Posts Tagged ‘Tammany Hall’

East 14th Street: three centuries, three views

November 25, 2013

“By 1893, New York’s entertainment world had moved up to the Herald Square area, but East 14th Street, once the city’s operatic, musical, and theatrical center, still maintained a score of attractions,” states the caption to his photo published in New York Then and Now, from 1976.


The view is of East 14th Street looking west toward Irving Place in 1893. At the right is Tammany Hall, with Tony Pastor’s vaudeville house on the ground floor—the venue that gave Lillian Russell and other Gilded Age celebrities their start.

The Academy of Music is next door. Once the city’s leading opera house and a favorite of Old New York money families, it would be upstaged by the new Metropolitan Opera and closed in 1887.

The photo has wonderful small details: a sign for oysters on the left, street lights that appear small by today’s standards in front of Tammany Hall, and a glimpse of the still-unfinished Lincoln Building at the corner of 14th Street and University Place.


By 1974, the same view is very different. The Lincoln Building is finished, but Tammany Hall is gone—relocated to Union Square East. Does 14th Street looks like it’s been widened? Hard to tell.

Con Edison’s headquarters took over the site. The Irving Hotel, visible in the 1883 photo, is now a rooming house. A Horn & Hardart automat exists, as does a bar called Clancy’s.


In 2013, Con Ed still looms large. The automat, Clancy’s, Irving Hotel, and other small businesses are gone, replaced by luxury residence Zeckendorf Towers in 1988.

Monk Eastman’s notorious Bronx gang fight

May 11, 2011

Even in gang-ridden 19th century New York, with mobsters being rubbed out by rival thugs with guns and other weapons all the time, the old-fashioned fistfight was still used to solve disputes.

That’s what happened in the turf war between criminal Monk Eastman and Paul Kelly, leader of the Five Points Gang.

The simian, wild-haired Eastman (right) controlled Chrystie Street to East 14th Street, wrote Andrew Roth in Infamous Manhattan.

Paul Kelly (below), a dapper Italian with an Irish name, ruled west of Bowery.

Both gangs were under the thumb of Tammany Hall politicos. Tired of their gun battles over disputed neutral territory, Tammany brass organized an old-school fight in a barn in the Bronx in 1903 between the two men.

This “fist duel,” as a 1923 New York Times article dubbed it, didn’t solve a thing.

Eastman and Kelly went at each other in that barn for hours before it was called a draw.

The turf war mostly resolved itself when Eastman was sent to Sing Sing for robbery in 1904, then fought in World War I (he became a decorated soldier).

Kelly had control of the Lower East Side until 1908, when a deadly gun battle—and then Tammany Hall’s desire to clean up the Bowery—reduced his criminal power.

How the Honeymoon Gang terrorized 29th Street

December 1, 2010

In 1853, few city street gangs were as brutal as the Honeymoon Gang.

“Every evening the gang would place their men at each corner of Madison Avenue and 29th Street and attack every well-dressed citizen who came along,” writes Carl Sifakis in The Encyclopedia of American Crime.

“At midnight the Honeymooners’ ‘basher patrol’ would adjourn to a drinking establishment to spend a portion of the night’s ill-gotten gains.”

[Madison Cottage, right, in an 1852 sketch. It stood at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, near where the Honeymooners were bashing New Yorkers.]

These lowlifes were so violent, even Tammany politicians, who aided other gangs in the crime-riddled 1800s, refused to protect them.

Their downfall was New York police captain George W. Walling, who organized the first Strong Arm Squad—tough cops who basically beat gang members senseless.

After two weeks of vicious beatings, the Honeymooners disbanded.

Whatever happened to Hog Island?

October 20, 2009

A mile-long spit of land that surfaced off the coast of the Rockaways in the mid-1800s, Hog Island eventually became a popular summertime seaside resort along the lines of Rockaway Beach and Brighton Beach.

This favorite vacation destination for Tammany Hall politicians featured the usual late-19th century bathing facilities, pavilions, restaurants, and regular ferries. 


This print depicts neighboring resort Rockaway Beach. Hog Island probably looked similar.

So what happened to this modern-day Atlantis? First, it was battered by the Hurricane of 1893. While this category-2 storm reportedly triggered 30-foot sea swells off Coney Island on the night of August 23, it decimated the buildings on Hog Island.

A few more brutal storms in the 1890s sealed its fate; the sea swallowed it back up in 1902.

“Vote early and often!”

November 3, 2008

Dr. Suess isn’t known as a political cartoonist, yet he created hundreds of posters and cartoons reflecting his opposition to fascism and isolationism as well as his support of President Roosevelt during World War II. 

He wasn’t a New Yorker, but one political cartoon from 1941 poked fun at the corrupt Tammany political machine that controlled New York City politcs from the late 1800s to the 1930s and 1940s.

That Tammany cat looks kinda familiar, no? Picture him with a tall top hat.

The Tammany Society (reportedly named after Tamenend, a Lenape Indian leader) built the first Tammany Hall on 14th Street, then relocated to a new structure on 17th Street and Union Square East.

The new Tammany Hall didn’t get much use though; by the 1930s, with the election of reform-minded Mayor LaGuardia, among other factors, Tammany’s influence weakened. In 1984, the second Tammany Hall building became an off-Broadway theater still standing today. 

Here it is in the 1920s:

Who would try to assassinate a New York mayor?

October 22, 2008

A deranged city employee who blamed the Mayor when he was fired from his job, that’s who. It happened in 1910 as Mayor William Jay Gaynor—a Tammany Hall candidate who actually helped clean up corruption once he was elected—was in Hoboken boarding a ship bound for Europe. 

The employee, James Gallagher, fired a bullet through the Mayor’s throat after supposedly shouting, “You took my bread and butter away; now I’ve got you.”

Amazingly, the shooting was captured on camera. A New York World photographer snapping a routine photo caught the second the bullet tore into the Mayor’s neck and blood splattered on his coat.

The Mayor survived with the bullet lodged in his throat. Gallagher was never tried for the assassination attempt at the Mayor’s request, though he was sentenced to 12 years in a New Jersey prison for wounding street cleaning commissioner William Edwards, who was shot in the arm while with the Mayor.

Mayor Gaynor died from the effects of the bullet in 1913, the only New York City mayor ever to be the target of an assassin’s gun. Gallagher also died in 1913 in prison.