Posts Tagged ‘Harlem during the Depression’

The squatters who lived in “Hardlucksville”

November 4, 2009

The 1930s were a pretty rough time. Unemployment hovered around 20 percent nationally, while the city’s poorest neighborhoods, like Harlem, had a 50 percent out-of-work rate.

Squattersoneast12thstreetWhere did Depression-era New Yorkers go when they had no money to pay rent? Some moved into the city’s many squatter camps.

These makeshift villages, many with disturbingly accurate nicknames, sprang up citywide, according to a March 26, 1933 New York Times article.

One called “Hardlucksville” formed off 10th Street next to the East River (at left). Five men resided there, selling firewood culled from the river:

“The three of them saw up the wood into stove lengths. the two others peddle the product in the East Side streets, trundling it from door to door in baby carts reclaimed from the junk pile. Among the five they earn a half-dollar a day, and that supports them,” the Times reported.


Another squat, “Camp Thomas Paine,” was home to dozens of World War I veterans; they lived in shacks in the West 70s near the Hudson River. And “Packing Box City” (above) popped up on Houston Street.

Central Park had its own Hooverville as well. Read more about it here.