Why Broadway?

When the streets and avenues of Manhattan were laid out in a neat N-S and E-W, why was Broadway allowed to cut at a diagonal across the island? Did it serve some special purpose?

They aren’t all laid out in a N-S and E-W grid, Ken. Ever been south of 14th street?

FWIW, Broadway runs diagonally from its southernmost point to (I think) Columbus Circle, at which point it runs north all the way into Yonkers. IIRC, Broadway was one of the original thorofares in Manhattan, back when it was originally settled.

Can someone who still lives in NYC confirm any of this?

Never attribute to malice anything that can be attributed to stupidity.
– Unknown

Yep. Broadway was a road long before the “gridded” streets were built. IIRC, it was originally an Algonquin trade route, then the southern end of the main drag from Manhattan to Albany.

PBS runs a terrific program from time to time (well, OK, during pledge week) called A Walk Up Broadway With David Hartman. It features historian Barry Lewis. Tons of fun, not stuffy at all, and chock full of information about the buildings and people that have been part of the thoroughfare.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Broadway was an old Indian trail which was already developed before they laid down the grids. Similar examples in other boroughs include Kings Highway, Queens Boulevard, and Union Turnpike.

If you go through old maps of New York it helps to remember that Broadway was first known as Bloomingdale Road.
In a patriotic moment in 1793 a bunch of streets got renamed–let’s say “de-Britished.”
New York Alert Look for “New York: A Documentary Film,” directed by Ric Burn. It traces the arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century to the present day. It’s a special presentation of “The American Experience” and premiers on most PBS stations Sunday evening, November 14th and runs through Thursday, November 18th in 2-hour segments.
Unlike Puritan Boston or Quaker Philadelphia, New York was founded in 1624 as a business proposition.
As with most PBS specials I’ll be willing to wager the November premier may be the only time you’ll be able to view it without a pledge drive around it.