Gentrification comes to the east side’s Dutch Hill

Mid-19th century Manhattan was dotted by lots of small villages. But few were as poor and wretched as Dutch Hill, centered around 42nd Street near the East River.

“Shantytown, this was called, a dismal collection of shacks and hovels inhabited by day-laborers, their families, and their pigs,” wrote Lloyd Morris in Incredible New York.


Adds Kenneth Jackson in The Encyclopedia of New York City: “Like most squatter settlements of the time, it was situated north of the built-up area of the city. The inhabitants were predominantly German and Irish immigrants. Many worked at the nearby Voorhis and Mott quarries.”

But it wouldn’t exist much longer. The city was moving north, and genteel residents—like the couple and little boy strolling up Second Avenue in this 1861 illustration—were moving to this area of scattered home and rock piles.

“By the end of the Civil War the growth and northward movement of population made real estate in the area valuable, and the squatters were displaced,” writes Jackson.

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5 Responses to “Gentrification comes to the east side’s Dutch Hill”

  1. jshdoff Says:

    Not much has changed since the mid 1800’s. At least not in the realm of real estate push, gentrification, and the loss of affordable housing. 1861: The working class of Shantytown are pushed out by the “genteel”. Today: We’ve lost the East Village, Lower East Side, Hells Kitchen, Washington Heights, Harlem, almost all of Brooklyn. And the beat goes on…

  2. marylandis Says:

    Read the 1855 article in the New York Times which this post links to. Things have changed. No one, thank God, lives in this kind of poverty in New York today. Because the poor leave no traces, we forget or more likely don’t realize what life was like for the truly indigent in mid 19th century. As someone who is associated with a preserved beautiful upper class home of the period (The Merchant’s House Museum) I can easily see how this happens. Thanks for helping us to remember what life was like for those others.

  3. Two Civil War homes laying low on the East Side | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the time, Second Avenue above 42nd Street (below illustration, from 1861) was a sparsely populated, slightly shabby area marked by detached, humble houses—similar to the two-story dwelling Disbrow was planning to […]

  4. What life was like in a Manhattan “fever nest” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the image above. It’s unclear if the illustration depicts East 32nd Street, possibly near the shantytown called Dutch Hill, or West 32nd Street, which could have been the upper end of the Tenderloin, Gilded Age New […]

  5. This brownstone is an anachronism in Tudor City | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] were the fashionable style for upwardly mobile Gilded Age families, and they replaced the modest shanties that had been occupied in part by the very poor as well as Irish gang members in the 1850s and […]

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