When did the term midtown come into common use?

I have lived in Little Rock over 35 years.

One day I heard a reference on the local news to a midtown project. I had absolutely no idea where they were talking about.

I had to look at a map and realized it was an area I shop and frequent regularly. I had never heard it called that before.

Now everyone refers to that area of the city as midtown.

You can Google little rock midtown and get hits.

Google Maps will bring up little rock midtown. Although it lands on a residential area. Midtown (too me) is the business district around UAMS hospital and UALR, the state university.

Where did that term come from? Did city planners around the US make it up? Would my local government decide independently to use that term for an area in my city?

I know that area of LR wasn’t called midtown 25 years ago. It was just part of the city.

If you lived in NYC, you’d have heard the term Midtown your entire life, and earlier.

I find references to midtown Little Rock that go back to the 70s and 80s in Arkansas employment agency documents, but that’s midtown with a little “m” and it doesn’t seem to be referring exactly to the neighborhood that shows up when you google map “Midtown, Little Rock.” Though it’s a bit difficult to tell. I see a current website that says the University of Little Rock is in Midtown, but looking at the google map of Midtown, the university seems a few miles away from Midtown (although the earlier references I could find does say the University of Little Rock is in “midtown Little Rock.”)

Midtown started being used regularly around 1920, according to Google ngram. That was the heyday of center cities, which had finally gotten so large that saying one was going downtown wasn’t the specific locator any more. Note the huge spike for capital M Midtown around 1960. That’s when Rochester’s Midtown Mall opened, the first downtown mall and an object of intensive news coverage as a sign of the future.

Downtown starts earlier, around 1900, but capital D Downtown also starts its rise around 1920. Everybody ws talking about cities then.

Real estate developers are constantly renaming neighborhoods to attract buyers and tenants. If “South Central” gets a bad reputation then start calling it “South LA.” If Bethesda starts becoming trendy, then adjacent Rockville and Chevy Chase start getting called North and South Bethesda.

I had wondered maybe if midtown started as a public bus destination. I never used the buses in LR and wouldn’t know.

More than likely, the buses use came afterwards. I know they have signs indicating the neighborhood they serve.

Many areas in LR use directions. Southwest Little Rock for example has a Wikipedia page.

West LR is the affluent area.

The Heights has historic homes from the 1920’s and 30’s.

I guess it does help with real estate marketing.

That works for neighborhoods inside cities - New York has SOHO and NOHO and Tribeca and Nolita and a new tiny splinter from those in real estate terms every day - but not really for generic identifiers. All those NYC neighborhoods are in downtown, because they’re all near the southern tip of Manhattan. Times Square will always be in midtown. Uptown is north of 57th street, where the rich gather on either side of Central Park in Sutton Place and Lennox Hill.

Midtown and downtown etc. maybe have stable definitions in some places like New York but there’s no reason for that to be necessary everywhere.

I grew up in a place where most surrounding towns had downtowns except one that had an uptown. Those names weren’t applied because of any fixed notion of what Downton meant as opposed to uptown.

Philadelphia just said the heck with it and officially calls it’s core ‘downtown’ district “Center City”.

“Clinton” in NYC is not catching on, though.

Yes, usage is local. Nor does every place have more than one designation. But whatever they have and whatever they call it the usage tends to be far more stable over time than names of neighborhoods.

In NYC, “uptown” and “downtown” are not merely locations, but also direction. To go from 110th Street to 59th Street, you go “downtown,” meaning south.

Wouldn’t you be going down to midtown? (not a New Yorker, if that isn’t obvious) If I got on the subway at 110th and told my friend I was going downtown, wouldn’t they be expecting me to go south past 14th or something like that?

eta: google maps equates downtown with lower manhattan below 14th, and midtown between 14th and 59th.

If someone asks you which way you’re going, you can answer “uptown “or “downtown “ without implying any specific location.

Midtown is a place; it’s a district that happens to be named after the fact that it’s in central Manhattan. You can say you are going to Midtown, if you are in fact, going some place in Midtown, like Murray Hill, but you could be going to Chelsea, which is equally located in central Manhattan, but it’s in the district called Clinton, not in Midtown, so if you were going to Chelsea, which is above 14th St., you wouldn’t say you were going to Midtown.

Uptown and downtown are sort of places, but they also are directions. No one in NYC ever says “North” or “South,” (unlike Indiana, where if you don’t know the cardinal directions, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to cross the street by yourself). So, if you are in Morningside Heights, and are going Flatiron, you could still say you are “heading downtown,” or “catching a downtown bus.” If you are in the Village, and are going to Battery Park, you can say you are “going downtown,” although you would probably say “Farther downtown.” But you would definitely say, if someone asked, that you were “catching the downtown bus.”

It gets confusing, because sometimes uptown and downtown are used as adjectives, and “Uptown” usually refers to something expensive, or a person used to expensive things, because on the whole, rents are higher the farther uptown you go. The doesn’t hold completely true, but it’s generally true. “Downtown” can refer to something seedy or cheap, but it can also refer to someone who is streetwise. Don’t ask about the fact that the Financial District is the farthest thing downtown of all.

I can’t say for sure about Little Rock, but chances are good that the term was introduced in some quasi-official way, perhaps in a conservation/redevelopment project plan or by a shopping district’s chamber of commerce. Perhaps because the neighborhood was transforming, the coinage filled a need in describing and distinguishing it, and thus gained local usage quickly. That’s what happens with neighborhood names. In very few places around the country are they bestowed in any official way.

Nice to hear from an expert. :smiley:

FYI, a recent article in The New York Times blames Google Maps for assigning new, sometimes incorrect, sometimes obscure neighborhood names.

The craziest thing about this uptown/midtown/downtown talk, with respect to NYC, is that when you look up the Wiki article on “Downtown”, it gives you right at the top a photo of (drumroll) Midtown Manhattan, which - according to the caption - is the largest residential and central business district in the United States. Nice blend of generic versus proper name usage of the same word.

Never mind.