Posts Tagged ‘Bleecker Street history’

A Bank Street building once held prisoners of war

September 5, 2016

BankstreetsignToday it’s a stylish clothing boutique. In the 1990s it housed a Thai restaurant. In the early 20th century, it was a hotel called Laux’s.

But whatever business occupies 417 Bleecker Street at the corner of Bank Street, it can’t beat the remarkable role the building played during the early 19th century—when it was called “The Barracks” and held more than 100 British POWs captured during the War of 1812.

You could say that New York lucked out during that military conflict, which lasted until 1815.

Bankstreetprisoncorner

The city prepared for combat by putting up fortifications like Castle Clinton at the Battery and blockhouses in what became Central Park. Luckily, the British never attacked.

BankstreetbarracksvillagerYet this war also played out far overseas. “On the afternoon of Feb. 24, 1813, at the height of the War of 1812, the U.S.S. Hornet, an 18-gun warship, set its sights on a British sloop anchored on the Demerara River in Guyana, South America,” wrote Eric Ferrara in The Villager.

It took minutes for the men on the Hornet to sink the British ship, the H.M.S. Peacock (described not as a sloop but a man-of-war in the Historical Guide to the City of New York, published in 1909).

The Americans then rescued more than one hundred British seamen, recounted a 1918 article in the Daughters of the American Revolution magazine. “On reaching the city, [the British sailors] were taken straight to ‘The Barracks’ at Bleecker Street and confined there till peace was declared,” the article stated.

BankstreetprisondeptofrecordsphotoInterestingly, the Daughters noted that the Americans didn’t treat the British as awful as they treated our POWs during the Revolutionary War, when thousands of men were starved on prison ships in Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay.

After the war was relegated to history and the sailors presumably freed, the passage of time changed the building that no one called The Barracks anymore.

“In 1901 the remains of this structure, which had been used as a private residence with a store at street level, was converted to the Laux Hotel, named after the owner,” states 1969’s Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report.

“By the late 1930s, the building had been modified still further, faced with brick, and raised from three to four stories.”

Bankstreetprisonfromside

Not much of the original Barracks is left in the modernized building. But some remnants of the prison exist here, unmarked and largely unknown.

[Third image: via The Villager; Fourth image: NYC Dept. of Records Photo Gallery, 1980s tax photo]

A Bleecker Street home for “fallen women”

February 3, 2010

Today, Bleecker Street near Mott Street is a pricey stretch of real estate.

But in 1883, Bleecker here featured “a row of houses of the lowest character” located “between the up-town feeders and the down-town cess-pools which they supply,” according to a New York Times article that year.

In other words, it was the perfect place for a home for fallen women: females who had given in to sin via sex, gambling, booze, or prostitution, or all of the above.

The Florence Night Mission, at 21 or 29 Bleecker (it’s listed at both addresses in separate source books), aimed to help these women. It was founded by Charles Crittenton in memory of his little daughter Florence.

The goal: “to reclaim the fallen women of the neighborhood, by providing them with lodging and food until they are strong enough to go out to work for themselves, and by Gospel meetings, which are held nightly at midnight,” states King’s Handbook of New York City, published in 1892.

I couldn’t find any information on how many women the mission helped or when it closed up shop.

But the Florence Night Mission wasn’t a one-home operation for long. By 1914, there 76 homes nationwide helping poor girls and women.

The organization, now called The National Crittenton Foundation, still serves women and their families today.