Brooklyn’s Sands Street was called “Hell’s Half Acre” because of its red-light district reputation in the 19th century. I can’t find historical citations for this in the digitized Brooklyn Daily Eagle, however. Manhattan’s Chatham Square has also been called “"Hell’s Half Acre.”
Brooklyn by Name
by Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Wiess
New York: New York University Press
Sands Street once had the reputation for being the red-light district of Brooklyn and carried the evocative name “Hell’s Half Acre.”
If You’re Thinking of Living In/Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn; On Cobblestone Streets, History Lingers
By DULCIE LEIMBACH
Published: August 31, 2003
In 1801, Jackson acquired some of the Sands land and built row houses, calling the area Vinegar Hill to attract Irish immigrants. (Manhattan also has a Vinegar Hill, near 135th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, another former bastion of Irish newcomers.) He also sold about 40 acres of his waterfront to the Navy for a shipyard in which many of the immigrants (including Italians and Poles) worked. At the time, Sands Street, which now runs through the Farragut housing project, was the home of bars and brothels, earning the nickname Hell’s Half Acre.
3 January 1880, National Police Gazette, pg. 15:
Some of the Dens Which Infest
FACTS FOR THE “FINEST.”
Concert Saloons, Museums, and Other
Resorts Which Make it a Sort of
HELL’S HALF ACRE.
New York City • Neighborhoods • (0) Comments • Monday, July 10, 2006 • Permalink