The Five Points:

200 years of wild city history right in my old job's back yard

You frequently see the front of the NY County Courthouse, with it's grand steps, in shows like the current Law & Order or the old Night Court. But the OTHER side of this familiar landmark was the site of long ago even more [in]famous scenes!

Started with a photo in an article I ran across 30 years ago [as of the original edit, 2014]. It was attributed to Jacob Riis; supposedly for his How The Other Half Lives book, and showed a scene of abject squalor, with mostly impoverished women and children sitting around what looked like a muddy backyard in front of a somewhat small boarded window and a door, and a wooden staircase to a second floor deck and doorway. I latched on to two details in particular: the window and the deck and staircase.

It was held to be an example of “old New York tenement life”. But it didn't look like any NYC tenement I had ever seen. Mainly the window size and shape, and especially the wooden deck and stairs instead of a climb-out steel fire escape.
The closest thing in NYC were these two odd old apartment complexes in Brooklyn; Cobble Hill Tower & Home buildings and the Riverside Houses (both designed by the same guy, Alfred T. White, and clearly seen being adjacent to the BQE, with their unusual wrought iron balconies; one along Hicks St. and the other, north of Atlantic).
These early “garden apartment” complexes were actually praised by Riis as "model tenements" in relation to all the squalor he had been chronicling. (A similar one without balconies or court space is the Astral, which stands out over the river in Greenpoint with its huge clock tower).
The windows, while of a similar shape, are still larger than the ones in the photo. And the balconies were again steel, not wood.

So the Riis photo somewhat reminded me of what I saw almost ubiquitously in New England (in the inner cities); save the window size. At that time in my life, my interest in the comparison between NYC and New England, and trying to find out why they were different, and any counter-examples, was swinging into high gear.

So this scene made a huge impression. As is definitive in my dominant functional perspective (introverted Thinking type), I wanted to determine the correct (true) relationship between these objects. Where they were and how they fit in the scheme of things (which appeals to my auxiliary extraverted iNtuition).
In the background was the opposite perspective; the proper (good) relationships involving people (inferior extraverted Feeling). It was a very sad scene, and perhaps unconsciously fit in with aspects of my life I was unhappy about, which seemed to be mixed up in the family dysfunction stemming from my New England grandmother whose houses this reminded me of. (At the time I first saw this, the sad sounding "Leave A Tender Moment Alone" by Billy Joel was common on the radio, and it perfectly fit the scene, especially with the weepy harmonica solo).

In that first article, no location was given, and I don't even remember any date given. I assumed it was probably simply earlier in the [20th] century. I wasn't even sure if it was really New York. (I would much later see a similar picture, said to be in England somewhere).

Old, odd-looking [makeshift] "tenement" that sparked off my interest. Its actual location would turn out to be shocking!

Half way between that time and the initial time of this writing, (15 years) in '99, I run across the photo in an article again. This time, it's dated "ca1890" and captioned as “Baxter St. Court”, though no address was given. The street ended right behind the place I worked at the time, and I even took a lunch hour to walk the length of the street to see if it could still be found.
The article also showed another old building, looking even more like New England, with the porch-like wooden balconies, on a place called “Roosevelt Street”, which could not even be found on the map. (MCNY "Rear Tenement in Roosevelt Street ca. 1890")

Soon after, I begin hearing about the sordid history of the area out back, once called “Five Points”, and most of it cleared to make way for the big park that dominates the area. (Wow; all of this was so “close to home”; er, work!) A drawing was shown of a corner of two streets of these little slope-roofed row houses. Long wondering what the front of the odd-looking “Baxter Court” tenement and others would look like, I wondered if it was one of these.

Then, as the new federal courthouse also out back was being completed, I read how they had unearthed the foundations of “the infamous 'Five Points tenements'” when starting construction. (See New York's Mythic Slum) By that time realizing the "infamous" area was where the park is, I didn't know this apparent peculiar set of buildings extended to that side of Worth, too.
Thinking this was a single particular "complex", like the Alfred T. White buildings, I still thought they might be referring to the ones in the old drawing, which did look very different from everything else. I still didn't know which exact corner that drawing was on. I had assumed it was the park (perhaps the northwest corner of Mulberry and Worth), but now, the south side of Worth is being mentioned. It must have been a whole development, it seemed.

So over the years, this would all lie in the background of my mind, especially when I would see really old buildings, and start thinking about what the city must have been like in the days of Five Points. I still did not see any “tenements” that looked like the one in the photo. (I didn't think of the White buildings as “tenements”).

I did notice that most really old buildings used a simple plain lintel design (both front and back; rather than the segmental arches as shown in the photo, and almost ubiquitous on the rears of other old buildings), though the windows were sometimes smaller, as the floor scale was smaller. I particularly remembered a really old looking row on Grand and Sullivan, which had the smaller scale and small plain lintel windows.
I tried to relate that to the Baxter Court photo. There was no resemblance (beyond the scale. Then, in the new millennium, I saw them replacing them with a new building, which, they then painted green like the old one). A similar row (Stabile) remained on Grand and Mulberry (which I pass by during the San Gennaro festival every year. I heard that one was in danger of sale and new development too, though the guy in the Italian museum inside didn't seem to be aware of any such thing).

I was reminded of the neighborhood again, when the movie “Gangs of New York” came out (and was being reviewed in the news); set in the area. The old drawing of the little houses was yet again shown in an article.
A few years ago, I decided to Google "wooden fire escapes” to see if that would shed any light on what was up with that building in the photo. I tried to imagine it (for sure), somewhere in the block where the park is now, and wondering where exactly it figured from the vantage point of the drawing.

So my interest was finally sparked off again, more recently, when I decided to find the photo in online copies of How the Other Half Lives. I saw several other Five Points and other slum photos, most looking more characteristic of the “old New York” I was familiar with, but not the one I remembered.
It was when I began searching for “Baxter St. Court” that I eventually found it, on the MCNY site and others-- with the address! The full name of the photo is “The Court at No. 24 Baxter Street”.
Google placed the address right on the northwest corner where the tip of 80 Centre is. This happened to be the center of the old drawing; though I didn't know it yet. That corner, I would find, was demolished right after the park block was, for another little park!
I soon found a photo of a place down the block from there called the House of Industry, which showed some of the corner, but it just looked like the backs of regular tenements showing in spaces above smaller buildings on Worth.

I eventually found the fire insurance maps (most by Perris and/or Sanborn, and others by Bromley or another by Robinson), which would be the key to cracking the secrets of exactly what was what and where and when in this area. They showed the horizontal outline (“footprint”) of every building, and most were even color coded to show the construction material and use of the building, and usually included number of floors.

24 Baxter (still called “Orange St” in the 1853 edition I first saw, and then renamed the following year) was actually on the south side of Worth (Baxter originally ran to Park Row), placing it right in the rear walkway between the two court houses! I had passed right over the friggin' site the day I went out looking for it; immediately as soon as I exited the building, and countless other times!

On the maps, what I found at the address was a long three story industrial complex that connected to an address on a now vanished perpendicular street (Cross St.; later renamed Park St.), and also a part of the adjoining #22 property. ("Long", meaning it filled the whole 117ft lot, compared to most houses and even the older tenements at the time, which only filled about a third of the lot, which could then fit a "court" plus a rear house in the back).
The actual "court" was behind nos. 20 and 22, with an alleyway from the street between those two buildings, and the exposed rearmost side of the 24 building marking the northern end of the court. It appears the [concave right angle] corner formed by two buildings in Riis' photo is the longer #24 factory to the right, and the smaller #22 rear tenement (which was a bit more "normal" looking for a tenement, and even fitted with a standard fire escape; didn't see this much before) to the left.
I still had no idea what it actually was.

Baxter (Orange) Street court, in relation to Five Points (60 year lapse between pictures)

But that explained a lot. This was not a real “tenement” at all! It made sense, as there were some industrial buildings in the city that resembled that. (Like the Wythe Confectionary, the Minetta Garage and various other factories and warehouses). I should have figured. But I took the term “tenement” literally, assuming “purpose-built” tenement, as we understand it today.

But this was rather something known as a “rookery”. A non residential building converted into living space. Sort of like what we today would call a “loft” apartment. But not under any kind of laws like we have today. (And they were usually in these “rear courts” or what we would basically call today, "back yards").

When I first saw the photo decades ago, I asked my mother why it looked so different, and she mentioned “Old Law” tenements, which were “long, tall, dark”, and consisted of "railroad flats" that often had no windows in rooms, and rear buildings squeezed into the small lot.
But now, I find this wasn't even “old law” (which is what actually finally mandated outside windows in every room, leading to the familiar taller “tenements” I knew, with the air/light shafts between them).
The “Old Law” didn't even come until 1879, and a lot of these buildings were older than that. An earlier attempt at a law was in 1867 (The First Tenement House Act), which began mandating fire escapes, and windows in every room, which was then usually interpreted as interior windows to other rooms.
Before that, it was apparently “anything goes”.

The term “tenement” back then simply meant any “residential” space. So these little houses, as well as industrial buildings, stables, even alleyway shanties etc. were all subdivided into living spaces, and called “tenements”, which we today associate with turn of the century large five and six story Manhattan residential structures (both “old law” and the 1903 “new law” which were a bit more spacious and had bigger air shafts and bays).
These makeshift "tenements" were the whole problem in this area.
You also heard of the “Old Brewery tenement”, the “Old Church tenement” and the “Cow Bay tenements”. The first two were originally what the name indicates. The latter were a row of three or so story houses in a dead end alley, somewhat behind the ones in the old drawing, in the distance.

Also, there was actually 60+ years between the drawing and the photo my interest began with. The drawing was 1827, by George Catlin. And Riis, again, was around 1888. A lot had changed in that time, and most of those little structures (mostly wooden) were gone by then, replaced by more familiar style tenements and loft buildings.

The rookeries were obviously ill fitted for living. The Old Brewery was said to still have the brewing machinery inside, as well as being filled with narrow passages.
So in comparing the Riis photo to my grandmother's old apartments (which it reminded me of because of the wooden "porch" and stairs), I imagined what the inside must have looked like. I pictured some old black stove and heaters with crooked pipes going into the walls (my grandmother's stove and heaters were more modern gas appliances, but still had the big exhaust pipes going into the wall, which we no longer have in NYC apartments and so stood out to me), gray-painted uneven beadboard wainscoting on the walls, and an old looking bathroom with a "window" to the kitchen and an old tub with legs.
But these were actually the amenities of an Old Law residence. This factory building most likely did not have even any of that stuff (the map and the full stereoscope of the photo (above) show a small shed-like structure to the right of the steps, which was likely an outhouse! —known then as a "privy"). Any "stoves" would probably be whatever factory equipment was left. (This was listed in the industrial "class" the map marked the building as).

So soon, I began finding other fire insurance maps; most on the NYPL site, and some on the Dave Rumsey site. Two of them revealed the name of the Baxter St. complex as “The Manhattan Brewery” (and on a later one, changed to “Distillery”). Then, an older map (1852, Dripps); actually the first and predecessor to the others, showed it as “Pirnies Distillery”.

Block 160 corner, 24 Orange/Baxter site for half a century (1852, 1857, 1894, 1899) Green indicates an industrial hazard building. They were still used as "tenements" at the same time

So it was actually a second brewery on the block that was practically adjacent to the infamous Old Brewery I was seeing a lot about, shown in the earliest map, but replaced in the next one (the first Perris) by a mission school. The distillery connected to the house addressed to 65 Cross St., while 63 was associated with the Brewery which itself was a conjoined double building at 59 and 61.
The front portion of the distillery was actually a smaller wooden building, right next door to the "Wiskey" store Grocery on the left edge of Catlin's drawing, with the bigger brick building (from the Riis photo) to the rear. (So, ironically, if you could have gone to the front of the address, you would have seen one of the little gabled houses like in Catlin's Photo, as I had wondered, after all! Incredibly hard to find drawing of it below).

Starting to see drawings of the Brewery, and then the realistic scenes from the movie, the two breweries actually have the same style of architecture, called “Victorian Institutional”. (Which is also the style of the unusual Alfred White buildings and the Astral, but it was rarely used on apartment buildings until later). They look like they could have been originally part of the same construction.
(I should mention, that I’m basing this only on the movie portrayal of the brewery. Real life drawings do show arches on the windows; {generally the upper floors of #61 and the first floor of #59, with the other windows being linteled} but the actual camber shape varies on them. On some of them, they resemble the movie and #24, but on others {which appear to be more realistic attempts}, they more resemble the extant window of the Rhinelander Sugar House, which was a large stone mill-like structure built in 1768, near what’s now Police Plaza, and a single window preserved nearby, behind the Municipal Building. That arch is similar in shape to 20th century buildings, except for alternating brick columns being standard "rowlock" stacks, or single bricks in an upright "soldier" position).

Seeing the adjacent proximity of the rear space, the first impression I got was maybe this Baxter Court was actually the back of the Old Brewery itself. (And perhaps Riis had wandered to the Park St. backyards and thought he was still on Baxter St.). But then I had to learn the timeframes, and that the Brewery was long gone by then, and it was not likely that the photo was misdated by that much.

Most of the drawings of the main brewery (and one, of the Mission) also reveal the roofline of the distillery in the left background (behind the Cross/Park St. houses), as a long, factory-like structure with three small chimneys. This can be seen in these drawings:
Old Brewery: 1852 Old Brewery under Five Points Mission banner
Paradise Park and Mission: "Bloody Ould Sixth"; 1880 drawing of 1859 scene

The Pirnie brothers began running the distillery in 1825. The Coulthardts ran the other (more well known) brewery (opened 1792), but the father and son had recently died, and the brewery would continue (side by side with the Pirnie distillery) until 1837 when it was converted into the “Old Brewery” residence (or "tenement").
I suspect the distillery may have originally been built as an extension of the brewery by the Coulthardts, then sold off after they died; but cannot find any information from before 1825.

Aside from the [possibly] similar masonry, the distillery actually appeared more "modern" with it's long, flat-roofed design compared to the brewery, which was smaller and used the older dual-pitched roof design, and as stated, was really two smaller buildings fused together. There were also what looked like other conjoined extensions in the rear. (The building may have been reconfigured, with the front originally being to the side, and the Cross st. front possibly added later; the façades are actually different architecture styles; the sides used the more common style with the dormers. There was also a widening of Cross St. at one point that might have changed the front facing that street, and probably also changed the original 26 Orange, which was shown with its gable sloping toward Park instead of Baxter in the "Bloody Old Sixth" drawing).
So I would imagine the original brewery kept outgrowing the Cross St. lots, and then at a peak, they expanded beyond beer brewing into "distilling" of other "spirits" (and then added this huge new plant for it; it must have dominated the area at the time). But likely, after the founders died, the business faltered, leading them to scale down; selling off the new expansion, and then completely folding a decade later while the spinoff distillery lasted a little longer. (It could have always been independent, as distilleries would open up near breweries, as they supported each other. Though I'm not sure the Pirnies, who were simply liquor store owners prior to the distillery, built this huge new facility so quickly).

The whole point:
It would be historically interesting to be able to hold up the distillery as a part of the brewery, since there are no real photos of the brewery itself, but there is a photo of the distillery! (And we could simply identify the Riis photo scene as "a remnant of the Old Brewery". Photography existed in the latter days of the brewery, but was still new and developing. Photos of Five Points seem to begin in the 1860's).

In any case, the distillery building outlasted the brewery building for another 4 decades, apparently being sold off by the Pirnies right after 1852, and going back and forth between being marked as residential and industrial.
Apparently, shortly after Riis' photo (perhaps in reaction to it), an attempt was made to overhaul the whole complex, including even the addition of a bowling alley on the side in the court behind #22. This is reflected in 1894 and 1897 maps.

But a few years later, the rear buildings were condemned (by increasingly tougher laws), and the whole two lots were replaced by a pair of standard six story old law tenements (called "dumbbells", because the buildings narrow in the middle for the long light shaft, while the front and rear are wider, and abut each other. They appear in the 1899 map).
These would be condemned only a decade and a half later when the area was cleared for a huge round courthouse that was never built. (But did nevertheless appear in the 1916 map! See

The land sat flat for another decade, at one point having a military cantonment base (with wooden barracks) set up there (—1— | —2—; you never hear of this; I just happened to stumble across it in searching MCNY. So with the long barracks being built parallel to Baxter St., including one apparently almost on the front of the lots where they meet the sidewalk, a new gable roof wooden row was actually built on the 20-24 sites right where the old front houses had been; almost like rebuilding them!)
And then finally, the hexagonal NY County Courthouse at 60 Centre St. was built, with it's eastern sextant (including two light shafts and the hallway between them, leading to the rear exit) occupying the Old Brewery site. Again, the distillery site wound up on the outside, near the rear exit.

From "Five Points" to "Foley Square/Manhattan Civic Center": 1923, 1925 and 1955

Collect Pond waters continue to seep out in the grounds of these shafts as well as the court's sub basement (rendering it unfit for file storage a couple of decades ago, and even polluting the air in the building).

Meanwhile, two streets had been de-mapped for this. Park (Cross) St. originally branched off of Centre St. between Duane and Reade, bent slightly to the right, between Pearl and Orange St. and then ran all the way to Mott. St. and the remaining extant block between Mulberry and Mott more recently renamed Mosco St. The portion between Worth and Pearl was finally eliminated when 60 was built. The right "fork" of Foley Sq., taking Centre St. past the federal courthouse at #40 is actually a remnant of the other end of this street! (Centre originally went straight, but now due to Foley Sq. veers east in front of 40; i.e. the Cross/Park alignment, and then veers west again in front of 60 to pick up and continue its original alignment past Worth).
Totally erased was a perpendicular street, Little Water St. or Mission Place, which ran from Cross/Park right at the brewery or Mission, forming the western boundary of the triangular park formed with Worth and Park, and then crossed Worth to form the Cow Bay dead end.
Their locations are easy to remember, by the corners of the 60 Centre hexagon; the eastern one (facing Hayes Walk) marking the alignment of Park, and the northern one (on Worth St.) where the intersection of Mission Place was.

Old Brewery and Cross St. as portrayed in "Gangs of New York". Same "Victorian Institutional" style as Pirnie's Distillery, to the rear. Done pretty well, except that two buildings are missing to the left. The distillery building is replaced by a regular tenement, whose pink wall is barely visible over the roofline of the second house from the left

From point to point; how the misery moved around

The squalor of Five Points kept moving from place to place, like a cancer, as efforts were made to clean it out.
The area first became that way, because of the Collect Pond, which was filled in (1811), but as stated, continues to seep through the ground. This already lowered the value of houses when the area was being first built up. The ground was marshy and drew mosquitoes. Many houses became warped. The middle class and higher moved out, and the new wave of poor immigrants moved in.
(In passing, the area was at this time loosely named after the pond. Like the adddess given for the Coulthardt Brewery in almanacs was "Cross Street near the Collect")

The first pocket of squalor formed when a block was cut in half, to allow Anthony St. (which became Worth later on) to be extended from Centre, to Orange @ Cross, in 1817. (See This is what cut a normal four corner intersection (bounded by blocks #160, 161, 165 and 166) into a fifth corner (or "point"; i.e. block 166 bisected into two halves; north and south).
Back then, when a street was cut through, they didn't necessarily raze whole properties only partly in the way, like they do now. If only the back and/or side of the house was in the way, they would just cut it off, and build a new wall facing the new street. In the case of Anthony, which was at a 45° angle; you ended up with a triangular shaped [i.e. the lot and footprint] house. This can be seen in the Catlin drawing, toward the left.

However, this cheapened the quality of the house, creating what Tyler Anbinder, Five Points described as a "tumbledown quality" that frightened away tenants. So that whole triangular southern half block became particularly squalid. The neighborhood was already going down (hence already becoming notorious enough for Catlin to draw the intersection and its "low class" bustle in the first place, and the press beginning to refer to it as "Five Points" in 1829; ibid.), and the decision was made in 1831 to clear that plot of land and replace it with a park. This became Paradise Park (sometimes called "Paradise Square", and in at least one of the earlier maps, "Five Points Park").

So it was later in the decade that the Coulthardt Brewery (on block 160), now facing this park, was converted to a rookery, and now became the center of Five Points infamy.
(The Brewery itself, and the area surrounding it, including Cow Bay and the west side of Orange north of Anthony on block 166 actually became the center of the black population as well. Another pocket was the north side of Cross St. from Orange to Mott).

The area by now became so infamous that world reknown writers Davy Crockett, Charles Dickens and Walt Whitman all visited and wrote about what they saw. (The latter tried to defend the residents, where others generally talked about them like dogs). Well known revivalist evangelist Charles Finney preached in a nearby theater, describing the area as the "most irreligious population of New York".
Meanwhile, the Irish and blacks, while often not getting along, nevertheless competed in dance (jigs vs the shuffle), in the streets, then in a dance hall at 67 Orange in block 165, eventually creating the tap dance.. The first bowling alleys opened a few doors away at #63 and 51 as well.

The Old Brewery tenement lasted 15 years, when a Methodist mission took it over, and replaced it with a mission school. At the same time, a dispute (over whether the work should be more humanitarian, or more evangelistic) led one of its leaders to leave, and set up a similar enterprise, the House of Industry across the park, on the northern half of block 166 (and replacing the Cow Bay dead end, which was also pretty bad, with houses named "Gates of Hell" and "Jacob's Ladder" from the rickety front steps).

Rare real photo of the first Five Points Mission. It had already taken over 63 Park, but twin house 65 Park (which was apart of the distillery) is still there, now a "Box Factory", but would be replaced shortly. Top floor of 22 Baxter rear tenement (the building on the left side of the "Baxter Court" photo) visible above the roof of 65, but 24 rear is obscured.

Around the same time, the stigma of the area having become so bad, the city decided to rename the four primary streets in the intersection and Paradise Park area (1854): Anthony St. became Worth (named after Major General William J. Worth, hero of the 1848 Mexican War), Orange St. became Baxter (after Charles Baxter, a state legislator who resigned to fight as a lieutenant colonel in the same war), Cross St. became Park St. and Little Water St. was renamed Mission Place. (Also, Park Row was known as Chatham St. and was renamed in 1886 after City Hall Park

All these changes helped to clean up the image of the immediate area a bit, but now the infamy began moving to block 165, known as "The Bend", where Baxter and Mulberry (and also Mott St. to the east) slightly realign from the Soho East grid (or current "Little Italy", which was close to the main Manhattan grid axis, which Worth was aligned with; hence its angle) to the southeastern grid anchored by South St. and that portion of the river bank, which Park Street and Park Row were aligned with.

Since most buildings were smaller then (e.g. the little houses of Catlin's drawings, still), there was a lot of space in the rear portion of the lots. Often, "rear houses" were built, as well as stables and other structures, often becoming rookeries. This created a network of alleyways that became a haven for squalor and crime. For some reason (likely its proximity to where the previous haven was), the Bend block now became the worst.
The most famous Bend spots, from Riis photos, are Bandit's Roost (59½ Mulberry), Bottle Alley (47 Baxter) and Ragpicker's Row (59 Baxter); all near the middle of the block. (Spots in the block such as Bottle Alley which are associated more with Riis in the 1880's, already had bad reputations decades before then, as Anbinder reports on p.93; but were likely overshadowed by the Old Brewery and Cow Bay back then).

Another two notorious locations in the block were the "Home of the Rioters" at 82 Park and 29 Baxter (and another wooden structure at the original #31 lot), and "Dens of Death", which are further back at 33-39. (#35 had been Sandy Sullivan's Genteel Lodging House, described by the New York Times in 1859 as "one of the filthiest, blackest holes we had yet seen.") In the Catlin drawing, these would form the row on the right side to the corner. (A single brick tenement at #31½ would later be erected, separating them. The entire strip, including the tenement, was at one point known as the "Lansdowne enclave" after the immigrants who moved there, who came from the aforenamed estate in Kenmare, County of Kerry, Ireland).
You run across the photos of these two so much in "Bend" lore, you think they were among what was featured as part of the rest of the block by Riis at the end of the century, but they were actually replaced by newer buildings in the early 70's.

Inbetween, presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln was led by the neighborhood's continuing notoriety to visit the new House of Industry in 1860 (Anbinder, ch.8), and at the end of the decade, Worth St. was finally cut through to Chatham Square, bisecting block 161. ("THE LAST OF THE FIVE POINTS; Extension of Worth Street to Chatham Square—Enlargement of the Five Points House of Industry" New York Times, August 8, 1869. Other sources such as say 1868). At least one wooden house, at 23 Baxter, was cut in half for this. It lasted like that until around 1890. (This made it technically “Six Points” now, but it was never called that. According to the report, this was hoped to signal the beginning of the demolition of the Five Points).

"Mulberry Bend", which was highlighted later in Five Points history, and the last major pocket of infamy. The entire left side (block 165) was replaced by a park. Most of the right side (block 164) is still there.

Evolution of tenement design and development

At this time, tenements finally started getting bigger.
The buildings in Catlin's drawing were not unique, as I had thought. They were just remnants of the old "colonial" era design, called the "Federal" style. These are basically the same style as those colonial "____ House" museums you're always sure to stop and visit down south. (One 1700's example is the Edward Mooney House nearby, at Bowery and Pell St.) In the city, they were often arranged as attached rows, usually 2½ stories, with an attic and "double-pitched roof", also known as a "gable" (which is the triangular piece of wall formed by the two roof halves, which come together at a ridge).
The gables were usually on the side, and the roof halves sloped toward the front and rear. Protruding "dormer" windows provide the street or court view for this floor. (The Old Brewery was an exception, where the gables were in front and dormers were on the side. But that may well have been the front when it was built, before the street grid was laid out).

This is basically the way inner city housing was built, and Manhattan resembled European cities such as in England or Holland, where this style remained more common.
This study showed me how old a lot of buildings I see every day really are. I assumed the oldest looking buildings were from the early 20th century. I did not really think what earlier 19th century architecture was like. I knew 18th century "colonial" era had the little houses, but for some reason never thought about what came inbetween.
(When you think 19th century, you think Dickens, but that's England. When you think of America, you think of the South and the Civil War with their grand plantations and country shacks, and the "Old West", cowboys & Indians, wooden "ghost towns", and gold rushes. You don't usually think about what was in New York at the time. Just brief references, basically, such as the slaves fleeing to the North. One exception was a familiar photo of the experimental first section of the 9th Ave. el, built on Greenwich St., which is from 1867, and all you see there is warehouses. This, plus the old South Street remnants such as Schermerhorn Row are then what I would think of, so you get an image of the industrial nature of the city, but not the residential neighborhoods. I guess I assumed they all still lived in farmhouses further out from downtown. American history lore focuses so much on the South and West, it's almost like this city was little more than just a point on the map).
This is why the Riis photo and talk of "tenements" back then raised such questions for me.

The first true (purpose built) tenement was actually completed around the time of Catlin's drawing, and at seven stories, towering over all the little "federal" houses and just a block north of the Five Points (but two blocks east), it might actually have been visible in the drawing if it showed more to the right!
This was 65 Mott St. which is still there, lasting throughout the whole time! (By now, pretty much blending in with all the other tall tenements built).

The style was what was common on all the residences back then (that were brick). Plain red bricks (often painted) with simple white concrete lintels. (No arches, as became common in the Victorian and later design). Flat roof, and probably with a coped parapet on the rear and sides, and likely a cornice in front (since removed). The scale was a bit smaller than the end of the century and later tenements, evidenced by slightly smaller windows.
It actually resembles some brand new “retro” styled row buildings, where new architecture has gone back to a smaller scale, and they decide to add old style red brick and single window openings on some buildings.

City's first purpose-built "tenement", at 65 Mott St. From 1824-7. The style on most brick residences in this early age was simple plain red bricks with lintels. (And this on both front and rear windows).
The daylight area ahead is actually the rear court, with a smaller "rear tenement" hallway that lines up, after it. Just before that, is a hard two rights to a narrow stairway.
It was built at a time when the entire area consisted of 2½ story mostly wooden rowhouses. It would take a few more decades for more bigger tenements like this to be be built in earnest, but many of the houses, and nonresidential buildings in the area were converted into the makeshift "tenements" the area was "infamous" for.

After 65 Mott, purpose built tenement development seemed to proceed slowly. Federal style houses continued to be built until the 1830's. Then, it was little flat-roofed, three story rows like Stabile, and the one on 6th Ave. at 10th St. (1836). These designs are mostly what are referred to as "tenements" in earlier "slum" reports. (In addition to the former private houses being converted).
In the 1840's, it seemed to continue like this, though it seems at that time, the scale was getting bigger, so that stories and windows were taller, as you see more commonly (think "brownstones", and though those were actually "mansion" houses, the style spread to the plain tenements as well).
The 1850's seems to be when tenements started getting bigger, usually five stories. (Hard to believe these buildings; many still sitting there inconspicuously amidst the modern city, were there already while all that stuff was going on in the rest of the still largely undeveloped country!)

With the advent of the fire insurance maps mid-century, Five Points still had most of its old wooden (and occasional brick) "federal" houses from the Catlin drawing. One of the first five story tenements in the area was 31½ Orange/Baxter, which was wedged in the midst of a wooden row that became dilapidated and notorious and shown in several drawings and photos.
31½ Baxter was still the similar design to 65 Mott, with plain brick and lintels. Similar buildings, on the next block (199, north of Bayard), at 102 and 104 Bayard, and 79 Baxter (and all still there, the latter housing the current “Whiskey Tavern”, which is a likely throwback to the old days of the area), appeared around the same time.
At the end of the decade, a large six story row went up across the street, at 36-40 Baxter (four buildings, 36, 36½, 38 and 40). These too had the simple design (you can see a real image of them as the background of the "Dens of Death" photo. In 1863, two of them, as having a lot of black tenants, became the scene of a Draft Riots demonstration). But they were slowly getting bigger.
The Catlin scene was now changing drastically.

The buildings on Park St. adjacent to 24 Baxter were replaced by new small brick buildings, including #65, which was now severed from the Manhattan Brewery complex. This brownstone-like house with "parlor floors" and large stoop would be associated with the Mission. 63 by now was integrated as an extension of the new mission, as you can see in this rare real photo: (The left three columns of windows are the extension).
You can see several of the Park St. houses with the final (newer) Mission, along with the backs of the later 22 and 24 Baxter St. tenements in this 1905 photo: Five Points Mission, N. Y. City. ca. 1905

The 1870's (following the first law) are when the larger tenements and other new buildings really took off (and we began getting a lot of the buildings still common in the city). Almost everything in the Catlin drawing was replaced during this period. 31½ Baxter was now dwarfed by a row at 33 and up (replacing the "Dens of Death"), and the "federal" structures on both sides of the corner (#30, the round fronted one in the center of the drawing, plus the one on the right that would become the "Home of the Rioters") were replaced by new three or four story storefronts. (And so, "31½" became simply 31).
(The only "federal" houses from the drawing that survived until the end were the back-to-back 32 Baxter and 165 Worth, which both are the second houses from the corner on either side of #30 in the center).
In these three pictures we can see how this corner was evolving:
1850's-60's: New large row at 36-40 Baxter, new 31½ Baxter to the right, and House of Industry to the far left
1873: "Home of the Rioters" on right corner at 82 Park replaced by brick building
1893 Only old 165 Worth (l.) remains.
(See also: Same corner from Worth St. Note: #165 and many other wooden buildings had received brick faces).

New structures were going up south of Worth (especially on block 161 across from the former distillery) as well. This continued into the 1880's and 90's, around the time Riis made his report. 18 Baxter and most lots below were gradually replaced by tenements, and then a new six story complex at 21 and 23 Baxter on the corner.
These all would be the actual ones whose foundations were unearthed for the Moynihan courthouse 100 years later. Artifacts had been collected from the site, to get a sense of the way they lived; and were stored at WTC (and then lost in 9-11). The way they reported this, you would think it was the Catlin picture buildings or Old Brewery or at least the Bend rookeries that were unearthed. But they were basically regular tenements you see all over the city, and actually appear to look in fairly good condition in 1926 photos of the area.

They weren't the "infamous" ones, which would more namely be the older generation of buildings (especially as reported by Crockett, Dickens and others of their time), such as the Old Brewery and various places on blocks 165 and 166, including the rear rookeries. You don't really hear much about block 161 (beginning on the east side of Baxter south of Worth) save for the Old Church tenement on Mulberry St. for its severe health problems, and the gang-run Newsboys Theater.
(For instance, 17 Baxter was the only remaining Catlin era gable roof building on that side of the street as you can see here. It did have some notoriety, being mentioned in Anbinder, and also was the tavern of Constantine Donoho, the patronage boss of Five Points in the early 1840s, and it was attacked by anti-Irish rioters in 1842).
The most infamous site on block 160 (after the Old Brewery), was Donovan's Lane (which was a "shortcut" criminals used, connecting Pearl and Baxter St.), and that was in the excavation area, but that was just an alley; not a particular "tenement". (New York's Mythic Slum page does mention the remnants of privies and other such stuff on the Pearl St. portion of the site. At 8 Baxter, a newer tenement was built in the 1890's, but the old privy was still there on the lot somewhere; likely under the building, and was still able to be unearthed).

What block 160 would look like, looking southwest, early to mid century

The only picture I could find of the southwest corner, "A Bit of Baxter Street" (C. F. W. Mielatz) showing (c1893), 18-26 Baxter (alleyway fenced off) and Worth/Park/Mission Pl. to the right background. 24 Baxter (with its misaligned dormers) is still some sort of alcohol place ("Lager Beer" sign)

Block 160 in it's final turn of the century appearance

1926; the rather typical, and not so 'infamous" "Five Points tenements" unearthed for the Moynihan courthouse in the 1990's. 23 Baxter on the corner, and 8 Baxter across the street, further down, with a Hohner Harmonica and Coca Cola ad. The cleared lots (10 and up) were the site of the Manhattan [Pirnie] Distillery rookery and shortlived tenements that replaced it (near the corner), and the Donovan's Lane alley (further back), and afterward, a military cantonment unit, a decade earlier. The brand new NY County courthouse on the right is sitting on the Old Brewery/Five Points Mission and Paradise Park sites.

The design also started changing, adding more detail. One early variation was to slightly arch the lintels, adding a bit of sculpture with a ridge on top that protrudes. This can be seen on 19-21 Mott (first appears in the 1875 map, and visible in at least two Five Points pictures), which actually prefigured the upcoming "old law" by adding a light shaft between them.
Then, other sculpting was done on lintels and widow ledges, and stone or terra cotta masonry features began to be added to the brickwork.

In the 1880s' and 90's, the masonry became really ornate. (One blog poster told me of religious objection to more ornate architecture that kept some buildings more plain).
Meanwhile, the House of Industry kept building bigger and bigger, and the Mission received a new, bigger building as well.

As for the “porches” (that started this whole interest), most of those were on rear buildings, where they actually served as the front entrance of the rear building. Most of these were replaced by the new wave of tenements filling the whole lot. One that survived is at 48 or 50 Mulberry, on the very “bend” of the street, and the front of the building in that old picture! (In passing, Roosevelt St. was actually on the other side of Park Row from Baxter St. and was taken completely off the map, along with an "X"-in the-box pattern it helped form, called "Six Triangles" {block 115}; with all the highrise developments and Police Plaza over there. As for the address of the "Roosevelt St." photo with the wooden porches, it might have been 56 Roosevelt {on block 116}, with the rear buildings facing right even though Roosevelt would be behind the photographer. This would be roughly on the current site of the 23[?] St. James high rise unit of the Smith Houses).

More on tenement design evolution: Tenemental Journey: Evolution of Apartment Building Design

The end of Five Points

So a lot of the really horrible structures were being cleared, and by the ’80s and ’90s, Five Points would look pretty much like the other 19th century Manhattan brick neighborhoods you can still visit today (with the tall new Mission on one side of Paradise Park, and the equally tall new House of Industry on the other side, etc. Here is a completely unrecognizable corner, now occupied by the Criminal Court (66-82 Baxter and 136 White): MCNY "West side of Baxter Street looking north from Franklin to White Street." March 23, 1913).

But you still had the “rookeries” behind this more respectable looking face of “the new Five Points”, in the backs of many lots (24 Baxter included); plus the living conditions of the apartments themselves; hence the whole point of Riis’ photos.

I liked how the Mother Jones article put it: “On a bright spring morning in the 1880s or early 1890s, a New Yorker—curiosity aroused, perhaps, by one of Riis’s articles—might have strolled over to Mulberry or Baxter Street to see for himself. Such a New Yorker—disinclined to push through to the dark inner rooms a few flights up or to the dismal courts and alleys behind or to the dank beer dives below—might conclude that perhaps Riis had exaggerated". (
The familiar Bend picture reveals that the Mulberry St. side of the the 165 block did not get the newer more "modern" tenements like Baxter St. (below #39 at least) or the east side of Mulberry right across the street were getting. It's mostly still the older three story "no law" (pre-1867) buildings, albeit [mostly] brick ones, and with the rear structures, including wooden ones, with alleyways, still. This is likely what created the really horrible "pocket" that remained (even if the fronts concealed it). Those particular landowners were apparently not investing in building it up like the rest of the area.

Another writer, Frank Moss, in 1897, comments on the remnants of Donovan's Lane, behind 14 Baxter, and walking up the street, further comments “A portion of the Old Brewery still remains standing on the west side of this street south of Worth Street”, which I believe is likely referring to the 22/24 rookery in the distillery building and remaining associated houses. (Which I take as more evidence the distillery was once apart of the brewery).

Hence the determination that the only way to finally, really get rid of the squalor and vice is to clear out all of this.

Hence, following Paradise Park 60 years earlier, the decision was made to clear the entire block 165, or "The Bend", for a new park. A year later, the tip of the northwest corner of block 166 (which was the center of Catlin's drawing, and now had fairly new buildings) was also cleared, basically connecting the new Mulberry Bend Park with Paradise Park. (You can see part of this here: MCNY "West side of Baxter looking north from Worth to Leonard Street, April, 1913". The two plain tenements (38 and 40) are what's left of the large 1850's row; and to the left is the park extension).
Around the same time, now the very end of the century, the former distillery was replaced. On November 11 1897, the order was issued condemning "the rear tenement-house buildings on the premises known as Nos. 22 and 24 Baxter street"; "pursuant to the provisions of chapter 567 of the Laws of 1895". (City Record, p 4015. This particular chapter seemed to deal with fireproofing of building materials. It was the front buildings that were wood frame construction, so I don't know why they weren't included. Maybe already gone by this time of the year? All the buildings including the bowling alley still appeared in the 1897 Bromley map). The buildings together were only worth $150! Again, the whole property was rebuilt with a pair of "modern" [relatively speaking] tenements (still old law, which was in its final years).

You don't really hear much about Five Points after that. At the beginning of the new century, there was still a rookery in the alley in the rear of the Mission, which caught fire, in a New York Times report. Otherwise, things finally seemed to have quieted down, yet then most of the area was nevertheless cleared for the Manhattan Civic Center complex of courthouses and office buildings.
All that would remain to the present is the east side of Mulberry north of Worth, and the north side of Bayard east of Baxter, and the east side of Baxter north of Bayard.

Now, there's only two “points” left:
1) The original block 166 north half from Catlin (80 Centre) and
2) the consolidated block 165/161 north half, as the park (combined later on when the park was extended to Worth, and Park St. was demapped there, said to be early 80's; cleared early 60's The remaining block of Park St. was renamed Mosco St. in the '80s).

161 south half, all of 160, and 166 south half are all fused together into one 'superblock' (from when the streets south of Worth were demapped eliminating any corners on that side, and Mission Place also completely vanished), containing the two courthouses and the Chatham Towers apartments.
The area where the new courthouse was built had been parking space before that, with Baxter cut back for Chatham Towers in 1957, see; and Cardinal Hayes Place (as a drivable street) branched off of Baxter and took its place to the south, first cutting off the snubbed corner of 80 Centre, and being aligned more perpendicular to Worth, ran along the back of 60 Centre to Pearl. Until the Moynihan courthouse construction (when the current Cardinal Hayes Place became a walkway), there was also another little street, Kent Place, that cut the corner of Pearl and Hayes to follow 60 Centre's hexagonal shape; see

Current building outline overlaid on 1853 Map, with recently replaced Old Brewery outlined over Mission, and former distillery complex also outlined

The squalor then finally dissipated, likely forming the settlement of homeless on Bowery I heard about growing up. Also, the park over the original center of the pond, on Centre St. which was always full of homeless.
When my father once said he would take me down to the Bowery to see all the “bums”, to warn what would happen if I didn't do well in school, I wondered what was it about that street that drew them there. This was likely the remnant of the area's whole history.
It since crept into the subway as even the above street was cleaned up. (Which is why you see a lot of relatively new corrugated metal covering various spaces and pockets in the tunnels in the area, such an the tail tracks at the Second Avenue station and the columns between tracks around Broadway-Lafayette. Long term squatters had to be cleared out of the previously unused Chrystie St. connection between Essex and Broadway Lafayette when the current (M) service began running through there).

"Five Points tenements", today?

The Five Points, as stated, were the corners of five numbered blocks that came together to form the intersection; one of the original four being bisected by Anthony/Worth St. 160 is filled by the NY County Courthouse (60 Centre St.), 166 was filled by both 60 and 80 Centre, 165 became the park, and 161 was divided into several portions; one part eventually becoming the extension of the park, and across Worth was taken by Chatham Towers. But unlike block 165, which is on the west side of Mulberry only, 161 crosses Mulberry and extends to Mott! (Not sure why, as from the very beginning, it seems, Mulberry always went through to Chatham. Not sure when the blocks were numbered though. If it was in plans between 1730 and 1754, then perhaps it originally was planned to end at Cross*).
That block is still there, with most of the old tenements (and a few newer buildings filling in particular lots throughout the 20th century). This encompasses 1-21 Mott (21 Mott appears in several old Park St. "Five Points" photos, including a last days drawing of the old Home of the Rioters! It now houses the Hop Kee restaurant), the entire south side of Mosco St., 18-28 Mulberry, and 195-205 Worth. On Mott St., all but #5 are 19th century buildings, including the old 6 story mattress factory at #7-9! (Which appears in 1853 Perris and is now Chinatown Community Center on the ground floor, and apparently loft apartments upstairs; newly renovated). #1 (likely built in the 1870's, when Worth was cut through to Chatham Sq.) used to be the Hunan Garden restaurant, which we went to in the '83 San Gennaro visit, and I liked it for its glass sidewalk cafe. It's an organic grocery now.

So this block is technically part of one of the actual "five points", and so in that respect, there are still "Five Points tenements" standing!

* To show how the numbering runs in the area, 162 is the next block east, including the Chinatown Fair arcade at 8 Mott; bounded by Mott, Park Row, Bowery and Pell, and including all of Doyers St. 163 is the block north of that, to Bayard. Then, it comes back west, with 164, 165 and 166. Then it goes north, with 167 from Leonard(Hogan) to White; jumping across Franklin. From there, it jumps to 198 and the early 200's. Across Park row is in the lower 100's, and across Bowery is in the upper 200's.
Block 164, being the east side of "Mulberry Bend" is also basically part of the "Five Points" area and clearly present in the old "Bend" photos (with the 1880's-present 48-50 as the building on the actual "bend"), as is block 199, facing the "Bend" park from the north side of Bayard.

Before the points: Evolution of the grid

On this site: (and 1800's.html) you can see a collection of maps going back to 1730.
In this colonial era period, the area was still undeveloped as the city spread northward. The Collect Pond (shown in all of these maps as simply as simply "Fresh Water"; the name "Collect" appears to have not been used on most maps for some reason) is at the edge of the map, (and appears to connect to another swamp leading to the East River, in addition to the one leading the other way toward the North River [Hudson]).

In 1754, the basic grid began to be shown in plan maps. We see the key streets: Orange, Cross (and their normal intersection), Mulberry, Mott, and Bayard all with those names in place. (Though north of the respective "bends", the names were different, and only plotted, probably not actually built yet. These would be finalized around the start of the new century).
The major thoroughfare consisting of both the future Chatham St. and Bowery, was then labeled the "High Road To Boston". Anthony Street (which completed the "fifth point") did not yet exist, as the pond was there, and on the other side of the pond was still undeveloped, or farmland. To the south of this we see marked the [more recently imfamous] "Negro Burial Ground".

Orange street was originally the two blocks from the High Road, and ending at where its "bend" would be, as that was the edge of the Collect's marsh, leading up and away toward the Hudson. There appears to be a big rectagular clearing there, with a building, and this may have been for access to the water. (Some maps would show it as only the one block south of Cross).
Cross St. also dead ended at the banks of the pond. Running along the eastern bank of the water and ending where the bank moves east toward the Orange St. clearing is the unnamed street that would unofficially be known as "Cow's Bay". We see that right where it ends, on Cross St., and where the Brewery would be built 38 years later, were the "Tan Yards" mentioned in Five Points history accounts, where these cows were slaughtered, and their remains would then pollute the pond, leading to the sequence of events (filling in the pond, etc.) eventually creating the Five Points slum.

The area was called the "Out Ward", as the wards were named rather than numbered at this time. (South of this area was "Montgomerie's Ward", and there was also "North", "East", "South", "West" and "Dock" wards, making up the whole city at the time).

Over the next 50 years, the area would slowly be developed, all around the pond, and finally, the process of filling it in (with the ground of hills that are shown in some of these maps). There were some pretty surprising developments or plans, like at one point (1797), when Cross was finally extended around the shrinking pond, instead of bending southward toward Reade, it actually bends the other way to merge with Magazine St. (the future Pearl St. extension past Chatham, named after the powder magazines that lied there along the pond during the Revolution!) This then crossed over what was by then a short stream connecting the larger main and smaller southern parts of the pond.
There are several other surprises. The all-this-time unlabeled street that served as "Cow Bay" next to the pond is finally labeled, not "Little Water", but rather simply "Water Street" (—separate from the other Water Street near the river, as with the other multiple street namings across the area, including both Anthony and Mulberry past the bend being labeled "Catherine", which was and still is an original street on the other side of Chatham. In the case of Anthony, Catherine Lane was also at the same time built next to it, and is still there under that name as a remnant of this distant naming scheme. Both originally ended at the pond on the other side). Coulthardt Brewery (not shown) has just been built there five years earlier!

The wards are now numbered, but differently than later. Collect area is now apparently part of Fifth Ward, marked on the other side of Chatham St.

As we enter the new century, and the southern portion of the pond has already been filled in, Cross St. takes its final alignment, as the only street running through past the pond to the City Hall area, and a new street begins forming to the north of the pond, in place of the future Centre, as the former marsh is being developed. The area is finally marked as the Sixth Ward.
Vastly different street plans for uptown appear on the maps of this period. Finally, an 1807 plan shows the pond completely gone, and the full grid in place, with a new "Collect Street" in the place of Centre that splits into both the "Water St" ending at Cross, and a "Brook Street" (not labeled) ending at Magazine. Anthony St. now ends at this street.
(This now would shed light on the reason why the final "Cow Bay" was the way it was, "narrowing...back to a point about a hundred feet from the entrance" as reported in Five Points slum stories. It was actually a full through street for while! (or at least planned as such, but when the full Collect (Centre) Street was finally built through the area, the street ending at Cross was then renamed "Little Water Street", and cut off short of the intersection of Leonard and Centre, recreating the "Cow Bay" dead-end, with the encroaching building lines of the new street to the west causing the resultant "alleyway" to end up shaped as it was!)

The 1811 plan (, showing the year of the final Manhattan grid, and an 1817 "Actual" map ( show Anthony extended to bend into what would become Little Water, (with no Cow Bay dead end shown at this point).
This is the final step before the creation of the actual "Five Points" intersection!

1821 (,4314,253,169&ciw=278&rot=0), and Anthony finally cuts through, and the Five Points is born!
There is yet no Centre St.! It's still Collect St. ending at Pearl (finally renaming Magazine St.)

1828 ( The Catlin picture has been drawn the previous year, and "Five Points" will be named as such the following year. Collect St. finally becomes Centre, but still ends at Pearl St. (The block from Reade to Chambers is probably considered as part of Cross St.)

1831 (, Little Water St. not shown at all. This was around the time it was decided to clear the triangular block that became Paradise Park. That is probably when Little Water, by then nicknamed as "Squeezegut Alley" (south of Anthony, where north of Anthony was "Cow Bay", of course), would become a mapworthy street again.

1833 ( Paradise Park first appears, as just an unnamed clearing (no Little Water Street, nor Cow Bay).

1836 (Colton, and Tanner, Paradise Park, and Little Water (including Cow Bay) now shown. Centre St. finally goes all the way through! The following year, the Coulthardt Brewery will close, and be converted to the "Old Brewery" tenement.
And the rest is Five Points history!

Full history of entire "Collect" area, to the present: Manhattan Civic Center, Foley Square, Five Points, history, from 1730 onward

The GANGS OF NY portrayal!

Only the opening battle scenes take place in 1846, then it jumps 16 years (to 1862. 27 Orange remains a gutted shell the whole time). The villain; “the Butcher”, the knife wielding guy with the top hat and mustache (based on real life Bowery Boys gang leader William Poole), mentions to Boss Tweed, “The Five Points” as streets (a common mistake) compared to his five fingers (which he makes a threatening gesture with), and worse than that, the streets are “Mulberry street. And Worth, Cross and Orange and Little Water”. The three streets whose names changed all did so at the same time (1854), so Worth would have still been “Anthony”, but as this is by now 1862, they all should have been the modern names.

Of course, the biggest anachronism was the Brewery still being around ten years after 1852, but now, a flyer for a “Gala Dance” pasted on the wall inside it identifies it as “The Five Points Mission, No. 61 Park Street, between Pearl and Baxter Streets”! (Now the other street names have been updated!)
It also serves completely as the Mission: with wide open space and cramped balconies on the sides, the child choir sings there, all the drinking and the live entertainment including the Butcher’s knife stunts are in the floors below, and at one point, the religious leaders are shown trying to chase the debauchees out, and it doesn’t seem to be a residence anymore.
The first 1862 scene shows the now grown up hero of the story, the son of the priest killed by the Butcher in the opening scene, entering these caves beneath the Brewery, where he finds his father’s knife, the centerpiece of the movie.

24 Baxter St. actually has a notable moment in the movie! (Though not named as such. This is if we define the address simply as the next door over from the southwest corner, which was 26 in real life). It's portrayed as a three story purpose-built tenement (whose masonry is surprisingly similar to the real life distillery rear building, but with normal window size). It was set on fire during a fireworks show (which ignited the roof, but it was the bottom two floors that burned), and then competing amateur fire brigades arrive and begin fighting each other, instead of the fire. (An onlooker covers the hydrant with a barrel to sit on!) Then, the looters arrive (including the hero), to “save” all the valuables inside (“before there’s nothing left”).
Typical movie fire, the whole apartments are engulfed (total "flashover" from the outside), but there’s no smoke inside, and just avoid the isolated pockets of flames, and the occasional falling burning object, and you’re OK). When the pump wagon arrives, and the hydrant is uncovered, the Butcher points out “What’s the point; the fire’s near burned anything of value inside!” Then, Tweed, acting as a fire chief announces “forget that one; next building over [#22]; mustn’t let it spread”, which is really only a call for the looters to “take what you want from that one”, to the objection of the resident of that house.
Burned out 24 Baxter and other scenes from the Cinecitta set of "Gangs of NY"

Location of all the major Five Points scenes

Original full blog series:

Major sources:
(Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder; Simon and Schuster, 2001 (Google Books with "preview")

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld by Herbert Asbury (1928) (Amazon books with "preview"),_Manhattan

Current Day gallery:

Actual location of distillery at 24 Baxter St. court. Front of address to the right, in front of Moynihan courthouse.
Construction is proceeding, of a glass enclosure for immigration and other waiting lines into the federal building, like at 26 Federal Plaza.

46-50 Mulberry, from the apex of the street in the old "Bend" photo, visible in center

(Now, we're looking right at the Bend buildings on Mulberry).

Lawn and light greenery on what remains of Paradise Park site. The tree is in about the same place as the sole remaining tree located at the tip of the park in its last years. (The balance of the park, as well as the Old Brewery site are inside the building.
I did some file work in that room for 5 years, but my desk was on the Pearl St. side).

Actual site of OLD BREWERY and MISSION:

Bottom of shaft containing front of Brewery/Mission site with Collect Pond waters STILL seeping out.

Rear entry ramp. Coal Yard site at side of Brewery (where it begins narrowing toward the rear). Vertical scale likely not accurate. Roof would more likely be on floor above (next). Distillery site is straight ahead out the door (above and below).

Every Manhattan Supreme Court juror walks across the upper floor space of the Brewery.
(Wonder how many of them have been fans of "Gangs of NY" or other NYC history buffs, and never had any idea!)

Catlin scene today, with all five "points" shown.

Riis scene today.

VIDEO/PHOTO walking tour!

See these and many more photos at Five Points on Pinterest

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