During a recent trip to New York City, I was struck with the diversity of the metropolitan. The people, the architecture, the mix of historical and modern elements were all small parts of one massive city. This made me realize how much and how little the city has changed.
In the mid-nineteenth century, New York City’s Fourth Ward overflowed with poor, unhealthy, working class people, and was located where the Brooklyn Bridge now stands. These were some of the worst slums in New York City’s history, only to be surpassed by the Sixth Ward.
This area along the East River in what is now lower Manhattan teamed with disease and pestilence of Biblical proportions. Sickness and disease ran rampant due to open sewers flowing down the middle of the streets. Privies brimming to overflowing were adjacent to potable water sinks, and over crowed and unkempt animal stables contributed to typhoid, dysentery and various skin infections.
Filthy factories, unkempt brothels, and liquor stores lined every street. Of those people willing and/or able to work in factories, most faced hazardous conditions, long working hours and extremely low wages. Many runaway girls were lured into a house of ill-reputed with the promise of safety—that is, until their money ran out. Alcoholism reared its ugliness, luring husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, daughters, and sons to use the vices of liquor to drown out the realities of the Fourth Ward.
|Depiction of life in 1800's slum|
Like many sectors of large cities, the Fourth Ward was a miniaturized international society. Most inhabitants were poor Irish immigrants. Though, a Chinese area was host to brothels and opium dens. In the Native-American and African-American sector, inhabitants were wary of any outsiders and prejudice among the Irish eventually forced the African-American folks to leave the Fourth Ward by the mid-eighteen sixties.
So, why didn’t anyone do anything about these appalling living conditions? Many tried. But the typical tenement owner lived in a mansion somewhere in one of the wealthy areas of New York City and either wasn’t aware of the conditions of their buildings or didn’t care. Not until years of health and sanitation reports were filed, and pleading from health professionals, did the city decide to implement laws to clean up the tenements and create safer living conditions for poor New Yorkers.
|Life in the Fifth Ward|
Though through all the awful living condition, alcoholism, sickness and disease, there was a sense of community and family that ran strong in the Fourth Ward. Every day, children were born, couples married, and funerals held. Life was life. Maybe, it was because people had so little material possessions that they counted on each other to get by.
Do you think banning together in times of need could be a survival instinct God built into us? Looking back through history, I tend to think that’s true.
Have you been to New York City? Or would you like to visit someday? What were your thoughts about the city and its very visible and rich history?
Award winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and eight grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at HHHistory.com
I went to NYC on a whirlwind day trip with cousins in my teens and then the same with a dear friend. Would like to spend a couple of days there..........but husband does NOT do cities.ReplyDelete
We had so much fun. There was something for everyone! And most of the people were very nice. Thank you for commenting, Connie.Delete
I have visited NY over the years. My sister and brother-in-law lived in Rochester years ago. Also, I have enjoyed trips with friends to see the Empire State Building and other NY sites. I like to visit NY, but prefer living in a small town. :-)ReplyDelete
I think I'd have to agree with you about living there. It's a an exciting place to visit but I'm not sure about making it my home. Although, our first driver who took us from the airport to the hotel, said he was from GA, and his experience is once folks move there, they never leave. :) Thank you for commenting, Melissa.Delete
I have not been to NYC, but hope to some day. I love all it's rich history!ReplyDelete
Oh Becky, it was so worth the trip. We stayed in The New Yorker. I loved the history of the hotel! And it's beautiful too! Thank you for your comment.ReplyDelete
I've always wanted to visit New York City, but have never been able to do so. We had to pass the one big opportunity we had when it didn't coincide with our flight schedule from Boston. We were in Rhode Island for a family re-union and on the day they all planned to go to NYC, we had a flight back to Houston, so we missed it.ReplyDelete
You've really given us some good info about the history of the city and that makes me want to visit even more, but at our age and with our health, it's not likely.
Thank you so much for your comment, Martha. I'm sorry you missed that chance to see NYC, though God always has a plan even when we can't see it.Delete
Many of the things we saw I had checked out on the internet. Of course it was different in person, but it was almost like I had already seen the sights and was visiting once again. Thank you again for commenting.
I've been to NYC a few times in recent years, and have stayed at The New Yorker when I went with a group. It really is lovely! I was surprised at how easy it was to navigate the subway system, especially as I don't have a great sense of direction. Your post reminded me of the Tenement museum - I would like to eventually take all of their tours since you learn about different things on each one. I'm going again in the fall, this time with a tour that concentrates on Brooklyn. There are so many interesting things to see and do!ReplyDelete
What fun, Linda! I'd love to go on a tour and learn all the details of the area! I didn't get to visit the Tenement Museum, but I hope to in the near future. Thank you for your comment and have a safe and super fun trip to Brooklyn this fall!Delete
The Cloisters, the library, museums, the Statue of Liberty ... all are on my "bucket list," and I enjoyed your post very much.ReplyDelete
Stephanie, we stumbled across the library on our first day there. Oh, my goodness, what a beautiful place. Especially, for a book nerd. :) Thank you for taking to time to comment.Delete
I had a great visit to NYC years ago and I loved it!ReplyDelete
It's a fun place, isn't it, Melanie?! Thank you so much for commenting!Delete