A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 08, 2015
Death’s Thoroughfare (Mulberry Street)

Mulberry Street in Manhattan was called “Death’s Thoroughfare” by the Board of Health in the 19th century, but several streets with tenements also deserved the title. The Sun (New York, NY) wrote about “Death’s Thoroughfares” in January 1871:

“We borrow the above heading from the last report made by the Board of Health upon the sanitary condition of the city. The facts which we are bringing to light in regard to the tenement-house population of New York are so terrible that we are glad to reinforce our statements by quotations from public official documents. Of these thoroughfares of death which run between the towering blocks of tenement houses, the Board of Health declares that ‘here death apparently holds continue carnival, with poverty, wretchedness, and filth as aids.’”

The “Death’s Thoroughfare” nickname is of historical interest today.


Wikiquote: Mulberry Street
Mulberry Street in Manhattan, New York City, is a narrow thoroughfare that includes parts of Chinatown and Little Italy. Running generally north and south, Mulberry Street preceeds the Manhattan Grid Plan of 1811 by several decades and is bounded by Worth Street to the south, Mott Street to the east, Bleecker Street to the north, and Lafayette Street, Center Market Place, and Baxter Street to the west.

Quotes
Nicknamed ‘Death’s Thoroughfare’, It was here, where the street crooks its elbow at the Five Points, that the streets and numerous alleys radiated in all directions, forming the foul core of the New York slums.
. Alexander Alland, Jacob A. Riis: Photographer and Citizen, 1993

Chronicling America
21 January 1871, The Sun (New York, NY), “Death’s Thoroughfares,” pg. 2, col. 2:
We borrow the above heading from the last report made by the Board of Health upon the sanitary condition of the city. The facts which we are bringing to light in regard to the tenement-house population of New York are so terrible that we are glad to reinforce our statements by quotations from public official documents. Of these thoroughfares of death which run between the towering blocks of tenement houses, the Board of Health declares that “here death apparently holds continue carnival, with poverty, wretchedness, and filth as aids.” They also inform the public that their survey of the tenement houses of the city “has revealed a rate of crowding in tenement dwellings that has probably not been equalled in any other great city in the world.”

Google Books
The Battle With The Slum
By Jacob Riis
New York, NY: The Macmillan COmpany
1902
Pg. 16:
dozen steps away in Mulberry Street, called “Death’s Thoroughfare” in the same report, were the “Old Church Tenements,” part of the Five Points and nearly the worst part.

Google Books
Tea that Burns:
A Family Memoir of Chinatown

By Bruce Edward Hall
New York, NY: Free Press
1998
Pg. 31:
Mulberry, the principal street of the neighborhood, has been nicknamed “Death’s Thoroughfare.” Indeed, the whole neighborhood is putrid with disease. Smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera are frequent visitors.

Google Books
Transformation of Urban and Suburban Landscapes
By Gary Backhaus and John Murungi
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books
2002
Pg. 172:
Jacob Riis took a special interest in the area of the city known as Mulberry Bend, referred to as early as 1 869 by the New York City Board of Health as “death’s thoroughfare.” By the 1890s, Mulberry Bend was home to Italian immigrants,

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Sunday, November 08, 2015 • Permalink