"Broadway’s a great street when you’re going up. When you’re going down — take Sixth Avenue.” This once-famous line refers to fortunes in the Broadway theatres and was spoken by William Anthony McGuire (1881-1940), a playwright, director and producer. Sixth Avenue (now also called the “Avenue of the Americas") was used by regular New Yorkers while Broadway was used by tourists. McGuire used the line in 1928; columnist Sidney Skolsky wrote in 1931 that “he made the statement while talking to a group of friends one night and forgot about it,” and that Broadway columnists made it famous.
Vehicular traffic, at that time, went both ways along Broadway. In 1957, Broadway became one-way downtown (south) and Sixth Avenue became one-way uptown (north). A January 1957 newspaper column by Walter Winchell was titled “Broadway Adage To Be Reversed.”
Wikipedia: Broadway (New York City)
Broadway is a road in the state of New York. Perhaps best known for the portion that runs through the borough of Manhattan, New York City, it actually runs 29 km (18 mi) through Manhattan and The Bronx, exiting north from the city to run an additional 24 km (15 mi) through the municipalities of Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown and terminating north of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County, New York. It is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in New York City, dating to the first New Amsterdam settlement. The name Broadway is the English literal translation of the Dutch name, Breede weg. Broadway is known worldwide as the heart of the American theatre industry.
Modern traffic flow
Broadway was once a two-way street for its entire length. The present status, in which it runs one-way southbound south of Columbus Circle (59th Street), came about in several stages. On June 6, 1954, Seventh Avenue became southbound and Eighth Avenue became northbound south of Broadway. None of Broadway became one-way, but the increased southbound traffic between Columbus Circle (Eighth Avenue) and Times Square (Seventh Avenue) caused the city to re-stripe that section of Broadway for four southbound and two northbound lanes. Broadway became one-way from Columbus Circle south to Herald Square (34th Street) on March 10, 1957, in conjunction with Sixth Avenue becoming one-way from Herald Square north to 59th Street and Seventh Avenue becoming one-way from 59th Street south to Times Square (where it crosses Broadway). On June 3, 1962, Broadway became one-way south of Canal Street, with Trinity Place and Church Street carrying northbound traffic. Another change was made on November 10, 1963, when Broadway became one-way southbound from Herald Square to Madison Square (23rd Street) and Union Square (14th Street) to Canal Street, and two routes — Sixth Avenue south of Herald Square and Centre Street, Lafayette Street, and Fourth Avenue south of Union Square — became one-way northbound. Finally, at the same time as Madison Avenue became one-way northbound and Fifth Avenue became one-way southbound, Broadway was made one-way southbound between Madison Square (where Fifth Avenue crosses) and Union Square on January 14, 1966, completing its conversion south of Columbus Circle.
Wikipedia: William Anthony McGuire
William Anthony McGuire (July 9, 1881 - September 16, 1940) was a playwright, theatre director, and producer and an Academy Award-winning American screenwriter, including The Kid From Spain (1932) starring Eddie Cantor. McGuire won an Oscar for the 1936 film The Great Ziegfeld.
Volume 61, Issue 5
WHEN you’re going up, Broadway is a swell place to walk. But when you’re going down—try Sixth Avenue.—William Anthony McGuire.
Pg. 36 ("Heard on Broadway"):
They all came to Broadway years ago with Stardust in their eyes. Today they’re still hoping. They don’t know that Broadway’s a great street when you’re going up. But when you’re going down, take Sixth Avenue.
17 March 1929, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “About Broadway” by Mark Hellinger, Sunday Magazine Section, pg. 9, cols. 3-4:
INCIDENTALLY, speaking of the roof, we ran into William Anthony McGuire up there the other night. A great character, Bill McGuire.
It wasn’t more than two years ago that Bill was just a couple of jumps ahead of the sheriff. Sometimes he wasn’t even ahead. It was he who coined the greatest line about Broadway that we have ever heard. It sums up Broadway philosophy better than all the Broadway novels that have ever been written.
“When you’re going up,” he murmured one night, “Broadway is a great place to walk. But when you’re going down—try Sixth avenue.”
Google News Archive
5 September 1929, Miami (FL) Daily News and Metropolis, “New York Day by Day” by O. O. McIntyre, pg. 4, col. 4:
The old song observed Broadway is a wonderful street going up—but going down take Sixth avenue. How true?
Times Square Tintypes:
Being typewriter caricatures of those who made their names along the not so straight and very narrow path of Broadway
By Sidney Skolsky
New York, NY: I. Washburn
“Broadway’s a great street when you’re going up. When you’re going down — take Sixth Avenue.” WM. ANTHONY McGUIRE
15 March 1931, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Broadway’s Gag Wars Exceed Its Gang Wars” by Sidney Skolsky, Magazine Section, pg. 5, col. 5:
About the most quoted of all the lines about Broadway are WIlliam Anthony McGuire’s “Broadway’s a great street when you’re going up. When you’re going down take Sixth avenue.”
Bill is noted for writing the books of many hit musical comedies, but long after these hits are forgotten the name of McGuire will be remembered because of his piece of Broadway philosophy.
The funny part of it is that Bill McGuire never wrote these words. He made the statement while talking to a group of friends one night and forgot about it. It was the Broadway columnists who did the recording.
6 October 1933, The Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), “A New Yorker at Large” by Mark Barron, pg. 10, col. 4:
Which only reminds of William Anthony McGuire’s famous advice: “When going up, take Broadway; but, coming down, take Sixth Avenue.”
Google News Archive
1 July 1936, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “Hollywood” by Sidney Skolsky, pg. 19, col. 3:
William Anthony McGuire’s line about “Broadway’s a great street when you’re going up, when you’re going down take Sixth Avenue,” has been rewritten for the movietown. It reads “Hollywood Boulevard is great when you’re going up, when you’re going down—sunset.”
28 January 1944, Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, “Broadway” by Jack Gaver (United Press Staff Correspondent), pg. 6, col. 4:
NEW YORK, Jan. 28.—(UP)—A few years back there was a popular saying about success in the big town that pictured people on the way up proceeding via regal Broadway and those on the way down taking plebian Sixth Avenue. Now you have to take Sixth Avenue, one block east of Broadway, if you want to make progress either up or down.
The Story of Jimmy Durante
By Gene Fowler
New York, NY: Viking Press
Whenever Jimmy got up to do “I Can Do Without Broadway,” Clayton interrupted, “Jim, have you ever been off this Avenue?” And Durante answered, “This is a great street when you’re going up, but when you’re going down, take Sixth Avenue.”
Google News Archive
19 January 1957, Spartanburg (SC) Herald, pg. 4, col. 1:
To Be Reversed
The Broadway Adage, “When you’re going up take Broadway. When you’re on the way down take 6th Avenue.” will be out-dated. New traffic rules now make Broadway one-way south and 6th Avenue will soon be ditto north.