Posts Tagged ‘satan’s circus’

The NYPD’s infamous “Clubber” Williams

November 16, 2009

Alexander “Clubber” Williams was an NYPD inspector in post–Civil War New York City; as captain of the precinct on 35th Street, he’s credited with breaking up the fearsome Gas House Gang that lorded over the East 30s, then known as the Gas House District.

ClubberwilliamsIn 1876 he was transferred to a precinct on West 13th Street, where he’d have jurisdiction over a high-crime area centered around Broadway from the 20s to about 42nd Street thick with theaters, gambling dens, and prostitutes.

Remarking on his new assignment, he supposedly told a friend, referring to the protection money he was likely to receive from gambling operators and madams, “I have had chuck for a long time, and now I’m going to eat tenderloin.”

The name Tenderloin stuck for this seedy neighborhood. Formerly known by the fantastically colorful moniker Satan’s Circus, it was one of the city’s worst. Williams earned the title “Czar of the Tenderloin” for his rough and ready crime-prevention tactics.

Brought up on corruption charges several times over the years, Williams always beat the rap. And when accused of using excessive force, he replied, “There is more law at the end of a policeman’s nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court.”

In 1895, Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt had him retire. Williams insisted until his death in 1917 that he’d never clubbed anyone “that did not deserve it.”

The most wicked neighborhoods in Manhattan

May 7, 2008

The late 19th century sure was a good time to be bad in New York. Before being renamed SoHo in the 1970s, the blocks between Houston and Chambers were known by the fantastically descriptive name of Hell’s Hundred Acres. The moniker stuck when the nabe, upscale in the early 1800s, became a seedy red-light district, with deadly, tough-to-fight fires breaking out in the old cast-iron buildings for decades.

This 1850 lithograph, “Hooking a Victim,” in the Museum of the City of New York, shows the Hell’s belles in action:

I hear the old Provence space is going to reopen soon as a restaurant called “Hundred Acres,” suspiciously minus the Hell. Doesn’t sound right.

Another den of vice was the Tenderloin. Also called Satan’s Circus, it spanned 23rd to 42nd Street between Fifth and Seventh Avenues. Gambling, prostitution, saloons, and dance halls stayed open all night, as seen in this depiction from a nifty 1996 book called Infamous Manhattan, by Andrew Roth.