Posts Tagged ‘Doyers Street’

Left behind street signage of an older Manhattan

August 5, 2013

Readers of this site know that street signs are a favorite here, especially the old-fashioned kind carved into a building’s facade—like the one below at Sixth Avenue and 24th Street.

Doesn’t the lettering transport you to an entirely different New York? In fancy type it tells us that we’re at The Corner.

Thecornersign

“Built in 1879, it was called ‘The Corner’ and was the beer hall annex to Koster & Bial’s Vaudeville Theater/Concert Hall, where Victor Herbert conducted his 40-piece orchestra,” explains a 1995 New York Times piece.

102ndstreetsign

At the time, this was the center of an area called the Tenderloin (also referred to illustriously as Satan’s Circus), the late 19th century sin district filled with dance halls, gambling dens, and brothels.

This corner sign for 102nd Street and Broadway is also wonderfully decorative. I’m not sure when it went up, but it looks very turn of the 20th century. (Thanks to Ephemeral reader IA for pointing it out.)

Doyersstreetsign

This one on Doyers Street in Chinatown might be the oldest actual Manhattan street sign—meaning a sign affixed to a pole or side of a building, rather than a plaque or engraving.

Grimy and hard to read after decades stuck to this building, it harkens back to a more down and dirty Chinatown of tong wars, when Doyers Street went by the infamous nickname the Bloody Angle.

The “bloody angle” of Chinatown’s Doyers Street

July 4, 2011

Doyers Street, a former footpath with a 90-degree bend, got its name from Henrik Doyer, an 18th century Dutch immigrant who ran a distillery there.

By 1900, Doyers Street (in a Library of Congress photo from that year) had gone from colonial booze to Chinatown gang murders.

It earned the nickname the “Bloody Angle” because of numerous shootings committed by local tongs that lasted into the Depression.

Take the colorful moniker with a grain of salt; the police may not have had any evidence it was as bloody as they claimed.

[bustling Doyers Street in an 1898 postcard]

“The police believe, and can prove it so far as such proof is possible, that more men have been murdered at the Bloody Angle than any other place of like area in the world,” wrote Herbert Asbury in Gangs of New York.

“It was, and is, and ideal place for ambush; the turn is very abrupt, and not even a slant-eyed Chinaman can see around a corner.”

“Armed with snickersnee and hatchet sharpened to a razor’s edge, the tong killer lay in wait for his victim, and having cut him down as he came around the bend, fled through the arcade, or plunged into the theater and thence into Mott or Pell Street through one of the underground passageways.”

Today Doyers Street is pretty quiet—and strangely the site of numerous hair salons.

[A quieter, emptier Doyers Street in 1928, from the New York Public Library Digital Collection]

A comedian caught in Chinatown’s Tong wars

September 8, 2009

In 1909, Chinese-American comedian Ah Hoon was a well-known actor, performing regularly at the Chinese Theater. Located at 5-7 Doyers Street (pictured below in 1909), the theater was a popular venue for Chinese- and English-speaking audiences, who enjoyed the trip to exotic Chinatown. 

Ah Hoon belonged to the On Leong Tong, and he had a habit of making jabs at rival Tongs the Four Brothers and the Hip Sings while on stage.

Chinesetheaterdoyerssteet

Bad timing. A Tong war had just broken out, and rival Tong leaders didn’t like the jabs. So they decided Ah Hoon had to be killed. They warned him of his fate and even told him which day would be his last—December 30.

Ah Hoon took them seriously. He had a police presence on stage with him at the Chinese Theater that night, and he escaped to his nearby boardinghouse through a tunnel. On Leong members guarded the boardinghouse entrance.

Still, he was found shot in the heart the next day in his room. How did the rival Tongs get in? Apparently they lowered a gang member on a boatswain’s chair off the roof and into a window in Ah Hoon’s room. He murdered the comedian using a silencer.