Five Points: 1800's to 1890's


After the drainage and burial of the Collect Pond at the turn of the 18th Century, the surrounding area changed practically overnight from an industrial center to the nation's first slum. The marshy landscape left behind by natural springs that continued to feed into lower Manhattan created a typhus-ridden environment, which attracted only the poorest of immigrant inhabitants. Accordingly, the neighborhood began to establish itself as a cheap entertainment district, at the center of which stood The Brewery, a brothel and local hangout for the mostly Irish, Italian and Black residents. The Brewery was located at the five-point juncture of what was then known as Orange, Anthony and Cross Streets. By the 1840's it had become so well known as the most dangerous and crime-haunted slum in the United States (carrying nicknames such as the "Den of Thieves" and "Murder's Alley") that it even attracted famous tourists, including Davy Crockett, Charles Dickens and Abraham Lincoln. By the middle of the century, the horrific living conditions of Five Points finally moved reformers to clean up the district by demolishing The Brewery and building in its place the Five Points Mission. During the 1890's, the out-spoken reformer Jacob Riis, who published the influential book "How the Other Half Lives," spearheaded the demolition of several surrounding tenements in order to establish Mulberry Bend Park (now Columbus Park). This realigned and changed the names of the three streets that once formed Five Points to Baxter, Worth and Park (now Mosco) respectively. Currently, there are no markers defining the old juncture of Five Points.