Urban Historian Koeppel ’79 Speaks on New York City’s Grid
Gerard Koeppel ’79, an urban historian, met with Wesleyan students and faculty on Feb. 18 to discuss “The Streets of New York.”
Koeppel shared the story behind the Manhattan street grid, created in 1811 by a three-man commission featuring headstrong Founding Father Gouverneur Morris; the plan called for a dozen parallel avenues crossing at right angles with many dozens of parallel streets in an unbroken grid. When the grid plan was announced, New York was just under 200 years old, an overgrown town and a jumble of streets at Manhattan’s southern edge. The street planning commission decided to bring order beyond the chaos with a monolithic grid for the rest of the island. Mannahattan—the native “island of hills”—became a place of rectangles, in thousands of blocks on the flattened landscape, and numerous right-angled buildings rising vertically.
Anne Greene, director of the Wesleyan Writers Conference, University Professor of English, introduced Koeppel, a former writer, editor, and producer at CBS News, who is the author of “City On A Grid: How New York Became New York” (2015). Koeppel has helped Wesleyan establish the Koeppel journalism courses, which bring distinguished journalists to campus each semester to work closely with students. Koeppel’s talk was hosted by the Writing Certificate Program and Distinguished Writers Series. A book signing followed the talk.
All photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16.