The East Village, aka “Mackerelville”

Mackerelville—isn’t that an illustrious name? Centered at First Avenue and 11th Street, it was the mid–19th century term for today’s East Village.

And you know with a name like that—a mackerel was slang for a procurer or pimp—it had to be an awful place to live.

Second only to the legendary Five Points district in poverty, Mackerelville was a hotbed of gangs, gin mills, and other social ills, as this New York Times letter, from December 17, 1858, explains.

Other articles refer to Mackerelville’s “cholera heaps” and “uneducated denizens.” By the 1870s, it seems, the name was on the outs.

“The locality where the children will be taken from was once well known as Mackerelville, and consists of several squares of tenement buildings, all densely crowded with poor families,” reports an 1873 New York Times article about a charity boat trip.

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4 Responses to “The East Village, aka “Mackerelville””

  1. Jill Says:

    I did a bunch of digging about Mackerelville a while back and the latest reference I could find was from a 1960’s Life Magazine article harking back to the Civil War era when the term was in use.

    My goal is to figure out how we can get people to start calling this area Mackerelville again. I try and try but it’s not catching on. I need someone with clout… anybody… ??

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Great info on Mackerelville! I think we need to enlist other EV bloggers, like Grieve, in this campaign. Or we convince real estate developers that they’ll have more cred in the neighborhood by renaming the Copper Building, for example, the Mackerelville Building.
    And then NYU will name their new dorm Mackerelville Hall, and on and on.

  3. A secret house behind an East Village tenement « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the East Village’s long history as a rough, crowded neighborhood attracting wave after wave of poor immigrants, I’d guess it’s an example of the […]

  4. An Avenue A artists enclave called Paradise Alley | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] waves of German, Irish, and then Italian immigrants who settled in a neighborhood known by turns as Mackerelville, Kleindeutschland, and the northern end of the Lower East […]

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