The criminal “roosts” of 19th century Manhattan

Where Tudor City is now, overlooking the bluffs of the East River, was once a squalid, lawless neighborhood called Dutch Hill.

That was the home base for Corcoran’s Roost—the headquarters of a fierce gang of thieves led in the mid-1800s by Irish immigrant and notorious thug Jimmy Corcoran.

That wasn’t the only roost in 19th century New York. Another was Bandit’s Roost, a grubby alley at 591/2 Mulberry Street.

Journalist and social reformer Jacob Riis took this photo of a group of men hanging out in Bandit’s Roost. They’re a menacing-looking lot.

Bandit’s Roost must have been bad. Responding to a 1911 article about a notorious Paris slum, a New York Times letter writer states, “The nearest approach in this city to that foul quarter in Paris was the Bandit’s Roost, near the Five Points, and that was wiped out nearly 20 years ago.”

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6 Responses to “The criminal “roosts” of 19th century Manhattan”

  1. Joe R Says:

    Martin Scorsese staged this photo in one of the scenes of his “Gangs of New York”. Gotta look fast.

  2. A squalid lane nicknamed “murderers’ alley” « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] other Baxter Street alleys, such as Bandit’s Roost and Bottle Alley, the thoroughfare was more accurately a small, unkempt courtyard behind the […]

  3. marcella Says:


  4. Two 19th century slums known as “Battle Row” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] New York’s slums had some illustrious names: Murderers’ Alley, Bandits’ Roost, and the Dead End (an Irish district off First Avenue overlooking the East […]

  5. A History of Tudor City: A Peaceful Enclave in the Middle of NYC | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] the goats and squatters in the area. By the late nineteenth century, this area was called “Corcoran’s Roost” or  “Dutch Hill.”  Corcoran’s Roost was a center for thievery and general […]

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