Uncovering The Origins Of Manhattan Street Names, Past And Present
Lumber Street was one of the first streets laid out beyond the city wall. It corresponds to the present Trinity Place between Exchange Place and Liberty Street.
The street first appears on Manhattan maps beginning about 1695, prior to the granting of the surrounding land to Trinity Church in 1705. The church yard was situated along the east side of Lumber when the original church was constructed facing Broadway near Wall Street. In 1761, the church ceded the land that ran along the line of Lumber Street to the northern boundary of the church property, which bordered on the farm of Leonard Lispenard near present day Leonard Street. Lumber Street was renamed Trinity Place after the church in 1846.
The name Lumber Street probably has its origin in the street’s position near the waterfront, near lots where goods were piled. It is interesting to note that early New Yorkers used the names Lumber and Lombard interchangeably for the street, creating some confusion. In 1792, the Common Council officially noted the problem and ordained that the street officially be called Lumber.
And confused they were; a city directory from 1807 warned, “Care should be taken to understand the difference of the spelling of Lombard and Lumber, as the want of attention to this has led many strangers astray.”
While to the modern English-speaker, Lumber and Lombard may not seem so similar as to cause confusion, one can imagine the words sounding very much alike when spoken with the British-tinged inflection of an original Yankee.