Why does downtown Los Angeles' grid include a street with such a distinctively New York name? Broadway may be one of L.A.'s oldest streets -- laid out by surveyor Edward O. C. Ord in 1849 -- but until 1890, Angelenos knew it only as Fort Street.
Problems with pronunciation provided the impetus for the name change. By the late 1880s, Los Angeles was home to a growing, influential minority of German immigrants -- a group whose native tongue lacked the "th" sound used in so many English words. Confusion reigned as Angelenos with German accents pronounced two intersecting streets, Fort and Fourth, identically. Even when pronounced by native English speakers, the difference was hard to discern over the city's primitive telephone lines.
Fort Street was then transitioning from residential street into retail district, and such confusion threatened to retard its development. In early 1890, a group of residents and merchants along Fort Street -- led by printer Fred Lind Alles, originally of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but then a resident of Fort and Fourth -- petitioned the city for a name change.