New York's Far East: Pirates and Cherry Hill

 
  • History, Walking tours

  • 50 USD - Price Per Person

  • 2,5 Hours Duration

  • Your Private Guide: Stanley Kulp

  • Guide Language: English

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Grand mansions to grim slums in 30 years, Cherry Street saw New York grandees, hordes of immigrants, the birth of the tenement, and gangs like the Short Tails and Monk Eastman. It was also the epicenter of a vast network of brothels.

New York began at a ramshackle Dutch fort at the tip of Manhattan, but when it burst through the gates of Wall Street in the late 18th century and launched it's march northward, everything went into fast motion. Cherry Street became home to some of Manhattan's early elites. As Manhattan kept pushing north, the elites headed for places like Bleecker Street and Astor Place. The mansions were subdivided and subdivided again; Cherry Street quickly became one of New York's first slums.

The 19th century was the heyday of gangs with such colorful names as the Short Tails, the Monk Eastman, the Yakey Yakes, the Hook Gang, the Five Pointers, the Tub of Blood Bunch, the Gas House Gang. Many gangs had their farm teams, kids really, and ladies auxiliaries who went by their own colorful monikers--Yankee Doodle Boys, or the West Side Dramatic and Pleasure Club for the boys, Lady Flashers and Lady Truck Drivers for the women.

Before 1820, New York was a comparatively staid, conservative town. By mid-century, New York had become wild and crazy. Corlears Hook and Cherry Street had the highest concentration of commercial sex in New York. A seven-block stretch of Walnut (now Jackson) Street had 32 houses of assignation and 87 brothels.

Prostitution enabled landlords to charge higher rents, which displaced poorer tenants, creating the first commercialized sex districts. By mid-century prostitution and its associated businesses was second only to tailor shops in the city's economy. As one New Yorker wrote; "A well-regulated bed-house is the most lucrative house in New York."

Today, almost nothing is left of 19th century Cherry Street, but there is a wealth of prints and photographs which I'll refer to liberally. God bless Jacob Riis.

Read more about your guide: Stanley Kulp

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