Simanaitis Says

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THEY’LL HAVE MANHATTAN; I’LL HAVE PHOENIX, OMAHA, CHICAGO, SALT LAKE CITY…

The New York Times, May 28, 2017, celebrated “the celestial eye candy known as Manhattanhenge” with a usual fervor directed to those living immediately east of the Hudson River. Despite this Big Apple jingoism, the phenomenon is fascinating, and it got me thinking about other places where something akin to Manhattanhenge occurs.

As The New York Times explains, “The sun moves slightly along the horizon throughout the year as Earth tilts along its axis. That means there are times during the year when the setting sun lines up with the east- and west-running streets….”

In fact, the sun sets precisely in the west only twice a year: at the spring and autumn equinoxes, the first days of spring and autumn.

Fat lot of good this does Manhattanites, however, because its Streets don’t run east and west; they’re aligned at 30 degrees from this, as shown here.

Manhattan. This and other images are from Hammond’s City Street Map and Trip Guide. The direction of north is indicated in each of these maps; in particular, it’s not always “up.”

No problem, notes The New York Times. This just changes sunset street alignment from the spring’s first day to May 29th at 8:13 p.m. and the autumnal celestial eye candy to July 12th at 8:20 p.m. May 30th and July 13th get involved too as “half-sun days” with the middle of the sun touching down at 8:12 p.m. and 8:21 p.m., respectively.

I suspect that “the city’s” canyons of steel enhance the Manhattan visual impact. However, to me, it would be aesthetically pleasing to have this celestial eye candy occur more properly at the equinoxes, thus calling for streets that are precisely east-west. And, wouldn’t you know, I have the right book to identify some of these cities.

My Hammond’s City Street Map Atlas and Trip Guide was published in 1951 “for the Executive Commercial Traveler and Tourist.” The book carries a flavor of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman about it, showing detailed street maps of each city’s “business center,” along with time zone, transportation and hotel information.

Above, Phoenix, Arizona. Below, Omaha, Nebraska.


Phoenix and Omaha are perfect equinox eye candy cites, as are Chicago, Salt Lake City, Miami and Gary, Indiana. Other cities, Boston, for example, have tangles of streets making any decent eye candy at best fleeting.

Boston, Massachusetts.

Even apart from cityhenge research, I learned a lot from the old Hammond’s. For instance, my native Cleveland, Ohio, was served in 1951 by the Blue Ridge, Burlington-American, Edwards Lakes to Sea and Greyhound Bus Lines. Or I could have traveled on one of seven airlines (AAL, CAP, EAL, NWA, TCA, TWA or UAL) or eight railroads (B&O, CV, Erie, N&SS, NYC, NYC&StL, Penn and RT). Among the hotel hot tips were the Statler (now the Statler Arms apartments) and Wade Park Manor (now Judson Manor, a retirement community).

Cleveland, Ohio.

Judson Manor is near an area familiar to me during grad school. According to its website, the manor’s rooftop terrace “offers stunning 360-degree views of University Circle and magnificent sunsets over the city of Cleveland.”

Otherwise, Cleveland’s celestial eye candy is only peripherally related to Manhattanhenge. However, my research here did solve a personal puzzle: Lake Erie is north of Ohio. Yet, as a kid, I flew model airplanes at a Cleveland park on the lakeshore, where I vividly recall the sun setting into the lake.

Sunsets to the north??

Well, actually, the Cleveland shoreline, particularly near that park, runs variously southwest to northeast.

It was celestial eye candy of quite a different sort. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

One comment on “THEY’LL HAVE MANHATTAN; I’LL HAVE PHOENIX, OMAHA, CHICAGO, SALT LAKE CITY…

  1. sabresoftware
    June 1, 2017

    Similar to what I had always thought about Windsor, ON and Detroit, MI. I had always believed that you crossed the Ambassador bridge heading west from Windsor. In fact it is closer to North (NNW actually).

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