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10 Streets That Changed America

A whirlwind tour of 10 streets that change the way we get around: from Broadway in New York and Wilshire in Los Angeles, to the Boston Post Road and the Lincoln Highway (pictured).
Courtesy of Bill Richert/ WTTW
A whirlwind tour of 10 streets that change the way we get around: from Broadway in New York and Wilshire in Los Angeles, to the Boston Post Road and the Lincoln Highway (pictured).

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022 at 8 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand now with KPBS Passport!

A whirlwind tour of 10 streets that change the way we get around. Find out which 10 made the list!

Discover how streets have connected the nation, divided communities, and changed the way Americans live, work, and shop. Trace Broadway’s 400-year evolution: from Native American trail to Dutch trading route to the home of America’s first public transit service and an electrically-lighted theater district known as the “Great White Way.” "10 Streets That Changed America" reveals how Broadway has become the poster child for the “complete streets” movement, in which automobiles take a back seat to more sustainable forms of transit.

10 Streets That Changed America: Preview

Ride from Boston to New York on the Boston Post Road, a dirt “highway” created for the nation’s first mail carriers. Take America’s oldest streetcar line out to some of the nation’s first suburbs in New Orleans, and in Detroit drive a Model T along America’s first mile of concrete-paved road. Explore a car-friendly street created by a 1920s entrepreneur who predicted that Los Angeles would be dominated by the automobile, and take a horse and carriage ride on a Brooklyn parkway built on the proposition that streets should be scenic.

The National Road, Cumberland, Va. to Vandalia, lll.
Courtesy of Mike Fender/WTTW
The National Road, Cumberland, Va. to Vandalia, lll.


Broadway, New York – Discover the Native American and Dutch roots of the Great White Way, the first street in America to feature mass transit.

Boston Post Road, Boston to New York – Travel the highway that helped win the American Revolution and served as the nation’s first “information superhighway.”

Web Extra: Artifacts of the Boston Post Road

St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans – Ride the streetcar that helped launch a wave of suburban development across the nation.

Web Extra: Segregation on Streetcars

The National Road, Cumberland, Virginia to Vandalia, llinois – Learn about the first road ever paid for by the federal government, which paved the way for covered wagons carrying settlers to the West.

Web Extra: Van Buren vs. Horse

Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York – Enjoy a ride on America’s first “parkway,” designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a tree-lined oasis for city dwellers.

Woodward Avenue, Detroit – Join Geoffrey in the Motor City for a ride in a Model-T on the first concrete-paved modern highway.

Lincoln Highway, New York to San Francisco – This cross-country road, which began as a PR stunt dreamed up by car salesman Max Fisher, laid the groundwork for America’s love affair with the road trip.

Web Extra: How A Highway Paved the Way to Opportunities

Greenwood Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma – Visit what was once known as the “Black Wall Street” until a violent mob burned it to the ground in 1921.

Web Extra: The Fight to Remember Black Wall Street

Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles – Discover the story behind the development of L.A.’s “Miracle Mile,” a revolutionary new shopping district catering to motorists in what was once considered “the suburbs” of the city.

Wilshire in Los Angeles.
Courtesy of Steve Smith/WTTW
Wilshire in Los Angeles.

Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, Michigan – In the late 50s and 60s, shoppers were abandoning traditional downtowns for suburban malls. See how Kalamazoo turned “Main Street” into a pedestrian mall, a pattern that would play out with mixed results across the nation.

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This episode is available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, a benefit for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Purchase the Season 2 DVD at Season 2 includes "10 Streets that Changed America," "10 Monuments that Changed America" and "10 Modern Marvels that Changed America."

Credits: Produced by Dan Protess at WTTW. Geoffrey Baer hosts.