Murderer’s Row in today’s West Soho was one.
No trace of this colorfully named nook exists there, amid Sullivan’s tenements and Federal-style homes. Luckily Charles Hemstreet recalls it in his 1899 book Nooks & Corners of Old New York.
“It could not be identified by its name, for it is not a ‘row’ at all, merely an ill-smelling alley, an arcade extending through a block of battered tenements.
“After running half its course through the block, the alley is broken by an intersecting space between houses—a space that is taken up by push carts, barrels, tumble-down wooden balconies and lines of drying clothes.
“Constant complaints are made that the houses are hovels and the alley a breeding-place for disease.”
If you wander down to look for the intersection of Sullivan and Watts Streets, you won’t find it. When Sixth Avenue was extended to Tribeca in the 1920s, the corner was obliterated—along with several tiny blocks.
But the NYPL Digital Collection has a 1916 street map of the corner.
Right: Watts and Sixth Avenue near Sullivan, about where the characters of Murderers’ Row plied their trade.
Tags: alleys and courtyards of old New York, extending Sixth Avenue, Little Italy, Murderers' Row, New York street, Nooks and Corners of Old New York Charles Hemstreet, Old alleys of New York City, slums of New York, Sullivan Street Soho, Watts Street Soho