Posts Tagged ‘Lower East Side 1900’

Jerome Myers: the “gentle poet” of the slums

November 12, 2012

In 1882, painter Jerome Myers moved to New York from his native Virgina. Visiting the crowded ethnic slums of the Lower East Side, he found the inspiration for his life’s work.

“‘My song in my work,’ he wrote, ‘is a simple song of the poor far from any annals of the rich,’” states Seeing America: Painting and Sculpture From the Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Myers depicted day-to-day street life and interactions for the next several decades until his death in 1940. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he eschewed grittiness and saw poetic beauty in his subjects.

“His was not a world of sweatshops and street urchins but rather one where people gathered to gossip and barter in the marketplace, rest in city parks or at the end of East River piers, participate in the many religious revival festivals or attend the theater of outdoor concerts,” explains Seeing America.

“Myers cherished, above all, the playful, colorful lives of the children he observed on the Lower East Side. Always clean and well-dressed, they bear no resemblance to the street urchins that haunt the photographs of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis or paintings by George Luks.”

“‘Why catch humanity by the shirttail,’ Myers wrote, ‘when I could . . . see more pleasant things?‘”

[From top: Sunday Morning, 1907; Corner Market; The Mission Tent, 1906; Evening Recreation, 1920]

When the Lower East Side was “Poverty Hollow”

February 9, 2011

It sounds like a desperately poor place in Appalachia.

But news articles from the early 1900s refer to a pocket of the Lower East Side as Poverty Hollow.

“Poverty Hollow, down by the East River, has a mayor and a cabinet to settle all disputes,” states a New York Times headline from 1910.

The article, about the small-time thugs who appointed themselves in charge of the area, put Poverty Hollow’s boundaries in kind of a triangle formed by Corlears Hook Park, Clinton Street, and Delancey Street.

And in a patronizing 1905 feature from the Times, a writer promised snippets of “life as it is lived by the denizens of one of the most picturesque portions of the lowlier sections of this great city.”

I’m not sure when the Poverty Hollow moniker fell out of use. At the same time the area was also known as “The Ghetto,” thanks to all the Jewish immigrants (in the above 1903 photo, from the NYPL Digital Collection).

But at some point, both names were swallowed up by the all-encompassing Lower East Side.


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