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 15, 2015
Thieves’ Alley (5 Norfolk Street)

"Thieves’ Alley” was a criminal area located at 5 Norfolk Street. It was destroyed in the 1890s to create Mulberry Bend Park, now known as Columbus Park.

“Thieves’ Alley” has been cited in print since at least 1866.


Wikipedia: Mulberry Bend
Mulberry Bend was an area in the notorious Five Points neighborhood in lower Manhattan, New York City. It is located in what is now Chinatown, Manhattan, on Mulberry Street.

Boundaries
It was bounded by Bayard Street in the north, Cross Street (changed to Park in 1854) in the south, Orange (changed to Baxter in 1854) Street on the west and Mulberry Street on the east. The “Bend” in the street layout was due to the original topography of the area. Orange and Mulberry Streets headed from southeast to northwest then turned north at the “Bend” to avoid the Collect Pond and surrounding low-lying wetland. The present-day Columbus Park occupies The Bend.

Description
Mulberry Bend was one of the worst parts in the Five Points, with multiple back alleyways such as Bandit’s Roost, Bottle Alley and Ragpickers Row. In 1897, due in part to the efforts of Danish photojournalist Jacob Riis, Mulberry Bend was demolished and turned into Mulberry Bend Park. The urban green space was designed by Calvert Vaux. In 1911 it was renamed Columbus Park.

7 November 1866, Cleveland (OH) Daily Leader, “Ben Butler in New York,” pg. 2, col. 3:
(From the New York Daily Tribune,—ed.)
All of Five Pointdom was here represented. Baxter street on the steps, and at the entrance to the Hall in the chamber of the Board of Councilman the dwellers in the “Ring,” Tammany and Thieves’ Alley!

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
14 June 1888, Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, “Work of the Second Day,” pg. 5, col. 3:
The first scene was an alley branching off from Mulberry street in New York with the wretched buildings rising above it. Another view was an alley opening into Elizabeth in the Five Points, New York termed ‘’Thieves Alley.”

10 December 1889, New Brunswick (NJ) Home News, “To Show New York’s Slums,” pg. 3, col. 4:
The lecturer will be Rev. Wm. T. Elsing, and his subject, “Ruin Through Neglect.” Views will be given of the Mulberry street dives, Thieves’ Alley and Blind Man’s Alley in Five Points, Blackwell’s Island, New York opium dens, etc.

Chronicling America
5 August 1897, The Sun (New York, NY), pg. 7, col. 5:
EAST SIDE LANDMARKS SOLD.
Tweed’s Former Headquarters, Thieves’ Alley and Kerosene Row to Go.
The auction sale of houses on the east side, where the new parks are to be, was closed yesterday afternoon after a very hard day’s work. Yesterday’s sale was of the buildings in the district bounded by East Broadway and Hester, Essex, Canal, Jefferson, Division, Suffolk, and Norfolk streets.
(...)
The house at 5 Norfolk street,, once a well-known resort for crooks, and still called Thieves’ Alley, went for almost nothing. Another house sold was a tenement at 14 Hester street. It was built by John Sutcliffe, and when it was finished he put up a sign which bore this legend:

NO JEWS OR IRISH NEED APPLY.

This cause trouble on many occasions on the choice of tenants.

Olf Fulton NY Post Cards
7 August 1897, The Evening Post (New York, NY), “Passing of Landmarks: Demolition to Prepare for a New Park,” pg. 15, col. 1:
There remains to be mentioned “Thieves’ Alley,” the sobriquet given to the house at No. 5 Norfolk street. There many notorious crooks in bygone days congregated and carefully planned their thieving enterprises.

Google Books
May 1899, The Atlantic Monthly, “The Battle with the Slum” by Jacob A. Riis, pg. 631:
We bought the slum off in the Mulberry Bend at its own figure. On the rear tenements we set the price, and it was low. It was a long step. Bottle Alley is gone, and Bandits’ Roost. Bone Alley, Thieves’ Alley, and Kerosene Row, — they are all gone. Hell’s Kitchen and Poverty Gap have acquired standards of decency; Poverty Gap has risen even to the height of neckties.

Google Books
The Battle with the Slum
By Jacob A. Riis
New York, NY: The Macmillan Company
1902
Pg. 285:
To return to the East Side where the light was let in. Bone Alley brought thirty-seven dollars under the auctioneer’s hammer. Thieves’ Alley, in the other park down at Rutgers Square, where hte police clubbed the Jewish cloakmakers a few years ago for the offence of gathering to assert their right to “being men, live the life of men,” as some one who knew summed up the labor movement, brought only seven dollars, and the old Helvetia House, where Boss Tweed and gang met at night to plan their plundering raids on the city’s treasury, was knocked down for five. Kerosene Row, on the same block, did not bring enough to have bought kindling wood with which to start one of the (Pg. 286—ed.) numerous fires that gave it its bad name. It was in Thieves’ Alley that the owner in the days long gone by hung out the sign, “No Jews need apply.” I stood and watched the opening of the first municipal playground upon the site of the old alley, and in the thousands that thronged street and tenements from curb to roof with thunder of applause, there were not twoscore who could have found lodging with the old Jew-baiter. He had to go with his alley, before the better day could bring light and hope to the Tenth Ward.

Google Books
Men Along the Shore
By Maud Russell
New York, NY: Brussel & Brussel
1966
Pg. 97:
The colorful, if unflattering, names of slum streets — Bottle Alley, Bone Alley, Bandits’ Roost, Thieves’ Alley, Kerosene Row — were being given more sedate and probably less accurate titles.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Sunday, November 15, 2015 • Permalink