If you’ve ever wondered why W 4th St meets W 12th St in the West Village – there’s a logical explanation. The history begins two-hundred years ago, when everything this far uptown was still rural farmland.
Back in those days, the West Village New York was a quaint, summer resort town for those living further down the island of Manhattan. It was somewhat of a Cape Cod for New York’s wealthiest businessmen and their families (and far enough from the city to avoid contracting cholera or yellow fever in those hot, dank summers).
So as housing demand grew around the turn of the 19th century, farmland including the East & West Village, NY continued to divide and sell. And as the West Village streets began to lay themselves out, it was developed into a town with its own street grid – aligning itself with the docks at the Hudson River.
But as the 1811 Commissioner’s plan revealed, New York Real Estate was to take up a completely rigid system above Lower Manhattan – one that put the West Village map at a slant amidst the more uniform NYC street grid. But the existing streets in this part of town left the city with no choice but to draw up their grid plans around it.
So while you’ll still find the West Village has retained most of the original street names, other NYC neighborhoods weren’t so fortunate. Three streets – W 10th, W 11th, & W 12th Streets – connect through to the area’s original street grid, which curves westward toward the river. But interestingly enough, W 4th Street does the opposite, continuing into the West Village only to bend northward. That explains why it’s possible for W 4th Street to intersect W12th Street – a marker for confusion.