From the history vault

Since the days of the Revolutionary War, the Colonists fought with the British over everything from who gets the best tea, to who has the right to dump it where, and who refuses to pay any more for stamps. Fast forward to the early 20th Century, when New York, and specifically the area we now call Lower Manhattan, was the setting for a bit of a friendlier historic competition with the Brits: Who has the shortest street?

An article pulled from the August 22, 1909 edition of The New York Times begins with this headline: “London’s Shortest Street: This City Might be a Competitor With Edgar Street.” The article quotes the Westminster Gazette, which laments that John Street, London’s shortest street, is about to lose its identity.

“It has only one house, which is No. 1, for though there are two other doors in the street, one is numbered as belonging to Pall Mall and the other is the side entrance of a public house,” the Gazette reports. “Presumably, therefore, the single house is now to be absorbed in St. James’ Square and the London Directory is to lose another of the slowly diminishing total of John Streets.”

The Times article reports that there are no mentions of actual street lengths in the Gazette piece, but “it might be interesting to see how (John) compares with some New York highways that are little longer than their names. Among the latter the first prize would probably go to Edgar Street, 55 feet long, connecting Trinity Place and Greenwich Street, just north of their junction, and a block south of Rector Street. Edgar Street has no buildings fronting on it and cannot even boast of a No. 1.”

Edgar, though very short, found its way into the real estate records by virtue of the Pinkertons, who “bought at auction the building which forms the north side of the street, running through from Trinity Place to Greenwich Street, and known as 22 Trinity Place.”

Lower Manhattan’s Mill Lane also got a mention in the Times, coming in at 75 feet, according to the article. Today, Edgar is still here and still short, but it now boasts a public plaza where passersby can sit on a bench, put their feet up and mull competitions past.

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