It was in a part of Manhattan, at the edge of a poor neighborhood of tenements and groggeries, where no one wanted to end up.
But thousands of city residents did found themselves on Misery Lane, as the short stretch of East 26th Street between First Avenue and the East River was known in the turn-of-the-century city.
This block was a dumping ground for the sick, alcoholic, and mentally ill, who sought treatment at Bellevue Hospital, which bordered East 26th Street (above).
Some New Yorkers had a sense of humor about it, as this rhyme from a 1917 medical magazine demonstrates:
Criminals showed up on Misery Lane as well.
Men and women convicted of a range of crimes were deposited via police wagon on a dock known as Charities Pier at the end of East 26th Street (below).
From there, they were ferried to the workhouse and penitentiary across the East River to Blackwell’s Island to serve their time.
The poor also stood in line at Charities Pier. Unable to afford rent, food, coal, and other necessities, their last resort was the Blackwell’s Island almshouse.
Misery 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 and children.
And when mass tragedy struck the city, Misery Lane was involved as well.
Misery Lane is long gone, of course.
Today, 26th Street ends not at a charity-run pier but with a lovely view of the deceptively placid river . . . all the way to Blackwell’s, er, Roosevelt Island (above).
[Top and third photos: NYC Municipal Archives; second and fourth images: NYPL; fifth image: LOC/Bain Collection]