Sunday, December 30, 2007

Chit-Chat Over Coffee Swirls (1)

Just a stone's throw from the wharves where the immigrants landed were the slums of the Five Points District, a breeding ground for crime and pestilence. Poor immigrants who came to New York City during the mid 1800s into the early 1900s usually lived in the tenement district amid crime, filth and disease. The tenement houses in the lower part of Manhattan and other areas were overcrowded, lacking drainage and sufficient ventilation. Immigrants had to live in damp smelly cellars or attics, or up to six or 10 people, men, woman and children packed into crowded single rooms where "filth for so many years reigned undisturbed and pestilence wiping out hundreds of lives annually." Garbage and slop from the houses were thrown into the streets, left to fester in the scorching sun. Along the streets, one would find in various stages of decomposition dead dogs, cats or rats.

As you entered the overcrowded tenement buildings, you were greeted with a nauseating stench emanating from unwashed bodies, rags, old bottles, stale cooking odors and accumulating garbage heaps in the rooms. Decaying grease adhering to waste-pipes from kitchen sinks added its putrid odor to the foul emanations. These tenement buildings were dangerous firetraps, as well as a breeding place for murderous rodents that would kill babies in their cribs. The poor did not have the luxury of water, especially if they lived on the upper level. Water had to be carted from the fire hydrant in the street and carted upstairs.........

The Five Points district, tenement fires, murders, rape, child abuses, images and police brutality all find their way to "Tenement Living and Pressing Social Issues of Urban Life" located in the NYC Main Directory offers the reader a glimpse of tenement living during the mid 1800s into the early 1900s.

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