For decades, the Department of Transportation hadn’t marked Depew Place, which today exists as an alley on East 45th Street under the Park Avenue Viaduct as it snakes its way around Grand Central Terminal. However, I noticed that the city is indeed now marking it with one of those illuminated street signs in blue and white, using the Plantin font, that the 34th Street Partnership installed, along with generic-looking streetlamps in the early 1990s.
Today the alley is used only by Post Office trucks and leads to loading docks behind the Grand Central Post Office at 450 Lexington Avenue, constructed in 1909 and topped off by a 38-story office building in 1992.
Depew Place came into existence along with Vanderbilt Avenue in 1874 when the first Grand Central Depot was constructed on 42nd Street and Park Avenue in 1874. Vanderbilt Avenue was named for “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, who developed the NYC & Hudson River Railroad Company and built the original depot.
Depew Place, meanwhile, was named for an obscurer figure, Chauncey M. Depew (1834-1928) New York Secretary of State and President of the New York Central Railroad. Commodore Vanderbilt convinced him to leave his Japanese ambassadorship at age 32 (he was a gifted public speaker) and work for him at the NYCRR, and he later headed it as president.
The above 1891 map shows both Vanderbilt and Depew Place on either side of the depot. When a new Grand Central Terminal was constructed in 1913, Vanderbilt Avenue continued its prominence and actually gained two blocks north to East 47th; there have been plans on the drawing board to convert it to a pedestrian mall for several years.
Depew Place, however, has been truncated back to its present ignominious status since the Post Office was constructed in 1909 and Park Avenue was bridged on a viaduct around GCT and the Helmsley Building in 1919. The city has started marking it again, at least.