Gangs of New York - FIVE POINTS

This illustration is based on a photograph—circa 1890—by Jacob A. (August) Riis (1849-1914). It depicts an old rear-tenement located at New York City’s Roosevelt Street. You can view the photograph at “Museum of the City of New York” (where its reference number is The illustration is from Chapter IV (“The Down-Town Back Alleys”) of 1890's How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob A. Riis.  Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


Five Points (as depicted in Valentine’s Manual, 1855), was named for the points created by the intersections of Park, Worth and Baxter Streets. By the mid-1800s, Five Points was known as New York City’s most notorious slum neighborhood. It was home to an infamous, overcrowded tenement—the Old Brewery—near Paradise Square.

The area was filled with immigrants trying to make a new life in a foreign city. (Later the Brewery was turned into a mission.) Five Points was also a place where politicians "bought" votes in "stolen elections" and gangs, like the Irish-immigrant "Dead Rabbits," flourished.

The Five Points area wasn’t always a place of squalor.

In 1798, Collect Pond was a picturesque spot and the source of New York City’s water supply. By the early 19th century, however, tanneries using the pond to process leather goods had so profoundly polluted it that the Common Council ordered the pond drained in 1808. (Tannery workers in the Pearl Street area of Five Points left behind tools of their trade which archeologists discovered in 1991.)

Approximately twelve years after Collect Pond had been filled in, the land began to sink. As the area became increasingly run down, it was known as one of the worst places in New York City.

Visitors from abroad, like Charles Dickens, often asked to see the area firsthand since they had heard so much about it in their own countries.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jul 08, 2019

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"FIVE POINTS" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2004. May 27, 2020.
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