The breadline of hungry men in Freeman Alley

This narrow little passage off Rivington Street between Chrystie Street and the Bowery now attracts well-heeled, hipster New Yorkers looking for a table at retro Freemans restaurant, at the end of the alley.

But in 1909, there was a different kind of clientele in Freeman Alley craving a meal—desperate men on a breadline.

The breadline stemmed from the Bowery Mission, which had just relocated to nearby 227 Bowery. That building, a former coffin factory, was remodeled so its rear entrance opened to the back of Freeman Alley. Apparently the alley’s end wasn’t closed at the time.

That’s where Bowery Mission planners wanted the breadline to form. So night after night, men queued up in Freeman Alley, hoping for some food.

Freeman Alley is a bit of a mystery. No one is sure if it honors early 19th century surveyor Uzal Freeman, or if the name refers to the Second African Burial Ground, a cemetery for black New Yorkers on the site of Sara Roosevelt Park that was closed in 1853.

[NYPL Digital Gallery photo of the Bowery Mission Breadline]

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6 Responses to “The breadline of hungry men in Freeman Alley”

  1. Tweets that mention The breadline of hungry men in Freeman Alley « Ephemeral New York -- Topsy.com Says:

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  2. Nabe News: February 22 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    [...] Alley was the designated area for Bowery Mission breadlines in the early 1900s.  And the narrow strip of pavement wasn’t [...]

  3. Jill Says:

    This place always gets a lot of complaints at Community Board meetings. I think that little alley is like a sound chamber and the people whose windows face it suffer from it. There is also a sub-plot pertaining to whether it’s a public or private street and what it all means pertaining to neighbors and rights etc.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    Interesting about the public vs. private street debate. Freeman shows up on old maps and in news articles, but I don’t think there was a street sign at the entrance of the alley until relatively recently.

  5. *Everyday Chatter « NYC Says:

    [...] When fancy Freeman Alley was filled with breadline men. [ENY] [...]

  6. Freeman Alley and The Urban Wanderer | Gordon's Urban Morphology Says:

    […] Freeman Alley in Ephemeral New York […]

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