Five Points, ZIP 10030
Five Points (or The Five Points) was the name given to a neighborhood in central lower Manhattan in New York City. The neighborhood is generally defined as being bound by Centre Street in the west, The Bowery in the east, Canal Street in the north and Park Row in the south.
The name Five Points was derived from the five pointed intersection created by Orange Street and Cross Street, from this intersection Anthony Street began and ran in a northwest direction creating a triangular shaped block thus the fifth "point". To the west of this "point" ran Little Water Street north to south creating a triangular plot which would become known as Paradise Square or Paradise Park.
Five Points gained international notoriety as a disease ridden crime infested slum that existed for well over 70 years.
The topography of the area that would become Five Points was a major factor in the progression of the neighborhood from middle class homes built upon reclaimed land to a sprawling disease ridden slum in a relatively short period of time.
The Collect Pond or (Fresh Water Pond) was a body of spring fed fresh water, occupying approximately 48 acres (194,000 m²) and as deep as 60 feet (18 m). The pond was located in an inverted U-shaped valley with a linear portion in the north heading northwest to the Hudson River. The eastern and western sections of the valley were separated by a hill the Dutch called Kalck Hoek (Dutch for Chalk Hook named for the numerous oyster shell middens left by the indigenous Native American inhabitants) separating the two eastern and western portion. The elevation rose in the south with Pot Bakers Hill dominating the south southwestern shore.
The Collect Pond was located in the eastern section of the valley with Kalck Hoek to the west and Bayard Mount-at 110 ft. the tallest hill in lower Manhattan, to the northeast. A stream flowed north out of the pond and then northwest through a salt marsh (which became a meadow after being drained named "Lispenard Meadows") to the Hudson River, another stream flowed out from the southeast in an easterly direction to the East River.
The southwestern shore of the Collect Pond was the site of a Native American settlement known as Werpoes. A small band of Munsee, -the northernmost division of the Lenape, occupied the site until the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam was established.
The pond served as a source of drinking water for the City of New York and also was used as a source for freshwater fish. Beginning in the early eigthteenth century various commercial enterprises were built along the shores of the Collect Pond to access the water in their respective establishments. These businesses included Coulthardts Brewery built in 1792, Nicholas Bayard's slaughterhouse on Mulberry Street which became known as "Slaughterhouse Street", the numerous tanneries- which turned the hides of the slaughtered livestock into leather, were grouped together on the southeastern shore and the pottery works of German immigrants Johan Willem Crolius and the Johan Remmey on Pot Bakers Hill on the south-southwestern shore,
Collectively the byproducts of these businesses released in the wastewatwer flowed back into the pond and created a severe pollution problem and environmental health hazard. Pierre Charles L'Enfant proposed cleaning the Collect Pond and making it a centerpiece of a recreational park around which the residential areas of the city could grow. This was rejected and the decision to fill in the pond was made which was accomplished utilizing fill partially obtained from leveling Bayards Mount and Kalck Hoek. The landfill job was completed in 1811 and Middle class homes were soon built on the reclaimed land.
The landfill job on the Collect was poorly done. The buried vegetation started releasing methane gas (a byproduct of decompostion), the area was still in a natural depression and lacked adequate storm sewers. As a result the ground eventually subsided causing the houses to shift on their foundations, the unpaved streets were often buried in a foot of mud and mosquitos bred in the stagnant pools created by the poor drainage.
Most middle and upper class inhabitants fled, leaving the neighborhood completely open to the influx of poor immigrants that started in the early 1820s and reached a torrent in the 1840s with a large influx of Irish fleeing starvation in Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine.
At Five Points’ "height," only certain areas of London’s East End vied with it in the western world for sheer population density, disease, infant and child mortality, unemployment, prostitution, violent crime, and other classic ills of the urban destitute. However, it was the original American melting pot, at first consisting primarily of newly emancipated African Americans (gradual emancipation led to the end of slavery in New York on July 4, 1827), and newly arrived Irish.
The local politics of “the Old Sixth ward” (The Points’ primary municipal voting district), while not free of corruption, set important precedents for the election of non-Anglo-Saxons to key offices. Although the tensions between the African Americans and the Irish were legendary, their cohabitation in Five Points was the first large-scale instance of volitional racial integration in American history. In the end, the Five Points African American community moved to Manhattan’s West Side and to the then-undeveloped north of the island.
Five Points is alleged to have sustained the highest murder rate of any slum in the world. According to an old New York urban legend, the Old Brewery, an overcrowded tenement on Cross Street housing 1,000 poor, is said to have had a murder a night for 15 years until its demolition in 1852.
Five Points was dominated by rival gangs like the Roach Guards, Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys. According to Herbert Asbury's book "The Gangs of New York," police arrested 82,072 New Yorkers in 1862, or 10 percent of the city's population. In 1864, five police officers were murdered. To give a sense of the era, Asbury's book tells the story of a little girl who lived with 25 people in a small basement room and was stabbed to death for a penny she had begged. Asbury reports the girl's body lay in a corner for five days before her mother dug her a shallow grave in the floor.
Almack’s (also known as “Pete Williams’s Place”) was an African American owned dance hall located at 67 Orange St in Mulberry Bend. (today’s Baxter St.), just south of its intersection with Bayard St., was home to a fusion of Irish reels and jigs with the African shuffle. This music and dance had spontaneously appeared on the street from competition between African-American and Irish-American musicians and dancers, spilling into Almack's where it gave rise in the short term to Tap Dance (see Master Juba) and in the long term to a music hall genre that was a major precursor to American Jazz and Rock and Roll. This ground is today occupied by Columbus Park, used primarily by residents of modern Chinatown.
Charles Dickens described Five Points in 1842 in his book American Notes for General Circulation:
"This is the place; these narrow ways diverging to the right and left, and reeking everywhere with dirt and filth. Such lives as are led here, bear the same fruit as elsewhere. The coarse and bloated faces at the doors have counterparts at home and all the 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 forays. Many of these pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright instead of going on all fours, and why they talk instead of grunting?"
"Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae The cholera bacterium is usually found in water or food sources that have been contaminated by feces from a person infected with cholera. Cholera is most likely to be found and spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene." (Source CDC)
The conditions in Five Points were provided a perfect environment for the cholera epidemic which started in June of 1832 in Five Points. The disease spread rapidly throughout the unsanitary crowded dwellings of Five Points and then spread to the rest of New York City.Cholera was thought to affect only certain classes of people specifically the morally degenerate:
"Every day's experience gives us increased assurance of the safety of the temperate and prudent, who are in circumstances of comfort. . . . The disease is now, more than before rioting in the haunts of infamy and pollution. A prostitute at 62 Mott Street, who was decking herself before the glass at 1 o'clock yesterday, was carried away in a hearse at half past three o'clock. The broken down constitutions of these miserable creatures, perish almost instantly on the attack. . . . But the business part of our population, in general, appear to be in perfect health and security." (New-York Mercury (18 July 1832).
"Drunkards and filthy, wicked people of all descriptions, are swept away in heaps, as if the Holy God could no longer bear their wickedness, just as we sweep away a mass of filth when it has become so corrupt that we cannot bear it. . . . The cholera is not caused by intemperance and filth, in themselves, but it is a scourge, a rod in the hand of God. . ." ( Western Sunday School Messenger, (1 September 1832))
The rich as well as the poor were susceptable to getting cholera, the poor more so because of their unsanitary living conditions. The wealthy had a much higher survival rate if they did get it due their cleaner environments and acces to uncontaminated drinking water. Cholera epidemics would break out again in subsequent years in 1849 and 1866.
Anti-abolitionist riots of 1834: Also known as the Farren Riots, occurred in New York City over a series of four nights, beginning on July 7, 1834. Their deeper origins lay in the combination of anti-Catholic nativism and Abolitionism among the genteel evangelical Protestants who had controlled the city since the Revolution and the fear and resentment of blacks among the growing underclass of IrishAmong the casualties of the riots was St. Philip's Episcopal Church an African American church at 122 Centre Street which was sacked and looted by the white mob.
Brick-bats, stones and clubs were flying thickly around, and from the windows in all directions, and the men ran wildly about brandishing firearms. Wounded men lay on the sidewalks and were trampled upon. Now the Rabbits would make a combined rush and force their antagonists up Bayard street to the Bowery. Then the fugitives, being reinforced, would turn on their pursuers and compel a retreat to Mulberry, Elizabeth and Baxter streets.
— New York Times, July 6, 1857
Dead Rabbits Riot: The riot began when the Dead Rabbits destroyed the headquarters of the Bowery B'hoys at 26 Bowery on July 4. The Bowery Boys retaliated which led to a large scale riot which waged back and forth on Bayard Street between the Bowery and Mulberry street. There would be further rioting on July 5th. The Bowery B'hoys and Dead Rabbits fought again in front of 40 and 42 Bowery Street (original buildings still extant in May 2011), erecting barricades in the street. On July 6 the Bowery B'hoys fought the Kerryonians (Irishmen from County Kerry) at Anthony and Centre Street.
Taking advantage of the disorganized state of the city's police force, brought about by the conflict between the Municipal and Metropolitan police, the fighting would spiral into widespread looting and damage of property by gangsters and other criminals from all parts of the city. It is estimated that between 800 and 1,000 gang members took part in the riots, along with several hundred others who used the disturbance to loot the Bowery area. It was the largest disturbance since the Astor Place Riot in 1849, and the biggest scene of gang violence, unsurpassed until the New York Draft Riots of 1863. Order was restored only by the New York State Militia, supported by detachments of city police, under Major-General Charles W. Sandford. Eight people were reported killed and at least 100 seriously injured although the number of killed and injured was probably much higher.
New York City draft riots (July 13 to July 16, 1863; known at the time as Draft Weekwere riots in response to the Emancipation Proclamation which was signed into law in January 1863 and led to increased anxiety among New York's white proslavery supporters of the Democratic Party, especially the Irish who feared increased competition from emancipated southern blacks fleeing to the north for the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs they often were employed in.
In March 1863, stricter federal draft laws were enacted exacerbated the already volatile situation. All male citizens between twenty and thirty-five and all unmarried men between thirty-five and forty-five years of age were subject to conscription and were required to register for the draft. Those eligible for military conscription had their names entered into a lottery which favored the more affluent who could hire a substitute to fulfill their military service or pay the federal government three hundred dollars to avoid enlistment. Blacks, were exempt from the draft as they were ruled not to be citizens by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford 60 U.S. 393 (1857). The dwellings of African Americans were sacked and looted on various streets in Five Points.
President Abraham Lincoln sent several regiments of militia and volunteer troops returning from the Battle of Gettysburg to regain control of the city.
What was Five Points is today covered in part in the west and south by large city, state and federal administration buildings and courthouses known collectively as Civic Center, Manhattan, plus Columbus Park, Collect Pond Park and Foley Square and various facilities of the New York City Department of Corrections clustering around lower Centre Street. The corrections facilities are the most direct link to the neighborhood's past, as the infamous Tombs Prison, which housed many a Five Points marauder from 1838 on, stood near the site of the current "City Prison Manhattan" at 125 White St. The northeastern and eastern portion of Five Points is now part of sprawling Chinatown. Many tenement buildings dating from the late 1800's still line the streets in this area.
The exact location of the former "five points" intersection itself is currently the intersection of Worth and Baxter. Mosco no longer extends to that intersection, and the section of Baxter south of it no longer exists.
The most enduring description of the neighborhood was penned by Charles Dickens in his 1842 work American Notes. As he strolled about Manhattan in his first visit to the United States he did not shrink from the worst areas of town. His account of the filth and wretchedness characterizing so much of the Five Points was balanced by an admiring description of the patrons of Almack's.Between 1885 and 1895, slum clearance efforts (promoted in particular by Jacob Riis, famed author of How the Other Half Lives) succeeded in razing a portion of the Five Points neighborhood most notably the notorious Mulberry Bend located between Mulberry Street on the east, Orange on the west, Bayard Street in the north and Anthony Street in the south
Background information: Merchants owning property along the periphery of Five Points petitioned the municipal government in 1829 to demolish the heart of the slum by widening and extending Anthony and Cross Streets.
"That the place known as "Five points" has long been notorious . . . as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character . . .
[They] are abridged from enjoying themselves in their sports, from the apprehension . . . that they may be enticed from the path of rectitude, by being familiarized with vice; and thus advancing step by step, be at last swallowed up in this sink of pollution, this vortex of irremediable infamy.
In conclusion your Committee remark, that this hot–bed of infamy, this modern Sodom, is situated in the very heart of your City, and near the centre of business and of respectable population. . . . Remove this nucleus—scatter its present population over a larger surface—throw open this part of your city to the enterprise of active and respectable men, and you will have effected much for which good men will be grateful."''
- "Petition to Have the Five Points Opened," Board of Assistant Aldermen documents (24 October 1831), Municipal Archives, City of New York.
The physical layout of the Five Points intersection changed throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
1776 British map showing the Collect Pond ("Fresh Water"), the canals used to drain the adjacent salt marsh and the tanneries on the eastern shore
1800 map with an 1873 street plan overlay the location of future Five Points intersection at lower right of Collect Pond
1831 map showing Five Points within the Sixth Ward
1851 map showing Five Points within the Sixth Ward
1853 map of Five Points intersection showing original street names
Gangs of New York is a 2002 historical film set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points district of New York City. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan. The film was inspired by Herbert Asbury's 1928 nonfiction book, The Gangs of New York. It was made in Cinecittà, Rome, distributed by Miramax Films and nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The film begins in 1846 and quickly jumps to 1862. The two principal issues of the era in New York were Irish immigration to the city and the Federal government's execution of the ongoing Civil War. The story follows gang leader Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) in his roles as crime boss and political kingmaker under the helm of "Boss" Tweed (Jim Broadbent). The film culminates in a violent confrontation between Cutting and his mob with the protagonist Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his immigrant allies, which coincides with the New York Draft Riots of 1863.
African Burial Ground on the south shore of the Collect Pond-active until 1792, was the burial ground for New York City's free blacks and African slaves, located a short distance southwest of future Five Points intersection.
African American slave being burned at the stake after New York Conspiracy of 1741 17 black men, two white men, and two white women were hanged at the gibbet next to the Powderhouse on the narrow point of land between the Collect Pond and the Little Collect, 13 were burned at the stake a little east on Magazine Street
Edward Mooney House built between 1785 by wealthy butcher Edward Mooney on the corner of The Bowery and Pell Street on land seized from James Delancey, a British loyalist during the American Revolutionary War
The Bulls Head Tavern (c.1755) located approximately at The Bowery and Canal Street served the thriving slaughterhouse and tannery industry, the area was surrounded by holding pens with slaughthouses along Mulberry Street
A corner building on Orange Street and Anthony Street at the southwest corner of Mulberry Bend in Five Points (c.1852)
Five Points brick tenements began replacing older wooden buildings showing southwest corner of Mulberry Bend in Five Points
Bottle Alley located in Mulberry Bend just south of Bandit's Roost. A crime scene photgraph used in a murder trial. The X marks location where victim was found
A block in the Five Points neighborhood with pre-Civil War Era wooden houses in the foreground and a newer large brick masonary tenement building in rear
Five Points House of Industry at 155 Worth Street in 1893 opposite Paradise Square
Baxter Street Alley, Rag-Picker's Row" at 59 Baxter Street (c.1898Jacob Riis)
Barney Flynn's Old Tree House a bar in the Edward Mooney House in 1899 showing Chuck Connors
Chinese Theatre 5-7 Doyers Street, scene of multiple murders
Mulberry Street (c.1900) taken from west side of Mulberry north of Bayard Street looking toward Canal Street
New York Halls of Justice known as "The Tombs" at the corner of Baxter (Orange) and Worth (Anthony) Streets
Chinese Tuxedo restaurant at 2 Doyers Street
Church of the Transfiguration (built 1801 as Zion Protestant Episcopal Church bought 1853 by Catholic Archdiocese of New York) on the corner of Mott and Mosco Streets. The parish was founded by Padre Félix Varela y Morales in 1827
Mugshot of Al Capone-nicknamed "Scarface", was member of the Five Points Gang
Lucky Luciano a member of the Five Points Gang
"There are many by-streets, almost as neutral in clean colours, and positive in dirty ones, as by-streets in London; and there is one quarter, commonly called the Five Points, which, in respect of filth and wretchedness, may be safely backed against Seven Dials, or any other part of famed St. Giles's ..."
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