Stone Street Historic District Draws Business and Visitors

From the Downtown Express

Downtown revelers roll over to Stone
By Jennifer Milne

In the evening, people slowly begin to trickle through the cobblestone street from both ends of Stone St. and from the perpendicular Mill Lane. Those in the 19th century historic district don’t seem to notice the buildings towering over them — they’re too busy enjoying one of the newest hot spots in Lower Manhattan.

Patrons in business dress fill the wooden tables spanning the entire length of the street, creating a sea of pink, blue and white collared shirts. A few hard-hat construction workers mingle with the crowd surrounding the tables, and everyone has his or her own pint of beer or $10 cocktail in hand. The sound of hundreds of jovial conversations echoes off the old brick walls and mixes with the clink of glasses. At the Stone Street Historic District after work, there’s laughing, drinking and appetizers all around.

Stone St., in the southeast corner of Lower Manhattan, is home to a dozen or so restaurants and bars, serving both the lunch rush and the after work crowd.

“It’s like a wild street party,” joked Christina Myers, 21, a hostess for Smörgås Chef at 53 Stone St. “The crowd is big now, but I think it gets even bigger around 7 p.m. And it stays open pretty late — it’s a social scene.”

The immense popularity of Stone St. is something that wasn’t entirely expected when the Landmarks Preservation Commission applied for federal grant money in 1996 — and received $800,000 — to begin revamping the street. The total cost of the project was $1.4 million, including repaving the street with cobblestones and renovating the buildings lining the street.

Stone St. was settled in the 17th century by the Dutch and was the first paved street in America, according to the Downtown Alliance, which worked with Landmarks on the project. The historic district encompasses a two-block area, including Stone, Pearl and South William Sts. and Mill Lane. The low-rise buildings date back to the 19th century and were mostly built following the 1835 Great Fire that ravaged the area.

Stone and its nearby after work hang-out spot, the South Street Seaport, are both frequented by the twenty- and thirty-something crowd. Renz and her friends Schneider and Shari Gottlieb, 21, say they visit the Seaport as well.

“The only difference between here and the Seaport is that the Seaport has the on-the-water feel, more events and more attractions,” Renz said.

Still, even without the water, Stone St. continues to draw in those new to the neighborhood.

Tony S., 21, a Deutsche Bank intern from Villanova, happened upon Stone St. for the first time on Friday night.

“We were just passing by, and I saw the whole street was closed off and we get to drink outside,” he said.

His friend Carlos T., 21, also a Deutsche Bank intern, looked up at the 19th-century brick buildings and took a sip of his beer.

“It’s a really good atmosphere,” he said.

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