Bedford and Driggs, or Fourth and Fifth Aves?

I love Forgotten NY’s Street Necrology section, in which they pour over old city maps to find streets and roads that no longer exist – some having been covered by buildings or parks, others renamed or rerouted, others simply gone. I also love finding evidence of dead streets, and am wondering if I might have come across something in Williamsburg.

Driggs 01

This building is at the corner of Driggs Ave and Broadway, right over the Williamsburg Bridge (you can see a piece of the bridge on the left). So if it’s at Driggs and Broadway…

Driggs 02

Why does the lettering on the corner of the building just behind this pole say “Fifth and B’Way”?

Driggs 03

I can’t seem to find an answer. I spent some time looking through this great collection of old Brooklyn street maps, and Driggs seems to always have been Driggs. I was wondering if it might have originally been an extension of Fifth Avenue, but that really wouldn’t make sense. Then I started wondering if maybe this building was moved to its present location from a different address…except Broadway and Fifth run parallel and never meet.

Driggs 04

Then I started thinking that maybe it’s just a really old mistake. Any ideas?


Commenters with way more knowlege of the city than I have revealed that Driggs Ave was once in fact Fifth Street (opened in 1850), while Bedford Ave was then known as Fourth Street. Commenter FTA pointed out this similar inaccuracy on the Bedford Cheese Shop building:

Bedford 01

Despite being at the corner of North 4th Street and Bedford…

Bedford 02

The engraving on the building’s corner reads “Fourth St and North 4th Street.”

Bedford 03

I can’t believe I’ve never noticed that before – I’ve shot the Cheese Shop building a million times. Commenter Brooks pointed out a wonderful resource called Hypercities, which overlays Google maps with mapes dating back hundreds of years. As of 1849, this is how Williamsburg streets were named:

Bedford 04

Let me know if you notice any other remnants of the old street numbering system.


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  1. Force Tube Avenue


    “Fifth Street” is not a mistake. Here is a quote from Brooklyn’s Eastern District, published in 1942, authored by Eugene Armbruster.

    Driggs Avenue includes 5th Street, Williamsburgh, and 5th Street, Bushwick; 5th Street Williamsburgh was ordered in 1836. The street was opened in 1850.

    If you want to see a similar anachronism, go to the northeast corner of Bedford Avenue and North 4th Street. There you will see the signs reading “Fourth Street” and “North Fourth Street”. That would line up, so to speak, with Bedford, or Fourth, one block west of Driggs, or Fifth.

  2. I live on Manhattan Avenue on Williamsburg and I’ve noticed the same thing around Manhattan Ave & Ainslie Street – I don’t know if the street name was changed or not but the side of a building lists different streets! I will have to remember to get a picture sometime soon.

  3. A great resource for stuff like this is the HyperCities project at UCLA:

    It uses Google Maps layers to collate historical maps. Looks like it started to be identified as Driggs sometime before 1887.