Lincoln Square is the name of both a square and the surrounding neighborhood within the Upper West Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Lincoln Square is centered on the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue, between West 65th and West 66th streets. The neighborhood is bounded by Columbus Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue to the east and west, and West 66th and 63rd Street to the north and south. It is bounded by Hell’s Kitchen, Riverside South, Central Park, and the Upper West Side proper.
The area is served by the 66th Street – Lincoln Center subway station (1 2 trains) and anchored by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Tourist information, sidewalk trash removal, and security patrol services are provided by the Lincoln SquareBID.
Lincoln Square was formerly called San Juan Hill, a predominantly African American neighborhood of tenements, generally bordered by Amsterdam Avenue to the east, West End Avenue to the west, 59th Street to the south, and 65th Street to the north. It has been suggested that the area was named after the 10th Cavalry that fought with Theodore Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War, but this is not certain. It was possibly the most heavily populated African-American neighborhood in Manhattan in the early 20th century. Notable residents had included Thelonious Monk, who came to live here in 1922. In addition to the significant African American community, there was also an Afro-Caribbean community there, which has left its traces in Bye-ya and Bemsha Swing compositions of Thelonious Monk, co-written much later withDenzil Best, who also grew up in this neighborhood.
In 1940, the New York City Housing Authority characterized the area as “the worst slum section in the City of New York,” and made plans to renew the area by demolishing the old tenements and building in its place the Amsterdam Housing Projects and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
A consortium of civic leaders and others led by, and under the initiative of, John D. Rockefeller III built Lincoln Center as part of the “Lincoln Square Renewal Project” during Robert Moses’s program of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s. Respected architects were contracted to design the major buildings on the site, and over the next thirty years the previously blighted area around Lincoln Center became a new cultural hub.
Lincoln Center was named after Lincoln Square. The reason for naming the area “Lincoln Square” is unknown, however. The name was bestowed on the area in 1906 by the New York City Board of Aldermen, but records give no reason for choosing that name.
There has long been speculation that the name came from a local landowner, because the square was previously named Lincoln Square. City records from the time show only the names Johannes van Bruch, Thomas Hall, Stephan de Lancey, James de Lancey, James de Lancey Jr. and John Somerindyck as area property owners.
The area may also have been named as a tribute to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. One speculation is that references to President Lincoln were omitted from the records because the mayor in 1906 was George B. McClellan, Jr., son of General George B. McClellan who was general-in-chief of the Union Army during the American Civil War and a bitter rival of Lincoln.