DUANE in twain, Tribeca

In the old Legion of Super-Heroes at DC Comics, one of the members was Triplicate Girl, who could split into three Triplicate Girls. I don’t know if she could cube, though. One of the triplicates was killed, and she then carried on as Duo Damsel. She had a thing for Superboy, but couldn’t pry him away from Lana Lang, so Duo Damsel married Bouncing Boy instead. In Superman’s orbit, alliterative names are very important.

Off the bat, I can only think of 4 cases in NYC where a street splits in two, with both sides having the same name. Duane Street is cloven in two here by the colonial-era Duane Park at Hudson Street. Further uptown, Waverly Place becomes two Waverly Places (that’s how the phrase “two Places at once” came about) at Christopher Street; way out in Brooklyn, Avenue U becomes a duo at Gerritsen Avenue, and the Gowanus Expressway is accompanied by 7th Avenue on either side in Bay Ridge. There are likely many more.

Here’s Duane Street just west of Duane Park, its two “halves” clearly visible. It looks like the buildings on either side are teetering inward, Pisa-esque, but that’s just the camera, I assure you (famous last words). On the left is the 10-story brick Schepp Building, designed by Stephen Decatur Hatch in 1880 as  a factory, warehouse, and office building. It was named for importer Leopold Schepp, whose most notable product was dried coconut.

The massive Western Union (now Verizon) Building on Hudson Street dominates the left side of the photo, and in the middle is the nearly windowless 33 Thomas Street, the AT&T “Long Lines” Building.

Duane Park is unusual because the “island” on which it sits has never been occupied by a building. It had, since the arrival of Europeans in the New World, always been farmland. As the city encroached northward and Duane Street was laid out in the 1790s, named for a NYC mayor, the small bit of farmland was developed as a formal garden and has always remained parkland through various remodelings and reconstructions.

Information from Tribeca West Landmarks Designation Report –it’s over 400 pages!


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10 Responses to DUANE in twain, Tribeca

  1. Joe R says:

    I think that Pearl Street does a similar split at a playground at Fulton Street. What’s odd there is that Pearl St seems to take over the path of Water St, which in turn shifts to the other side of the Titanic Memorial.

  2. John T says:

    Used to work in the Western Union building in the early 1980s, when WU treated it as a slum. The WU lobby is one of the greatest in NYC – an art deco cavern of orange brick and indirect lighting from brass fixtures. Wonder if the theater on the Hudson St. end is still there? The old entrance is the wide lobby at that end.

    Washington Market back then, still had Cream-o-land loading trucks by Duane Street but you knew the area was going to change very soon in the spirit of Soho.

    • Bill Tweeddale says:

      I worked for Western Union back in the mid-60’s. I’d get off the IND at Chambers & Church, cut across Reade, Duane, or Thomas to West Broadway, and enter the building from that side. I remember the lobby as being enormous, but at the time was only interested in taking the elevator to the 13th floor to begin my job transcribing telegrams that people phoned in. The area was bustling at 4:30PM, but when the shift ended at 12:30AM it was a ghost town. The World Trade Center was still on the drawing board then.

  3. Danny S. says:

    Who knew you were a fellow LSH fan? I was thinking about them recently, for some reason, and was reading the Wikipedia entries on the Legion and several of their members, including the one on Luornu (Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel, and a few other designations I wasn’t familiar with).

    As for streets that split or branch but keep the same name, check out the south end of Independence Avenue, and also Cannon Place, in the Bronx.

  4. John says:

    The massive building was the Western Electric building before ma bell got chopped up by the Federal court.

  5. I wonder if local politician Tom Duane is descended from the street’s namesake.

  6. Richard P. Waskewicz says:

    The Western Union Building @ 60 Hudson St. is owned by a private company not Verizon. It is now known as a carrier hotel for communications companies.
    The Western Electric Building was 395 Hudson St. with the headquarters @ 222 Broadway.

  7. andy says:

    Another example of where a street splits in two, with both sides having the same name:

    Riverside Drive between 97th and 114th Streets, where a narrow, northbond-only service road splits from the main roadway, which remains further west. At 104th and 108th Streets there is access to both the main and service roadways.

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