Called “Murderers’ Alley,” it was a tiny rookery a few blocks from City Hall that linked Baxter and Pearl Streets, providing an escape route for criminals as well as a resting place for drunks.
“One reporter described Donovan’s Lane as an ‘Arcardia of garbage,’ filled with ‘rambling hovels and Alpine ranges of garbage heaps,’” writes Timothy J. Gilfoyle in A Pickpocket’s Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth Century New York.
“Like other Baxter Street alleys, such as Bandit’s Roost and Bottle Alley, the thoroughfare was more accurately a small, unkempt courtyard behind the teeming, densely packed tenements.”
“Miscegenation held high carnival in Donovan’s Lane; black men and white women cursed and stunk and loafed and brawled and suffered there; the ‘basements’ in some of the old houses in the lane were so vile, that we approached their broken-down doors with our fingers to our nostrils.”
In the late 19th century, social reformers built a wall that cut off Donovan’s Lane, making it a dead end—eventually paved over and de-mapped.
[Above: Baxter Street in 1875, where Donovan's Lane ran from]
Tags: Baxter Street, Donovan Lane, Donovan's Lane, Donovan's Lane Five Points, Five Points slum, New York City in the 19th Century, New York slum, New York's criminal neighborhoods, Pearl Street, poor people of New York, Slums of the 19th Century