New York Songlines: Baxter Street


Broome | Grand | Hester | Canal | Walker | White (The Tombs) | Bayard | Leonard | Worth (Five Points)



400 Cleveland Place: An 11-story building from 1913.




W <===         BROOME STREET         ===> E

West:

Police Building

Block (240 Centre): This Baroque palace, designed by Hoppin & Koen, was the headquarters of the NYPD from 1909 until 1973. It was converted into luxury co-op apartments in 1988. Supermodels Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista all bought lofts here; Steffi Graf and Winona Ryder are also said to have lived here.











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174 (corner): Onieal's, longrunning eatery that dates back at least to 1909, when it was a speakeasy, gambling den and brothel connected via secret tunnel to police headquarters. (The tunnel now serves as a wine cellar.) Onieal's appeared as the Scout Bar on Sex and the City.


W <===         GRAND STREET         ===> E


West:

Odd Fellows Hall

Corner (165 Grand): This landmark building was built in 1847-48 for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization whose New York branch was chartered in 1844. (The idea behind the name was that it was a guild for workers who didn't fit into other guilds.) The architects were Joseph Trench and John B. Snook; it followed the Italianate model Trench had recently pioneered with the A.T. Stewart store on Broadway.

In the same building, at 171 Grand, is Li Hua, Korean, formerly Lucky China Lui One Bakery.

144: Wing Hong Noodle

142: G & P Printing

128: Fuchsia, some sort of store

Corner (209 Hester): The Grand Machinery Exchange, a 2007 condo conversion of a former machinery warehouse that began life as a stable for police horses.

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143: PS 31: Desoto School










W <===         HESTER STREET         ===> E


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Corner: Washington Mutual bank, with a sign in Chinese

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123 (corner): Baxter Street, luxury condos designed by Kushner studios. Boasts the Automotion Parking Systems, the Unitone Video Intercom System and the LG Internet Refrigerator. The NY Condo Blog calls it "the Edsel of downtown condo developments" and a "postmodern pastiche of the worst in high-modernism."

121: Hair to Stay salon

119: Kam Hing Coffee Shop

Most Precious Blood Church

113: The parish was founded in 1888 to serve the Italian immigrant community, which was given the cold shoulder by other Catholic congregations in the neighborhood; the church's cornerstone was laid in 1901. The blood in question belonged to St. Januarius, aka San Genarro, a bishop of Naples who was martyred in 305 and whose blood supposedly miraculously liquifies every year on September 19. The Feast of San Gennaro is the highpoint of Little Italy's calendar.

Corner (219 Canal): Tai Fook Jewelry


W <===         CANAL STREET         ===> E

Traditional boundary of Little Italy and Chinatown

West:

Block (224 Canal): Fishcorner Corp., souvenirs






East:

Block: There's an information pagoda of some sort on this triangular slice of a block.




W <===         WALKER STREET         ===> E

West:

Corner (125 Walker): In 1982, this building was given to a collection of Chinatown agencies to mitigate the impact of a new jail built in the neighborhood. From 1994-2002, this was the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, offering health and social services and education to the Chinatown community. The Center subsequently moved to Canal Street.

96: Chung Pak/Everlasting Pines, a mixed-use senior citizen housing project built in 1993 by the Housing Development Fund Corporation

94: Marco Polo Noodle Shop

90: Jaya Malaysian Restaurant


W <===         WHITE ST

The Tombs

Block (125 White): Formally known as the Manhattan Detention Complex, these buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge are a jail for those being arraigned or standing trial in the nearby Criminal Court. It's a semi-modern successor to the jail built in 1838 on a former island in the Collect Pond, built in an Egyptianate style that resembled a mausoleum, hence the nickname inherited by the current complex. The southern building was built in 1941; the northern one, replacing a torn-down section of the 1941 building, went up in 1990. The jail, which holds about 900 short-term inmates, was dubbed the Bernard B. Kerik Complex by Rudolph Giuliani in 2001, honoring the chauffeur whom Giuliani had elevated to police commissioner; after Kerik's many ethical failings came to light, the name was removed by Mayor Bloomberg.

Among the notable criminals held here are Bernard Goetz, Sid Vicious, Sean "Puffy" Combs, "Preppy Murderer" Robert Chambers and the guy who killed John Lennon.

Harlan Ellison was held here on a gun charge, an experience that became the basis for his novel Memos From Purgatory. Eric Cash is booked here in the novel Lush Life. Jim Carroll sings in "People Who Died" that "Bobby hung himself from his cell in The Tombs." Denzel Washington's release from prison in the film American Gangster was shot here.


W <===         LEONARD ST

Block (80 Centre Street): This is the Louis Lefkowitz Building, a state courthouse named for the New York state attorney general from 1957 to 1978.




42: Was the African-American Mutual Relief Hall, attacked by anti-abolitionists in the Five Points Race Riot of 1834.

40: Was the Swimming Bath, an 1830s bawdy house.


14 1/2: There was a second-hand clothing store here after the Civil War that served as a fence for the neighborhood's many thieves.

Corner: This is the only one of Five Points' points--i.e., corners--that is still intact, the others having been altered or removed by the addition or subtraction of streets in slum-clearing efforts.

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93: Forlini's, old-school Italian

89: Thai Son Restaurant, Vietnamese

87: This was the barbershop of Thomas Mooney, who shot a rioter during the 1834 race riot and dissuaded the mob from destroying his business. Now Nha Trang One, Vietnamese.

85: New Pasteur, Vietnamese

83: Paulie's Place was Tony's Sandwich Shop

79: Baxter Pub

77A: Freedom Bail Bonds, serving inmates of The Tombs.



BAYARD ST         E ===>

Columbus Park

This park was created in 1897 an effort to destroy the old Five Points neighborhood, considered to be Manhattan's most dangerous slum. (The park's southwest corner was one of the five points.) It was originally laid out by Calvert Vaux, who co-designed Central Park. The pavilion in the north end of the park is part of the original design.

Earlier known as Mulberry Bend Park or Five Points Park, it was renamed after Christopher Columbus in 1911 to honor the neighborhood's then-Italian population (though it is not much of an honor to be associated with a conquistador who was personally responsible for the deaths and enslavement of thousands of Native Americans). Now the main park of Chinatown, it's used by practitoners of Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Chinese chess.

67: In 1842, this was Almack's, a saloon described by Charles Dickens in American Notes. He saw a performance here by Master Juba, who more than anyone else invented tapdancing.

63: In 1880, this and 51 down the street were the first bowling alleys--actual alleys where people bowled, and the apparent origin of the term.

47-49: This was the site of Bottle Alley, photographed by Jacob Riis in the 1880s as an example of the depth of the Five Points' depravity. As early as the 1840s it was known as "a favorite haunt of murderers and thieves"--Five Points.

39: An investigative committee in the 1850s found 15 people living here in a 15x14 room; the total rent was $6/month. In the late 1840s, 106 pigs were living here along with the human inhabitants.

35: This was the site of Sandy Sullivan's Genteel Lodging House, described by the New York Times in 1859 as "one of the filthiest, blackest holes we had yet seen."

33: Was the Arcade, an 1830s saloon.

31: In 1855, widow Johanna McCarty lived in a three-room apartment here with five children and eight boarders.

25: This was a childhood home of Tammany boss Big Tim Sullivan, who was living here when he became a newsboy at age 7.

17: The "grocery" (i.e., tavern) of Constantine Donoho, the patronage boss of Five Points in the early 1840s. His saloon was attacked by anti-Irish rioters in 1842.


W <===         WORTH STREET         ===> E
Five Points

This intersection--once including the now demapped Park Street--was the center of the most notorious slum in America.

500 Pearl: The U.S. Courthouse Annex was built in 1995 and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox with an interesting concave/convex shape.



What am I missing on Baxter Street? Write to Jim Naureckas and tell him about it.

Little Italy NYC; a neighborhood website.

Little Italy Neighbors Association.

A Journey Through Chinatown: Baxter Street.

New York Songlines Home.

Sources for the Songlines.