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Posts Tagged ‘Bloody Sixth Ward

Bottle Alley

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Baxter Street just past Leonard, I noticed this woman tending a little fire. She was part of a small group who were gathered at the Baxter Street side of the Mulberry Bend, where Jacob Riis described Bottle Alley. Getty Images has a watermarked preview image of the place, as photographed by Jacob Riis in 1901 here.

from wikipedia

In Chinese tradition, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Distinct from both the Qingming Festival (in Spring) and Chung Yeung Festival (in Autumn) in which living descendants pay homage to their deceased ancestors, on Ghost Day, the deceased are believed to visit the living.

On the fifteenth day the realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is ancestor worship, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mache form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Far eastern correspondent Armstrong happened to be with me this day, welcome company for my otherwise lonely walks, and informed me that this lady was burning “ghost items”- but that it was the wrong season for the Hungry Ghosts. Armstrong further iterated that someone dear to this lady had either died recently, or that it might be the anniversary of a death. Suddenly, your humble narrator remembered an enigmatic fixture observed within the section of St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria which is remarkable for the quantity of monuments which display asiatic scripts. Also, this is a photo of an offering of “ghost bucks“, also at St. Michael’s.

also from wikipedia

The Ghost Festival is celebrated during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. It also falls at the same time as a full moon, the new season, the fall harvest, the peak of Buddhist monastic asceticism, the rebirth of ancestors, and the assembly of the local community. During this month, the gates of hell are opened up and ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment. These ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who have forgotten to pay tribute to them after they had died, or those who have suffered deaths and were never given a proper ritual for a send-off. They have long needle-thin necks because they have not been fed by their family, or it is a sign of punishment so they are unable to swallow. Family members offer prayers to their deceased relatives, offer food and drink and burn joss paper. Such paper items are only valid in the underworld, which is why they burn it as an offering to the ghosts that have come from the gates of hell. The afterlife is very similar in some aspects to the material world, and the paper effigies of material goods would provide comfort to in the afterlife. People would also burn other things such as paper houses, cars, servants and televisions to please the ghosts.[2] Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls do not intrude on their lives and bring misfortune and bad luck. A large feast is held for the ghosts on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, where everyone brings samplings of food and places them on the offering table to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Photography makes you rude, exposing the nosey side of your personality- the “yenta”. You’re not just prying into someone else’s life, you are actually recording it and signing your name under their moment as “photgrapher”. Perhaps you really do steal a piece of someone’s soul when you take their picture… it would certainly explain why the politicians and Mel Gibson are the way they are.

Your humble narrator, who was once actually chased across Astoria by a crowd of old Greek ladies screaming “terrorist… camera… terrorist”, has learned the best thing to do is smile and feign genuine connection when they turn around and catch me. This is hard for me- a direct interaction with a stranger- but I’ve observed how humans act, and can create a convincing simulacra of the behavior set.

I’ve been told, though, that my attempt at acting nice is rather creepy- mainly this, but mixed with some of this and a smidge of that.

from wikipedia

There are many superstitions and taboos surrounding the Hungry Ghost Festival. Spirits are thought to be dangerous, and can take many forms, including snakes, moths, birds, foxes, wolves, and tigers. Some can even use the guise of a beautiful man or woman to seduce and possess. One story refers to a ghost who makes the form of a pretty girl and seduces a young man until a priest intervenes and sends the spirit back to hell. Possession can cause illness and/or mental disorders. During the 7th month children are advised (usually by an elder in the family) to be home before dark, and not to wander the streets at night for fear a ghost might possess them. Swimming is thought to be dangerous as well, as spirits are believed to have drowned people. People will generally avoid driving at night, for fear of a “collision”, or spiritual offence, which is any event leading to illness or misfortune. While “ghosts” is a common term used throughout the year, many people take on the phrase “backdoor god” or “good brother” instead so as not to anger the gods. Another thing to avoid is sampling any of the food placed on the offering table, as doing this can result in “mysterious illness”. Any person attending a show at an indoor entertainment venue (Getais) will notice the first row of chairs is left empty. These seats are reserved for the spirits, and it is considered bad form to sit in them. After an offering has been burnt to the spirits, stepping on or near the burnt area should be avoided, as it is considered an “opening” to the spirit world and touching it may cause the person to be possessed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The photo I’m not showing is the one after this, where this woman shot me a polite and slightly shy grin. I went on my way, hoping to minimize my intrusions, as she had ghosts that needed feeding.

from wikipedia

Yan Wang (traditional Chinese: 閻王), also called Yanluo (traditional Chinese: 閻羅) is the god of death and the sovereign of the underworld. He is also the judge of the underworld, and decides whether the dead will have good or miserable future lives. Although ultimately based on the god Yama of the Hindu Vedas, the Buddhist Yan Wang has developed different myths and different functions from the Hindu deity. Yan Wang is normally depicted wearing a Chinese judge’s cap in Chinese and Japanese art. He sometimes appears on Chinese Hell Bank Notes.

Guǐ (鬼) is the general Chinese term for ghost, used in combination with other symbols to give related meanings such as gweilo (鬼佬), literally “ghost man”, used to refer to white people, and mogwai (魔鬼) meaning “devil”. Derived symbols such as 魇 (chui) meaning “nightmare” also carry related meanings. There are many types of Guǐ:

  • Diào Sǐ Guǐ (吊死鬼): The ghost of someone who has been hanged, either in execution or suicide
  • Yóu Hún Yě Guǐ (游魂野鬼):
  • The wandering ghost who has died far away from his/her hometown or family, especially when his/her body and spirit haven’t been sent back to home.
  • The wandering ghost of the dead, including vengeful spirits who take their revenge, hungry ghosts and playful spirits who may cause trouble during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
  • Guǐ Pó (鬼婆): A ghost that takes the form of a kind and friendly old woman. They may be the spirits of servants who used to work for rich families, and who have returned to help around the house.
  • Nǚ Guǐ (女鬼): The ghost of a woman who has committed suicide due to some injustice such as being wronged or sexually abused. She returns to take her revenge.
  • Yuān Guǐ (冤鬼): The ghost of someone who have died a wrongful death. They roam the world of the living, depressed and restless, seeking to have their grievances redressed.
  • Shuǐ Guǐ (水鬼): The spirit of someone who drowned and continues living in the water. They attack unsuspecting victims by dragging them underwater and drowning them to take possession of the victim’s body.
  • Wú Tóu Guǐ (无头鬼): A headless ghost who roams about aimlessly.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 23, 2010 at 7:15 pm

vital principles

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Mosco Street, corner of Mulberry. Once upon a time, this was one of the Five Points.

from forgotten-ny.com

The notorious Old Brewery was located on Cross Street just southwest of Five Points at Anthony (now Baxter) and Orange (now Worth) Streets. It was renamed Park Street in the late 1800s. The city replaced the crowded tenements in the area partially due to the pleas of reformer Jacob Riis; the street was named for Columbus Park, which replaced the slums.

Today, Cross/Park Street, which in the 1840s had run continuously from Reade Street near Elm (now Lafayette) to Mott, has been mostly wiped out, first by Columbus Park and then by the New York County Courthouse in 1926. The last remaining section, between Mulberry and Mott Streets, was renamed Mosco Street in 1982 for Lower East Side community activist Frank Mosco.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fascinated by the municipal powers that were, this is where the other half lived, and the reason that grandparents all over Brooklyn and Queens admonished their successors to avoid “downtown”. A shudder would rifle through my own grandfather whenever the subject of dining in Chinatown or Little Italy would come up, and he wanted nothing to do with the Lower East Side. There was a reason that he settled the family in the then tony city of Brooklyn, with its vast oceanic skies and its convention of siting structures in the center of a “lot” to facilitate and provide yard space.

from r2.gsa.gov

Named for the points created by the intersection of Park, Worth, and Baxter streets, the neighborhood was known as a center of vice and debauchery throughout the nineteenth century. Outsiders found Five Points threatening and fodder for lurid prose. Describing a visit in 1842, Charles Dickens wrote: “This is the place: these narrow ways diverging to the right and left, and reeking every where with dirt and filth. Such lives as are led here, bear the same fruit here as elsewhere. The coarse and bloated faces at the doors have counterparts at home and all the wide world over. Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken frays. Many of these pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright in lieu of going on all-fours? and why they talk instead of grunting?”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the reputation and hazards of Manhattan’s immigrant neighborhoods, it was still a difficult endeavor to get my Grandmother and her sisters to leave the city for the “country”.

The grand nature of early 20th century architecture in the outer boroughs, as extensively commented on by our friends at Forgotten-ny and other antiquarian blogs, was necessitated by the reluctance felt by a generation of immigrants to leave “the city”. The reason that apartment houses in old LIC, and the entire East River coast of Brooklyn in fact, are so wonderfully appointed and decorated was to overcome this notion.

Migration south and east toward the Jamaica Bay, and points north and due east were also marked by distinctive and monumental structures- look at Ocean Parkway or the Grand Concourse for existing contemporaneous parables- compare with Long Island’s Sunrise Highway and the New Jersey Turnpike for modernity’s version.

from urbanography.com

When the landfill started to decay in the 1820’s the wood frame houses began to tilt over and sink. It became infested with mosquitoes and disease; the decent residents moved out, those who remained became impoverished and victims of slum lords, gangs and ruthless politicians looking for easy votes.  Personal safety was compromised and a person was in constant threat of being robbed or worse.  Beginning with the “Old Brewery” – a building that was converted to an apartment house, the floors were partitioned into small flats, rented to the poor and seedy characters.  Each room had whole families, cooking, eating, and sleeping in this one room.  It was a ghastly sight with squalid living conditions.  The same situation prevailed throughout the district – the lower floors usually for drinking, dancing, gambling, and riotous behavior.  Many people were robbed, beaten or shanghaied. In the cellars (they were called “cellar dwellers”) were the “oyster saloons,” which were kept open all night luring fresh, unsuspecting victims.  This neighborhood was a dangerous place to live in and visit.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This court house, to the best of my ability to scry the past, was pretty close to the site of the famous Five Points House of Industry, which should have stood in the spot where the small tree at the center of the shot stands.

A work house in the Dickensian caste and set piece for the movie and broadway adaptations of “Lil Orphan Annie“, it was a bleached presbyterian home for wastrel children who were called “Street Arabs” by the monied middle class which was horrified by the depravity of the early capitalist system. Simply put, it was an orphanage with a built in factory wherein the kids would earn their supper. Stories of the sometimes nefarious methods used by the kids otherwise, whether street performance, or joining a gang, made such institutions seem like the only hope for the children of Five Points. Despite the denominational nature of the institution, it was operated in a non sectarian manner due to the largely catholic population it served.

from How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis at wikisource

Two powerful agents that were among the pioneers in this work of moral and physical regeneration stand in Paradise Park to-day as milestones on the rocky, uphill road. The handful of noble women, who braved the foul depravity of the Old Brewery to rescue its child victims, rolled away the first and heaviest bowlder; which legislatures and city councils had tackled in vain. The Five Points Mission and the Five Points House of Industry have accomplished what no machinery of government availed to do. Sixty thousand children have been rescued by them from the streets and had their little feet set in the better way. Their work still goes on, increasing and gathering in the waifs, instructing and feeding them, and helping their parents with advice and more substantial aid. Their charity knows not creed or nationality. The House of Industry is an enormous nursery-school with an average of more than four hundred day scholars and constant boarders–“outsiders” and “insiders.” Its influence is felt for many blocks around in that crowded part of the city. It is one of the most touching sights in the world to see a score of babies, rescued from homes of brutality and desolation, where no other blessing than a drunken curse was ever heard, saying their prayers in the nursery at bedtime. Too often their white night-gowns hide tortured little bodies and limbs cruelly bruised by inhuman hands. In the shelter of this fold they are safe, and a happier little group one may seek long and far in vain.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

You’ll really need to click through to the larger incarnation of this and the following shot. These are stitched panoramas, meaning that I took a series of photos from a single point, and used photoshop to blend them together into something that would normally require an extremely wide angle lens to capture otherwise. At flickr, you can view the “all sizes” versions and see the gargantuan originals. The above image is composed of 13 fifteen megapixel images, for instance.

You’re looking at the complex of courthouses and municipal buildings which the City erected over its shame, which is referred to as Foley Square or the Civic Center in modernity. Dead center of the shot is what I believe to be the actual Five Points.

also from How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis at wikisource

. . . Blocks were rented of real estate owners, or ‘purchased on time,’ or taken in charge at a percentage, and held for under-letting.” With the appearance of the middleman, wholly irresponsible, and utterly reckless and unrestrained, began the era of tenement building which turned out such blocks as Gotham Court, where, in one cholera epidemic that scarcely touched the clean wards, the tenants died at the rate of one hundred and ninety-five to the thousand of population; which forced the general mortality of the city up front l in 41.83 in 1815, to 1 in 27.33 in 1855, a year of unusual freedom from epidemic disease, and which wrung from the early organizers of the Health Department this wail: “There are numerous examples of tenement-houses in which are lodged several hundred people that have a pro rata allotment of ground area scarcely equal to two-square yards upon the city lot, court-yards and all included.” The tenement-house population had swelled to half a million souls by that time, and on the East Side, in what is still the most densely populated district in all the world, China not excluded, it was packed at the rate of 290,000 to the square mile, a state of affairs wholly unexampled.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This stitched panorama, which accomplishes something beyond the scope of the human visual range, is a complete circle of my vantage point on the corner of Baxter and Worth streets. Worth is at the left and far right of the composition, Baxter at the center and Columbus Park in the mid right.

from wikipedia

Foley Square is a green space in lower Manhattan, New York City. The space is formed by the intersection of Duane Street, Lafayette Street, Centre Street and Pearl Street, and — by extension — the surrounding area in lower Manhattan on the site of the historic Five Points neighborhood and is named after a prominent Tammany Hall district leader and local saloon owner, Thomas F. “Big Tom” Foley (1852-1925). Originally, the land that forms Foley Square was in the middle of Collect Pond, which was one of the original fresh water sources for the City of New York, but was drained and filled-in in 1811, by which time it had become severely polluted and implicated in typhus and cholera outbreaks.

Foley Square is dominated by its surrounding civic buildings, including the classic facades and colonnaded entrances of the 1933-built United States Courthouse, fronted by the Triumph of the Human Spirit Memorial by award-winning artist Lorenzo Pace, the New York County Supreme Court, the Church of St. Andrew, the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse (known before 2003 as the Foley Square Courthouse), where the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is based, the New York County Municipal Building, the Foley Square Federal Office Building and the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building and Court of International Trade.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 22, 2010 at 12:05 am

Bandits Roost, 2010

with 4 comments

- photo by Jacob Riis (or one of his associates) found in the public domain at wikipedia, of Bandits Roost- 59 1/2 Mulberry Street, 1888

This is one of those iconic images from the dawn of the photographic era, the sort upon which entire scholastic careers and political memes are based. It purports to show a group of street toughs at the Mulberry Bend, which Riis described as the very heart of the manifest evil that was Five Points. The part of the Lower East Side described in the 1980’s as “Alphabet City” was similarly described as hell on earth by politicians and journalists, but it was actually an ok place- which makes me wonder…

For the purposes of this post though, it is one of those truly rare historical captures that lists a street address, so I headed down to Mulberry and Bayard Streets to see if I could find the spot… however… Riis and his allies in the municipality oversaw the obliteration of Five Points and its wonders, and there is no 59 1/2 Mulberry street in modernity (entire streets were demapped, or had their names changed- the actual Mulberry Bend is now Columbus Park), so I was forced to get a little “batman” on this one…

from nycgovparks.org

Columbus Park was named in 1911 after Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the Italian explorer credited with discovering America, or at least with awakening Europe to the opportunities there.  Bounded by Baxter (formerly Orange), Worth (formerly Anthony), Bayard, and Mulberry Streets, the site has alternatively been named Mulberry Bend Park, Five Points Park, and Paradise Park.  Columbus Park is situated in the heart of one of the oldest residential areas in Manhattan, adjacent to the infamous “Five Points” and “The Bend”.

Until 1808 the site for the park was a swampy area near the Collect Pond (now Foley Square) and hosted a set of tanneries.  In 1808 the pond was filled and became Pearl Street. When the filling began to sink, a foul odor emerged which depressed the living conditions of that neighborhood. As a consequence, the area became host to one of the world’s most notorious tenements, known for its wretched living conditions and rampant crime, earning such names as “murderer’s alley” and “den of thieves.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The east side of Mulberry Street still exists, and as evidenced above- this is 62 Mulberry- a modern day parking lot.

also from nycgovparks.org

Mulberry Bend Park was planned in the 1880’s by Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park.  Vaux saw this park as an opportunity to bring new life and order into the depressed neighborhood.  Riis remarked of Vaux’s newly designed park that it is “little less than a revolution” to see the slum housing replaced by trees and grass and flowers, and its dark hovels infused with light and sunshine and air.  The park opened in the summer of 1897, with bench-lined curved walkways and an expansive, open grassy area.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just next door- this is 60 Mulberry-

from focpny.org

We have a growing “RAT” problem at Columbus Park and the surrounding neighborhood. The Health Dept. has been doing “RAT” Indexing (research) and hear is what they are saying…

“Columbus Park after years remains a challenging situation………..

  • There is an extraordinary amount of food trash left in baskets each day and night;
  • abundance of litter within the park that does not get collected on a regular basis;
  • many restaurants along Mulberry Street place out their trash each night and the rats have easy access;
  • and the park is located over very old subterranean lines of sewer, and even old streams. These subsurface areas no doubt serve as partial replenishes for rat control achieved at surface level. Many of the restaurants on Mulberry have failed for having rats on their premises; and thus there is likely a back and forth swapping of the rats from Columbus Park to Mulberry Street basements.
  1. Baiting alone will NOT get this done. In fact, long term, it exacerbates it.
  2. There also appears to be a hawk which is using the park for easy pickings of the rats; and so the Parks Dept will need to weigh in on “the risk to the hawk” if any large scale baiting is done. They will need to make the call.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just next door- this is 58 Mulberry- so, spinning on my heels at that point equidistant between 58 and 60 Mulberry…

Coincidentally, 58 Mulberry has a back house, according to the NYCDOB, and is an “old law” tenement. Check out this nytimes.com article from 1881 which describes Mayor Grace’s tour of the block and includes a description of #56 Mulberry as “a tenement house of the worst class”. And also- this one which discusses the mortality rate on this block in 1884.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is 56 Mulberry today, but I’m uncertain as to whether this is the original structure which Grace visited.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This entrance to Columbus Park must be 59 1/2 Mulberry Street, Bandits Roost.

from wikipedia

Old Law Tenements are tenements built in New York City after the Tenement House Act of 1879 and before the so-called “New Law” of 1901.

The 1879 law required that every inhabitable room have a window opening to plain air, a requirement that was met by including air shafts between adjacent buildings. Old Law Tenements are commonly called “dumbbell tenements” after the shape of the building footprint: the air shaft gives each tenement the narrow-waisted shape of a dumbbell, wide facing the street and backyard, narrowed in between to create the air corridor. They were built in great numbers to accommodate waves of immigrating Europeans from troubled nations. The side streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side are lined with dumbbell structures.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I ask myself, how would Riis have described this 21st century gathering of amiable asiatic card players at 59 1/2 Mulberry Street?

from wikisource.org, “How the other half lives, by Jacob Riis”

Abuse is the normal condition of “the Bend,” murder its everyday crop, with the tenants not always the criminals. In this block between Bayard, Park, Mulberry, and Baxter Streets, “the Bend” proper, the late Tenement House Commission counted 155 deaths of children in a specimen year (1882). Their per centage of the total mortality in the block was 68.28, while for the whole city the proportion was only 46.20. The infant mortality in any city or place as compared with the whole number of deaths is justly considered a good barometer of its general sanitary condition. Here, in this tenement, No. 59 1/2, next to Bandits’ Roost, fourteen persons died that year, and eleven of them were children; in No. 61 eleven, and eight of them not yet five years old. According to the records in the Bureau of Vital Statistics only thirty-nine people lived in No. 59 1/2 in the year 1888, nine of them little children. There were five baby funerals in that house the same year. Out of the alley itself, No. 59, nine dead were carried in 1888, five in baby coffins.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 20, 2010 at 12:05 am

Mulberry Streets

with 2 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Note: The series of posts you’re about to see, over the next few days, are offered as a notebook- sort of a work in progress. When I get something wrong, please let me know, as this is a learning experience for your humble narrator.

The “Bloody Sixth” provides a certain context, in my mind, for why the vast numbers of people left Manhattan for points east and populated Brooklyn, Long Island City, and Newtown. In many ways, we live in the wreckage of their utopia… here in the Newtown Pentacle.

This is an image of a Mulberry Street Tenement from the

Harper’s Weekly of September 13, 1873, from the Library of Congress:

A familiar illustration, it’s linked to by many people, and is provided for context- although it is difficult to read the actual text- even in the larger version attained by clicking the image. It describes a visit to a Mulberry Street Tenement and it’s “back house” in the upper drawing, and an inspection of a fruit market set up along the sidewalk in the lower.

This is a short post, but likely interesting to long time readers and antiquarians…

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Exiting from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, I noticed a surprising relict of the ancient sixth ward. The bloody sixth, as it was called by sensationalist and muckraker alike, was famous for the smaller structures that landlords would erect in their back yards in order to maximize their real estate. So called “back houses” were once a common sight, but were the worst places to live- as they shared their living space with the outhouses and privy drains of the larger structure and the enormous population housed therein and most were in perpetual shadow.

from nytimes.com

The worst thing in New-York from a sanitary point of view is the rear tenement. It kills more people than war or famine in proportion to its opportunities. It is a sure lurking place for dirt, disease, and death.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

For some reason, the progressives of the 19th century were horrified by open air markets set up along the sidewalk. On modern day Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, one can observe similar merchant activity to that described by Jacob Riis and others- little shops set up in hallways and along the sidewalk, any hole in the wall- by an insular people loathe to let go of their customs and language.

Other Riis terminologies like “Tramp Burrows”, “Jewtown”, and “Heathen Temples” trample upon modern political corrrectness, however, and will most likely be trimmed from future discourse.

Moving about the sixth ward in 2010, one might happen across a Chinese grocer offering alien vegetables of unknown specie, who barely hides her umbrage when the Gwai Lo tourists ask “What’s that?”. Many sidewalk vendors were noticed to have displayed signs that say “photos $2″.

from wikipedia

Gwai Lo (鬼佬) literally means “ghost man” (the word “ghost” refers to the paler complexions of stereotypical Caucasians). The term is sometimes translated into English as foreign devil. The term arose when the first group of Europeans appeared in China as they were associated with barbarians . For several thousand years, Chinese people had the image of its borders continuously breached by “uncivilized tribes” given to mayhem and destruction. The term was popularised during the Opium Wars in response to the Unequal Treaties. In Southern parts of China, the term gwai lo was used. In Northern parts of China, the term (Western) ocean ghost ((西)洋鬼子 (Xi) Yangguizi) was used, Europe being West of China.

Also of interest, this is a digitally retouched and colored image found in the Public Domain over at Wikimedia Commons, representing Mulberry Street in 1900:

My belief – if the signage displayed in the above photo is accurate and 88 Mulberry Street means the same thing now as it did 110 years ago- is that this is the corner of Mulberry and Bayard Streets, looking uptown from below Canal Street with Five Points behind the camera. Obviously, the photographer had someone watching his back.

from wikipedia

The street was named after the mulberry trees that once lined Mulberry Bend, the slight bend in Mulberry Street. “Mulberry Bend is a narrow bend in Mulberry Street, a tortuous ravine of tall tenement-houses… so full of people that the throngs going and coming spread off the sidewalk nearly to the middle of the street… The crowds are in the street because much of the sidewalk and all of the gutter is taken up with vendors’ stands”.”  For the urban reformer Jacob Riis, Mulberry Bend epitomized the worst of the city’s slums.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My 2010 shot looks downtown toward Five Points from the far end of the scene above, at Mulberry and Grand Streets in modern Little Italy’s “main street” restaurant row, and at the infamous “Mulberry Bend”.

from wikipedia

Much of the neighborhood has been absorbed and engulfed by Chinatown, as immigrants from China moved to the area. What was once Little Italy has essentially shrunk into a single street which serves as a tourist area and maintains few Italian residents. The northern reaches of Little Italy, near Houston Street, ceased to be recognizably Italian, and eventually became the neighborhood known today as NoLIta, an abbreviation for North of Little Italy. Today, the section of Mulberry Street between Broome and Canal Streets, is all that is left of the old Italian neighborhood. The street is lined with some two-dozen Italian restaurants popular with tourists, and seemingly very few locals. Unlike Chinatown, which continues to expand in all directions with newer Chinese immigrants, little remains of the original Little Italy.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 19, 2010 at 12:05 am

The house of Dagger John

with 11 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When you first enter the place, your pupils are narrowed, as the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself stares down upon you. This is hallowed ground, one of the places where the modern nation cast off its caul. You are in Manhattan, but the builders of this place called the island New York, and this is their Cathedral.

In 1815 New York City was Manhattan only, and it only extended from the Battery to fourteenth street, by 1865 paved and graded roads went as far as Forty Second Street.

On June, 8th, 1809- the cornerstone of this building was laid down, and it was dedicated on April 14, 1815.

from wikipedia

In the 19th century, the city was transformed by immigration and development. A visionary development proposal, the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan, and the 1819 opening of the Erie Canal connected the Atlantic port to the vast agricultural markets of the North American interior. Local politics fell under the domination of Tammany Hall, a political machine supported by Irish immigrants. Public-minded members of the old merchant aristocracy lobbied for the establishment of Central Park, which became the first landscaped park in an American city in 1857. A significant free-black population also existed in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Slaves had been held in New York through 1827, but during the 1830s New York became a center of interracial abolitionist activism in the North. New York’s black population was over 16,000 in 1840. The Great Irish Famine brought a large influx of Irish immigrants, and by 1860, one in four New Yorkers – over 200,000 – had been born in Ireland.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The king of France himself commissioned stained glass windows to adorn this structure, but those artifacts ended up at Fordham university, which is just as well because they would have been consumed in the 1866 fire that gutted the place.

Hellfire, however, was no impediment to Dagger John’s flock which feared it not.

During the 1830’s and 40’s, large tracts of Manhattan building stock were converted from domestic to industrial usage, and the flood of arriving immigrants- largely from Catholic Germany and Ireland, and overwhelmingly single young men, crowded into certain neighborhoods walking distance from the new factories.

This building was designed by Joseph Francois Mangin, and beneath the place is a labyrinth of mortuary vaults.

from nyc.gov

In the 17th century, the Dutch City Hall was in the old City Tavern on Pearl Street. A new City Hall was built in 1700 at Wall and Nassau Streets. It was renamed Federal Hall when New York became the first capital of the United States. The 1833-1842 Federal Hall National Memorial is now on this site. The Common Council talked about a new City hall as early as 1776 but the Revolutionary War intervened. A site was chosen, the old Common at the northern limits of the City, now City Hall Park.

In 1802, a competition was held for the new City Hall and twenty-six proposals were submitted. First prize of $350 was awarded to John McComb, Jr. and Joseph Francois Mangin. John McComb’s father repaired the old City Hall in 1784. John McComb, Jr. was a New Yorker while Joseph Mangin was trained in his native France. McComb designed the landmark Hamilton Grange on Convent Avenue, Castel Clinton in Battery Park and the James Watson House on State Street. Joseph Mangin was City Surveyor in 1795 and published an official City map with Casimir Goerck in 1803.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When anti catholic “nativist” mobs from the nearby “Lower East Side” river fronts approached the place in 1842, they found that Dagger John had great walls erected about his church after similar riots in 1835, and that those walls and the surrounding streets were manned by the hated Irish.

By the late 1840’s, the word tenement had become a familiar term to refer to the crowded warrens in New York, and an official City census by the Council on Hygiene reported some 500,000 people living in just over 15,000 buildings.

In 1866, a conflagration consumed the place, and it was rebuilt in 1868.

from wikipedia

Anti-Catholic animus in the United States reached a peak in the nineteenth century when the Protestant population became alarmed by the influx of Catholic immigrants. Some American Protestants, having an increased interest in prophecies regarding the end of time, claimed that the Catholic Church was the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation. The resulting “nativist” movement, which achieved prominence in the 1840s, was whipped into a frenzy of anti-Catholicism that led to mob violence, the burning of Catholic property, and the killing of Catholics. This violence was fed by claims that Catholics were destroying the culture of the United States. The nativist movement found expression in a national political movement called the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s, which (unsuccessfully) ran former president Millard Fillmore as its presidential candidate in 1856.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

They thrust rifles through and over the walls, brandished pistols and brickbats, and in the end- the Irish Squad of Dagger John called the Hibernians battled the riot away from this place. Honored even today for their courage, these Hibernians showed the so called “English” that in America, things would be different for their people.

The political map of the time was drawn around this district, whose death rate was six times that of the rest of the city, and where the principal form of garbage collection were a population of roaming hogs.

Incidentally, this is where the baptism scene from the Godfather film was filmed.

from aoh.com

Anti-Catholic bigotry, cloaked in the guise of American patriotism, emerged in a nativist prejudice against immigrants –– especially the Irish, who began arriving in large numbers. A period of extreme intolerance was launched in the early 1800s that began with social segregation, resulted in discrimination in hiring, and reached its climax in the formation of nativist gangs such as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, the True Blue Americans and others bent on violence against the Irish Catholic immigrant population. These gangs would coalesce in 1854 into the American Party or ‘Know Nothings’.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

When you’ve been inside for a minute or two, your eyes adjust to its permanent twilight interior, and reflect on what it must have been like in the 1870’s and 80’s to enter this space after having experienced the surrounding neighborhood, described by Charles Dickens as “leprous houses where dogs would howl to lie”.

The “ward”, which translates into a modern political term roughly as “district”, was once the worst slum on earth according to contemporaries- who actually did factor Calcutta, Shanghai, and London (from personal experience, mind you) into their opinion.

This is the Bloody Sixth Ward, just north of the “Mulberry Bend” and “Five Points”.

from urbanography.com

The district was known as the Sixth Ward bounded, south, by Reade Street; west, by West Street; north by Canal Street; east by Broadway. The Five Points so named in the 1830’s from the convergence of the intersection of five streets: Mulberry, Anthony (now Worth St.), Cross (now Park), Orange (now Baxter), and Little Water Street (no longer exists).  This neighborhood was built over the Collect Pond and its adjacent swampland north of City Hall and the Courthouse, between Broadway and the Bowery.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Lords and ladies of the Newtown Pentacle, welcome to the progenitor and founder of Calvary Cemetery, the stage of Dagger John Hughes and the birthplace of modern New York. This is St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, we’re in Manhattan for a change, and we’ve come here to figure out where the other half lived.

from oldcathedral.org

Her sidewalls rise to a height of 75 feet, and the inner vault is 85 feet high. The church is over 120 feet long and 80 feet wide. Near the west wall stands the huge marble altar surrounded by an ornately carved, gold leaf reredos.

At the opposite end of the church in the choir loft is a historic organ, an Erben 3-41, in its original condition. The organ was built by Henry Erben in 1852, and is one of less than a dozen such great instruments surviving in New York City. The organ is still used in liturgies today.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 18, 2010 at 12:05 am

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