A Bleecker Street home for “fallen women”

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.

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17 Responses to “A Bleecker Street home for “fallen women””

  1. Oldeastsidr Says:

    Interestingly, it appears that the gospel services were for men and women. This link http://historyproject.ucdavis.edu/ic/standard/11.00/11.2_4.00/4218.html shows a drawing of one of the midnight services in 1892.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Terrific link–thanks for sending it! I love the bottle of booze on the right to hammer home the point. I wonder what the “fallen” thought of these reformers and mission workers.

  3. Oldeastsidr Says:

    I found another reference in an old 1895 book at http://books.google.com/books?id=kxagAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false which mentions the mission quite a few times. There is a drawing on page 229 of a few women. According to mention later in the book from a letter by someone from the mission, this woman was found murdered on Water St. Glancing fast through the book, there is a wealth of info about places and events from the 1890s (Bellevue, Tombs, destitution, life in the streets, etc).

  4. Jeannette Says:

    Thanks for the post about the Crittenton legacy and mentioning our current status. Today there are 27 members of the Crittenton family of agencies operating in 24 states. The agencies continue to serve the most vulnerable girls and young women in communities across the country. Today, Inwood House holds the banner for the Crittenton legacy in New York.

    Also, thanks for the last comment – I went online today and purchased the book….

    Jeannette Pai-Espinosa,
    The National Crittenton Foundation

  5. Nabe News: February 3 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] the up-town feeders and the down-town cess-pools which they supply.”  A look at the Florence Night Mission, which was located there in the 1880s [Ephemeral […]

  6. Kip Peticolas Says:

    This very building is now Planned Parenthood- Margaret Sanger…It does seem like the right segue.

  7. Patell and Waterman’s History of New York · Darkness and Daylight Says:

    […] of Detectives Thomas Byrnes. Kristen tells us that learned about Darkness and Daylight through a post over at Ephemeral New […]

  8. Richard White Says:

    I have been trying to locate my grandfather’s store near Mott St. It was a derby store in the mid-1800’s. I have no documentation only stories told to me by my oldest sister. I have run into a dead end, any suggestions of websites?

  9. Phillip Barron Says:

    An updated link to the History Project image http://historyproject.ucdavis.edu/ic/image_details.php?id=4219

  10. Student Says:

    Can you link the NY Times article from 1883 you mention?

  11. ositopolar Says:

    As a former resident of 21 Bleecker Street, I can confirm that it is the location of the Florence Mission. The entryway has a tile floor that spells out the name.

  12. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Ooh, I must get a photo of that!

  13. Kim Bonetti Says:

    My great aunt lived there. She is listed on the 1910 census as an inmate with a newborn daughter, out of wedlock. I know she had a rough childhood and I wonder what her life was like during those years. I recently found her, after 20 years of searching. She changed her name, married and moved to Pennsylvania.

  14. A 12th Street home and school for destitute girls | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the Elizabeth Home was sold in 1930, only to be reopened as a girls’ home in the 1940s by the Florence Crittenton League, which had its roots saving “fallen women” in the Gilded Age […]

  15. Model tenements named for a forgotten bishop | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] visited midnight missions and ministered to inmates on Blackwell’s […]

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