Joint Session on NYC’s Ladies’ Mile in 1885

Over two joint sessions between American Urban History (taught by Myra Armstead, Lyford Paterson Edwards and Helen Gray Edwards Professor of Historical Studies, Bard College) and Mapping the 19th-century City, students explored the businesses of the district in New York City nicknamed, Ladies’ Mile. By 1885, the year on which the students’ research focused, Ladies’ Mile had transformed from a residential district of mansions and townhouses into a hub of entertainment and consumerism with numbers of theaters, eateries, hotels, department stores, as well as any other imaginable retailer.

In this mapping exercise, students chose a building to research in the district. They compared how buildings were categorized or even identified in a general business directory, such as the Trow Directory, against listings in a Ladies’ Guide published the same year. Any other notes about the building (proximity to important monuments or parks or residents living in the building) were also included in their findings.


After getting a sense of how the building was categorized in these nineteenth-century documents, students then placed themselves in the role of a woman experiencing this building. Their descriptions or “tours” of these locations are placed as points near the building.

Collaborative Map:

Map of the Ladies’ Guide Categories

Historic map image:
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Plate 12: Bounded by W. 27th Street, E. 27th Street, First Avenue, E. 26th Street, Avenue A, E. 14th Street, and Sixth Avenue.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 26, 2016.