12. Bank Street

In 1798, a clerk at the Bank of New York (the bank started by Alexander Hamilton) fell ill with yellow fever. Rather than risk having the entire bank be shut down or quarantined in the future, the bank bought eight lots along a lane in Greenwich Village, where it erected a new branch beyond the reach of the epidemic. The lane had yet to be named, so the bank called it Bank Street.

When subsequent yellow fever epidemics struck New York City in 1803, 1805, and 1822, hundreds of the city’s residents fled uptown to the Village, where the air was thought to be cleaner. The new bank branch, which had been built for just this type of emergency, prospered greatly from the exodus. It was not long before other banks and businesses opened new offices uptown as well.