Columbus Circle Then and Now
Today, Columbus Circle is home to The Shops at Columbus Circle, an epicenter for fine food, fashionable shops, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. But it also has a rich history that is a surprise to most New Yorkers.
Did you know that all official distances on Manhattan are measured from Columbus Circle? It's the geographic center of the city. This is rather ironic given that it used to be so far from "town" that no one with any means wanted to live there.
What is now the Upper West Side was once known as San Juan Hill and Lincoln Square, and in the 1940's these areas were declared "The worst slum section in the City of New York." In fact, it was so bad that Robert Moses, then chairman of the "New York Slum Clearance Committee" (can you imagine government using that term today?), used his vast powers to bulldoze the tenements and build what is now Lincoln Center and the New York Convention Center, which was since demolished to make way for The Time Warner Center.
However, improvements and change took a long time to come to what we now call Columbus Circle. Even Columbus had to wait. The dazzling monument at the center of Columbus Circle was started in 1842, but it wasn't completed until 1905.
And there's even more recent pop-culture history to consider. Columbus Circle is where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man begins his trip uptown in the movie Ghostbusters. So it's only fitting you can buy marshmallows (little ones, that is) at the Whole Foods Market at The Shops at Columbus Circle.
Top Row: Geo. P. Hall & Son
Middle row, from left: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-74662; Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-66443; Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-74650
Bottom Row: Ghostbusters