Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Manhattan's Old Five Points Neighborhood

Are you curious as to what it is like to work in one of the high rise Manhattan office buildings? When I visited my husband at work in order to accompany him on the Big Onion walking tour they had scheduled as an outing, I snapped this photo of his work space:

The square footage rental of office space in Manhattan is very expensive, so most companies utilize every inch, and small cubicles are the usual work stations for each employee.

If you are very lucky, you will have a cubicle or office with a window. Below is my husband's window view, looking out towards the south.

The downtown heliport is not far from the back of his office building, along the East River. This is the heliport that the President uses when he visits NYC, and where his motorcade will meet him to drive him to his destination in the city. A portion of Brooklyn can be viewed in the background. It was an overcast gray day. unfortunately, so my photos might be a little dark.

The tour began in the afternoon, after lunch, and we had to walk to met the tour guide outside of City Hall. We had a fast scramble to be on time, but I couldn't resist taking some photos along the way.

Here is the elegant entrance to the new Tiffany & Co. located at 37 Wall Street.

An interesting older office building -- I love the rounded corners and all the windows and decorative columns.

Here are a few smiling special forces police guarding the New York Stock Exchange. Security is obviously very stringent in that area.

We finally reach City Hall and meet the group near the very pretty City Hall fountain.

The Five Points was the area named for the points created by the intersection of Park, Worth, and Baxter streets, and the neighborhood was known as a center of vice and debauchery throughout the nineteenth century. Today the points no longer exist, as office buildings, courthouses and monuments cover them, but the Martin Scorsese 's movie "Gangs Of New York" have revived an interest in this area that was once a notorious slum. An interesting National Geographic article about the "fact and fiction" of this movie can be read here.


It was an overcrowded tenement neighborhood teeming with newly arrived immigrants struggling to succeed in an alien city, along with tanneries, slaughterhouses, breweries, alms houses, and potteries, which all contributed to making the neighborhood less than desirable. Legendary Five Points gangs existed then — the Bowery Boys, the Dead Rabbits, the Plug Uglies, the Short Tails, the Slaughter Houses, the Swamp Angels.

A further discussion about the anti immigrant sentiment, corrupt politics, and discrimination that was rampant at the time is complex, and more than I could begin to describe in my blog, but a few interesting sociological articles about the Five Points can be read here and here.

The first stop of the tour was The Tweed Courthouse, which is located on the north side of City Hall Park, behind City Hall, on Chambers Street. (there was quite a bit of scaffolding around the building because of ongoing restoration, so this was the best photo I was able to take)

An interesting overview of the checkered past of the Tweed Courthouse, the corrupt"Boss" William M. Tweed, and his Tammany Hall political organization can be read here. Today, the courthouse is used by the New York Board of Education.

Across from the Tweed Courthouse is the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank. The bank was founded by Irish emigrants as a mutual savings bank in 1850. By the 1920's it had grown to become the largest savings bank in the nation. This limestone-faced skyscraper in the Beaux-Arts style was the first to be laid out on an H-plan, providing light and air to almost all office spaces. The richly decorated banking hall has marble walls and floors, bronze grilles, original tellers' cages, and a series of stained-glass skylights with allegorical figures representing mining, manufacturing, agriculture, and other modes of employment.

To the east of the Tweed Courthouse is the Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street. It is a 40-story building built to accommodate increased governmental space demands after the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs. Its design was influenced by the "City Beautiful" movement of the 1890s which promoted plans for creating public buildings in landscaped parks.

On the top, above the middle section of the building, there are three tiered drums on top of another, flanked by four smaller pinnacle turrets, symbolizing the four boroughs joined to Manhattan. At the height of 177 m stands the 6 m high statue Civic Fame by Adolph A. Weinman, New York City's second largest statue after the Statue of Liberty. The statue holds a crown with five turrets, also symbolizing New York City's five boroughs.

We walked towards the Municipal building, turned right and walked back towards City Hall, whose eastern facade faces the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge , which is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It stretches over the East River. Construction began in January 3, 1870, and was completed thirteen years later and opened for use on May 24, 1883

We turn the corner on the right, and walked down the block to see "The Marble Palace" at 280 Broadway, which was built in 1846 as the site of America's first department store. It later housed The New York Sun newspaper, and is now used for municipal offices for New York City. Built by Alexander Turney Stewart, it was among the first to set fixed prices for goods, and drew female customers through special sales and fashion shows. According to our tour guide this store changed the way goods were displayed and sold, and had the first dressing rooms to try on garments.

Across the street from City Hall Park is the Woolworth Building, completed in 1913, standing at a height of 792 feet, 1 inch. Conceived by Frank W. Woolworth, designed by Cass Gilbert and engineered by Gunvald Aus, it was designed and built to be the tallest building in the world. It is a Gothic-style skyscraper located on Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street.

We then walked to a area that is now the African American Burial Ground, but I will do a separate entry about that next blog entry, as it is very interesting, and I took quite a few photos there.

The next stop on the tour was Foley Square between Worth and Pearl Streets, where The New York State Supreme Court is located.

The New York State Supreme Court was established in 1691, making it the oldest continuing court of general jurisdiction in the United States. The courthouse rises above a 100-foot wide flight of steps to an imposing colonnade of 10 granite fluted Corinthian columns. Above the columns are engraved words of George Washington: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government."

Foley Square was named named after a prominent Tammany Hall district leader and local saloon owner, Thomas F. “Big Tom” Foley. Its location was originally the 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 due to its severely polluted state, and its implication in typhus and cholera outbreaks at the time. Besides The New York State Supreme Court, the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse and the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse surround Foley Square.

We then walked into the neighborhood known as Chinatown. Chinatown started on Mott Street, Park, Pell and Doyers streets, east of the notorious Five Points district, and is both a residential area as well as commercial area, with a dense population of more than 300,000 people. The housing stock of Chinatown is still mostly composed of cramped tenement buildings, some of which are over 100 years old. Today, many Chinese are moving to the boroughs and the suburbs as their standards of living improve.

The last stop of the tour was The Church Of the Transfiguration, which is also known as the "Church of Immigrants," as there has been an active church located here since 1801, serving successive waves of immigrants who have settled in New York. In 1801, the English-speaking descendants of German Lutheran emigres spent $15,000 to build the substantial stone church, before it passed into the hands of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The church was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York in 1853, as Father Felix Varela, a Cuban-born pioneer of Catholic journalism, had founded the parish in 1827. The church building is the oldest Catholic Church building in New York City.

The streets are very narrow here, and there was too much traffic to get a good position to take a long shot of the church, but you can see photos of it here.

The tour was over, but most of the group walked a little longer to the Little Italy neighborhood to enjoy a tasty dinner! Very few Italians live in this area anymore, but there is a profusion of many wonderful restaurants competing for business, and it is a fun place to visit, along with Chinatown, and have lunch or dinner when you visit New York City.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of New York City, some of its historical evolution, and some of the rich tapestry of ethnicity's that make up its population.


Grand Life said...

You just made my day. When I find a new (really good) blog about New York City-- my toes tingle. It's rather scary that a little 65 year old grandma from Colorado/Utah is familiar with 90% of the places in this recent post. I'll be working my way through your past posts to get my N.Y. fix. I visit with friends two weeks a year and my favorite activity is just walking the streets. My favorite area is Lower East Side and I always go to the Tenement Museum. Thanks for a great blog.

Beverly said...

Thank you for another wonderful tour. The Woolworth building is amazing, as is every place you share with us.

I think I would have like some Italian food for dinner, too.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

What a grand tour you took with the Onion people. ;D It really makes me want to visit NYC again. I think I could take a much more knowledgeable approach this time and see things a bit more off the beaten path as they say.

I also think that the history of the early department stores is fascinating. May have to check that out more.

As for the corruption, I'll prefer to think on the lovely things about NYC.

Oh, I did enjoy your dh's office pic and am so glad that he is one of the lucky ones with a window and something of a view as well.

Edie Marie's Attic said...

Hi Pat!
Once again you have outdone yourself with an incredibly educating and most interesting post!! Even knowing how historical NYC is, I'm amazed at how much is there. I really enjoyed hearing about the old Burroughs after seeing The Gangs of NY. Then and now is pretty different!! You take fabulous photos Pat. And as always bring them all to life! Thanks for the great tour. I'm getting more and more excited about a future trip to NYC, only thing is you'd have to spend a month there to see everything!!
Hugs, Sherry

Betsy said...

Hi Pat! I just loved this post! When I was in college 6 of us flew to NYC for 4 days. One of our friends lived on Long Island and we stayed at his home. We spent all 4 days touring the city. Loved the buildings, the architecture, the food and taking in all the sites. This post was like taking a little trip back in time! Yes, your husband's little cubicle doesn't look as glamarous as the outisde of those huge skyscrapers! ha-ha.
Thanks for sharing!

Susie Q said...

Oh do you make my day brighter. I think that you know how much I love the NYC area by now. I love seeing your photos and taking your *walks* with you. Your tours really should be a reality for all tourists! : )
Heck, I will take one the next time I am there...which I hope will be sooner rather than later!
As always, thank you SO much for the treat!!


Rue said...

Hi Pat :)

I just finished reading this and realized that you had two other posts! Yay!! I love these tours :)

I went over and read some of the articles about 5 points. I thought the movie was great, but no movie ever really tells the whole story, so it was interesting to learn more about it.

Now, I'm wanting some Italian food... ;)

Off to

willow said...

Incredibly interesting, Pat! I especially enjoyed the "then and now" pix of The Five Points. I enjoyed Gangs of New York and wondered exactly what it was like today. Thanks!

Tara said...

Again, WOW! This is so great, I love touring with you...

KarenHarveyCox said...

Oh, this is wonderful. Tara led me to your blog and I am so glad. I am a New Yorker, raised on Long Island, worked on Wall Street and lived on the upper East side, and in Brooklyn for a short time. Your tour took me down familiar streets and brought back oodles of fond memories. Thanks, now all I need is a steamed pork bun from China Town and I'll be all set. karen

Joanne Kennedy said...

Hi Pat,

You make me want to come to NY and knock on your door, grab you out of your home and have you take me around to all these wonderful places.

How close is your husbands office to where the Twin Towers were?

I hope you do go to a tour of Ground Zero for us someday.

THank you so much for all your wonderful posts. I love them.


Lisa B. said...

Cool! Thanks Pat!

Linda's Blue Gate said...

You are such a great tour guide .... so full of the most interesting information.... are you sure you aren't a teacher?

Beth Leintz said...

I think I leave pretty much the same comment after I read every post of yours - "Thanks so much for the wonderful tour and great pictures!" I so enjoy the combination of pictures and history.

By the way- your husbands office/cube in Manhattan looks just like my cube in Kansas- but I didn't have a view!

Cori G. said...

Hi Pat, I jst finished the 5-points tour. What a lot of great architecture! I particularly love the building with the rounded corners and the Gothic building. Was that the Woolworth building, I don't remember. I've never been to N.Y. but it seems like it's very small with everything packed together. I'm curious as to how long the tour was.
Another great post. Thanks!
:) Cori

dana said...

I am soooo excited to have found your blog!! I LOVE NYC. I've only been there once, but I fell head over heels for the town. I am looking forward to catching up on your posts!

shelagh said...

Terrific entry! I love New York. I've just been twice but hope to visit again with the year! There, I've said it, my intention is out there in the Universe:)Now to try and make it happen:)