’s 11 km long - extending from one river to another.
Toronto also has a “Main St.”, but it doesn’t seen to delineate anything. It’s only a couple of km long.
Winnipeg and Vancouver also have significant “Main Streets”.
Not just rivers - ports, too. The Downtown (Ir Tachtit, or “lower city”) neighborhood of my home city of Haifa, Israel, is the lowest and oldest part of the city, the area that grew up around the docks, and much of the rest of Haifa is higher up on the Carmel.
That is certainly true for most cities, but it does not hold for the most famous “uptown” and “downtown” of all, that of Manhattan. Manhattan is a stretched island surrounded by a river (or rather, the estuary of a river, the Hudson), so there is no general difference in topographical altitude between Uptown and Downtown. It’s simply that Downtown is the southern tip of that island and Uptown further north (and Midtown is, unsurprisingly, in between). The reason why Downtown was urbanised before Uptown is not that Downtown lies lower; it’s because Downtown is closer to the Atlantic Ocean where the founders of the city were coming from.
To my knowledge, it is not known whether the “up” and “down” terminology comes from the way north and south are customarily located on a map or from the upstream/downstream directions of the Hudson river; both coincide.
I’d say Houston has a significantly longer and more significant Main St., one that’s not only part of the prewar downtown shopping district but extending southwest for several miles.
Kansas City’s is also fairly long and significant.
Philadelphia has no Main Street. I guess Market St. played that roll, although Chestnut is now more active. And we probably used “Center City” more than “Downtown” although I cannot swear to that.
Montreal has no Main Street, although many smaller towns here have their “Rue Principale”. And we use both “Downtown” and “Centre City”, the latter a direct translation of “Centre Ville”.
Can anyone explain what Billy Joel was singing about in Uptown Girl?
Being British and not being familiar with terms Uptown and Downtown I thought it was a class difference between two areas of town. But if Downtown is the central business district with all the government buildings that does not seem to fit with it being lower class.
Is this, perhaps, the lament of banker, dejected and rejected after realising that this desirable woman from Uptown has do interest in his bank account and business suit? I’m struggling here…
But there is a reference to white, so maybe it refers to segregation. Uptown is a rich white area and Downtown a poor black and latin area of town? Inner city urban decline and the white flight to the suburbs???
She’s been living in her uptown world
I bet she’s never had a backstreet guy
I bet her momma never told her why
I’m gonna try for an uptown girl
She’s been living in her white-bred world
As long as anyone with hot blood can
And now she’s looking for a downtown man
That’s what I am
And when she knows what
She wants from her time
And when she wakes up
And makes up her mind
She’ll see I’m not so tough
I’m in love with an uptown girl
You know I’ve seen her in her uptown world
She’s getting tired of her high-class toys
And all her presents from her uptown boys
She’s got a choice
Oh, oh, oh, oh
First of all, Billy Joel is a New Yorker. As noted in the OP, the terms “downtown” and “uptown” mean something different in New York than they do in most of the country. In most cities in the United States, you’re going “downtown” when you’re going to the place where the tall buildings are. A handful of cities might also have an “uptown,” but it’s much less common.
For a New Yorker, “uptown” and “downtown” are directions moving north and south on the island of Manhattan.
In cultural terms, like song lyrics, “uptown” and “downtown” are often used metaphorically to indicate class–“upscale” and “downscale” or “classy” and “trashy” or “rich” and “poor.” In this usage, they don’t refer to geography at all. When Billy Joel says that Christie Brinkley is an “uptown girl” and he is a “downtown man,” he’s not literally referring to the neighborhoods they live in. An uptown girl and a downtown man can be in the same neighborhood; it’s purely a class indicator.
And, more often than not, “downtown” (similar to “urban” or “inner city”) in this sense means “Black.” Describing a person as “downtown” is not really all that common in ordinary speech.
White bread world - I’m sure wherever you got the lyrics said “bred” - but colloquially “white-bread” means bland and/or, boring
In Manhattan, “Uptown” usually refers to the areas on both sides of Central Park, the Upper East Side and the Upper West side, which for the past 80-odd years or so have held some of the most expensive real estate in the world. “Downtown”, at least in terms of residential neighborhoods, can refer to places like the Lower East Side or Little Italy, which, at least until 30-40 years ago, were significantly poorer.
Consider this a British variation on the same subject:
Not sure that holds for everywhere. Certainly in the North-East where I’m from it was always “down to London” in the same way as it was “down south”. Could be a very narrow regionalism for my birthplace of course.
I believe that the Toronto Main Street was the actual main street of a village that was absorbed by Toronto as it grew.
After the various amalgamations, I know that the now City of Toronto has been going through and renaming streets to eliminate duplicate names. But I don’t remember another Main Street in Toronto.
That doesn’t help if one of the duplicates is outside the city of Toronto but still in the Greater Toronto Area: Kennedy Rd in Scarborough (now eastern Toronto) versus Kennedy Rd in Mississauga and Brampton (western suburbs outside Toronto).
Re: uptown vs downtown… downtown Toronto is the Financial District, the biggest clump of skyscrapers, near the port and the lakeshore, near where the city was founded, etc. Uptown Toronto is an ill-defined upscale area along Yonge Street (the main north-south street that ends at the lake), somewhere between Eglinton Avenue and St Clair Avenue. It is actually uphill from downtown, and, near St Clair at least, there is enough of a slope to Yonge Street that you get a great view of downtown.
Interestingly, the area near Yonge and Bloor Street, which has a couple of ritzy shopping areas and its own clump of skyscrapers, and isn’t too far from the provincial parliament buildings and the University of Toronto (and so sometimes has upscale pretensions coming out the yin-yang), is not uptown.
(Real-estate promoters are always trying to redefine these terms to put their developments in ritzier areas. But you will never convince me that the neighbourhood known as “The Beaches” extends north of Kingston Rd… if it isn’t by the water or on the slope overlooking the water, it’s not part of The Beaches.)