Posts Tagged ‘Mott Street’

The cross streets carved into tenement corners

December 3, 2012

Hiding in plain sight in the city’s tenement districts are the names of streets that intersect at certain corners.

Stantonandessexsign

Chiseled into a cement plate, they’re the 19th and early 20th century solution to figuring out where you were a 100 or so years before the GPS on your phone could do it for you.

Thirdave109streetsign

Not always in the best condition, like this East Harlem example above, these corner carvings are charming and fun to come across.

10thave52ndstreetsign2

The best neighborhoods to find them: the Lower East Side, East Village, Hell’s Kitchen, East Harlem, and the brownstone enclaves of Brooklyn.

Mottstreetsign

Sometimes you only find one street name—Like Mott Street here at Broome Street, with a tiny T that looks like it was added by hand!

A Bleecker Street home for “fallen women”

February 3, 2010

Today, Bleecker Street near Mott Street is a pricey stretch of real estate.

But in 1883, Bleecker here featured “a row of houses of the lowest character” located “between the up-town feeders and the down-town cess-pools which they supply,” according to a New York Times article that year.

In other words, it was the perfect place for a home for fallen women: females who had given in to sin via sex, gambling, booze, or prostitution, or all of the above.

The Florence Night Mission, at 21 or 29 Bleecker (it’s listed at both addresses in separate source books), aimed to help these women. It was founded by Charles Crittenton in memory of his little daughter Florence.

The goal: “to reclaim the fallen women of the neighborhood, by providing them with lodging and food until they are strong enough to go out to work for themselves, and by Gospel meetings, which are held nightly at midnight,” states King’s Handbook of New York City, published in 1892.

I couldn’t find any information on how many women the mission helped or when it closed up shop.

But the Florence Night Mission wasn’t a one-home operation for long. By 1914, there 76 homes nationwide helping poor girls and women.

The organization, now called The National Crittenton Foundation, still serves women and their families today.

The brutal murder of a Chinatown wife

June 26, 2009

The vicious killing of a Chinese “slave girl” named Bow Kum shocked New York City in 1909 and sparked a year-long Tong war and hard-won truce that required intervention from the Chinese government. 

Born in China in 1888, Bow Kum was sold for a few dollars by her father and brought to San Francisco, where she was sold again for $3,000 to Low Hee Tong, a leader of the Hip Sing and Four Brothers Tongs.

Mottstreet19202When Low Hee Tong was arrested four years later, Kum was taken in by Christian missionaries who helped Chinese girls escape the brutal life of gangs. 

A man named Tchin Len promised to make her his wife, so the missionaries handed her over, and Len brought Kum to New York City. Len was a member of On Leong Tong, a bitter rival of Hip Sing and Four Brothers.

Pellstreet1900They settled at 17 Mott Street. By this time, Low Hee Tong was out of jail. He tracked Kum down and demanded that Len repay him $3,000. Len refused; the Hip Sing and Four Brothers tongs got involved and told Len to pay up. He didn’t.

On August 15, Kum was found on the floor of her Mott Street room, stabbed multiple times in the heart with some fingers cut off. Two Tong henchmen were tried for her murder, but they were acquitted.

The top photo shows Mott Street around 1910; the bottom photo is Pell Street at the turn of the last century. 


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