A turkey dinner at the Municipal Lodging House

It’s Thanksgiving Day, 1931, in New York City.

By early 1932, one in three city residents will be out of work. Roughly 1.6 million were on the relief rolls, according to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Down and out New Yorkers began building a Hooverville in Central Park.


And an astounding 10,000 men waited for their turn to sit down to dinner at the Municipal Lodging House, the public city shelter for homeless men, women, and children at the foot of East 25th Street.

This New York City Department of Records photo captured a group of these men in bulky overcoats and hats. They’re young and old, mostly oblivious to the camera and focused only on consuming their turkey and potatoes.

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9 Responses to “A turkey dinner at the Municipal Lodging House”

  1. The Hatching Cat Says:

    What about the women and children — could they not share in the meal? I know many charities and shelters — including the police courts — gave out food to men, women, and children, but this strikes me odd that it’s all men.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Good question HC. My understanding is that they separated men and women/children for safety reasons; there were far fewer women/kids using the Lodging House, and some of these men were probably not gentleman. This was basically a place of last resort. But I’ll look around to see if there’s any deeper explanation.

  2. Paul Says:

    Very interesting and pertinent post. The NYT article (10,000 men) was enlightening as well. As always, a very professional, knowledgeable post.

  3. Paul Says:

    Interesting and pertinent. Thanks for the link to the NYT paper from that time.

  4. M. F. Godfrey Says:

    Terrific article. I noticed a typo–it’s relief rolls, not roles.

  5. East 26th Street: New York’s “Misery Lane” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Lane was the site of the Municipal Lodging House, built in 1909 to house mostly homeless, often derelict men (top and second photos), but also women […]

  6. How New York celebrated Christmas in the 1910s | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] fourth images show women and kids posing in front of a Christmas tree at what’s likely the Municipal Lodging House, the public city shelter for homeless men, women, and children at the end of 25th Street on the […]

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