Washington Square Park’s “Tramp’s Retreat”

“This image of a ragged fellow begging from a well-dressed woman in Washington Square . . . testifies to Washington Square’s split personality at the end of the 19th century,” writes Emily Kies Folpe in her terrific book, It Happened in Washington Square.

Folpe quotes an 1892 Century magazine article about the Square, which notes that one section was populated by homeless men and called “Tramp’s Retreat.”

This Harper‘s piece from 1900 identifies as on the southwest end.

While the northern, Fifth Avenue side of Washington Square was as elite and genteel as it was 50 years earlier, the southern side was now bordered by rooming houses . . . and filled with tramps.

“To the tramp, who is attracted hither in summer by the cool shade, the square serves several purposes. It serves him first in the capacity of a restaurant, where he may eat his luncheon unmolested,” states the Harper’s article.

Lastly it serves him as a lodging house, where he slumbers peacefully until the ‘sparrow cop’ comes around and awakens him.”

[Washington Square postcard from the NYPL Digital Collection]

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2 Responses to “Washington Square Park’s “Tramp’s Retreat””

  1. Javaman Says:

    I wonder if the drawing of the “tramp” and the woman had anything to due with the panic of 1891?

  2. Seen and Heard Around the Village 10.3.11: West Edition Says:

    [...] look at Washington Square Park’s ‘Tramp’s Retreat‘ of the 19th Century (Ephemeral New [...]

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