Why your out-of-town friends can’t pronounce Houston

The history of the street is as interesting as its pronunciation

TRD WEEKEND EDITION /
Feb.February 12, 2017 12:29 PM
William Houstoun and Houston Street

William Houstoun and Houston Street

The pronunciation of Houston Street separates the tourists from the locals surer than a camera and a subway map. But the reason New Yorkers say “HOW-stun” rather than “HUE-stun” isn’t some linguistic accident. In fact, there is a surprisingly interesting history to the name.

Gerard Koeppel, author of “City on a Grid: How New York Became New York,” tells the New York Times that “Houston the city is named after Sam Houston. Our street was named after a fellow named William Houstoun, who was a prominent Georgian, from a long line of Scotsmen.”

William Houstoun had an unusual life. He was born in the colonies (in Savannah, Georgia) in 1755, but returned to London to train at the Inner Temple, part of England’s court system. But he returned to the Georgia once again in 1783 to represent his state in the Continental Congress, according to 6sqft.

He was a delegate in the 1787 Constitutional Convention and one of the original trustees of the University of Georgia at Athens. It’s impressive, but how did a transcontinental Southerner give his name to one of Manhattan’s most important streets? The answer is his wife Mary Bayard.

Bayard traced her ancestry to Peter Stuyvesant and her family was prominent in the Northeast. Her family owned a 100-acre farm in present day Soho but when the family ran into financial trouble, they carved it into blocks and sold it off.

He named the east-west streets and numbered the north-south streets. But he also named one of these thoroughfares “Houstoun Street” in honor of Mary’s husband. The southern boundary was renamed Bayard Street.

So why is modern day Houston Street no longer spelled Houstoun? Koeppel thinks that Sam Houston grew so famous that people began confusing the two spellings. [NYT | 6sqft]Christopher Cameron


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
47 Greene Street and President & CEO of Acadia Realty Trust Kenneth F. Bernstein (Credit: Google Maps)

Acadia plows ahead with $122M retail investment in Soho

WeWork leases in Soho and Flatiron could be in trouble, according to a report (Credit: iStock)

WeWork leases in Soho, Flatiron most at risk: report

From left: 47-49 Greene Street, 129 West 46th Street and 457 Broome Street (Credit: Google Maps and Meridian Investment Sales)

Here’s what the $20M-$30M NYC investment sales market looked like last week

Albert Laboz of United American Land with 430 West Broadway and 419 Broadway (Credit: Getty Images and rendering via YIMBY)

Laboz family plans 2 office developments
in Soho

Paul Manafort and 29 Howard Street (Credit: Getty Images)

Feds put Manafort’s Soho condo up for sale with $3.6M asking price

71 Greene Street with Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton (Credit: Google Maps and Getty Images)

Alexander McQueen reveals plans for a massive new Soho location

Thor Equities takes another retail bodyblow

Thor Equities takes another retail bodyblow

Jack Dorsey’s Square might swipe space at 130 Prince Street

Jack Dorsey’s Square might swipe space at 130 Prince Street

arrow_forward_ios