When western Canal Street had a “Suicide Slip”

Canal Street really was a canal back in the early 19th century; it carried filthy water from polluted Collect Pond, near Lafayette Street, and emptied it into the Hudson.

After the canal was filled in and made a road in 1820, the far western edge of newly named Canal Street served a more ghoulish purpose.

“The Street took its name naturally from the little stream which was called a canal,” writes Charles Hemstreet in his 1899 book Nooks and Corners of Old New York.

“The locality at the foot of the street has received the local title of “Suicide Slip” because of the number of persons in recent years who have ended their lives by jumping into Hudson River at that point.”

The Historical Guide to the City of New York also marks this as a suicide spot. “The small park at West and Canal Streets was once called Suicide Slip,” it states mysteriously.

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5 Responses to “When western Canal Street had a “Suicide Slip””

  1. S.S. Says:

    I read this about “Suicide Slip” after perusing ‘Nooks and Crannies of Old NY”, which you linked to last week. Thanks. it’s a great old resource.

    However, the book dispels the notion that Canal St was a canal, i.e., “an artificial waterway constructed to allow the passage of boats or ships inland or to convey water for irrigation.”

    It was simply a stream, as the book states. It is confusing when you state here it was a canal.

    Anyway, thanks for your wonderful blog.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    It is confusing! My understanding is that the little natural stream was dug out and used as a canal for a short time, before it was all filled in and turned into a street.

    http://www.lowermanhattan.info/news/smoothing_out_canal_street_99774.aspx

    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F50914FA3955167A93C3AB178BD95F4C8285F9

    • S.S. Says:

      Thanks for the links. They explain it well. i guess the street-namers considered a canal as something “to convey water”, not necessarily for irrigation.
      In the past, I had always imagined something like the Eire Canal with barges and such, but that makes no sense.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    I always imagined it as a charming little waterway…but imagine how badly it must have stunk!

  4. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    Lest we forget, Spring Street was once the site of a little spring that ran up to what is now Minetta Lane.

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