What are the 1799 Streets?

From the time when the first English settlers came to Nantucket in the mid-1600s until after the American Revolution, Nantucketers simply took the most convenient route from house to house, place to place, and when pressed, might describe the more-traveled ones as “the north road” or “the highway.” Then, during the presidency of John Adams, all towns in the United States of America were required to submit to the federal government a list of the streets in each town. To comply with the requirement, Nantucket’s assessor, Isaac Coffin (not Sir Isaac Coffin, benefactor of the Coffin School), came up with exactly one hundred street names for Nantucket and described them in terms of abutting properties and dwelling houses.

Quaker Nantucketers were unenthusiastic about patriotic names such as Washington Street, Jefferson Street, Liberty Street, Federal Street, and the like, but the names stuck anyhow. Most of the 1799 streets and their names continue to this today.

There have been just a few changes over the centuries. Pearl Street became India Street. Angola Street remains as described by Isaac Coffin, but because of a mapmaker’s error, a parallel street next over became Angora Street for a while. Angora Street is now Candlehouse Lane. The in-town part of the old north road was North Street up until the construction of the Sea Cliff Inn, at which point—for purposes of promotion—North Street became Cliff Road.

By now, the 1799 streets have been joined by a great many new streets, roads, and lanes, but most of the street names assigned by Isaac Coffin are with us still.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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