Built in 1827, the brick building at 143-145 Avenue D, at Tenth Street, is the oldest structure in Alphabet City.
The many-times-remodeled building served first as the Dry Dock Banking House, then as a laundry, cigarette factory, clothing store, even a squat.
But for three years, from 1871 to 1874, it was the Strangers’ Hospital, an institution built by John Keyser, a manufacturer turned philanthropist who had already funded a lodging house called the Strangers’ Rest on Pearl Street.
In a benevolent-minded, Gilded Age city, he established a home “for the relief of suffering” for the “deserving sick poor.”
It was not intended, “for the benefit of the wealthy, who in times of sickness can command the comforts of a well-ordered home and the attendance of a skillful physician of surgeon,” said the president of the Strangers’ Hospital on opening day in February 1871.
“Nor yet for the beggar who leads a life of dissolute idleness . . . . It is intended for the succor and restoration of the deserving sick poor, and in an especial manner for that sadly numerous class of people in this great city who have seen better days.”
Keyser, however, ran into some trouble in 1873. That’s the year the city finally indicted politico Boss Tweed and his ring for a host of crimes.
Keyser was exposed as as member of the Tweed Ring; the implication was that his “philanthropy” was in fact funds from city coffers.
The Strangers’ Hospital shut its doors, and Keyser declared bankruptcy.
Off the Grid put together a wonderful 4-part series on 143-145 Avenue D’s long, fascinating history.
[Middle image: from New York and Its Institutions: 1609-1872; bottom photo: 145 Avenue D in 1937, by Berenice Abbott]