19th Century Lower East Side Sanitation and the Rivington Street Dump [HISTORY]

Posted on: March 13th, 2014 at 11:30 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

Museum of the City of New York, Jacob Riis circa 1890

Our rebellious Rivington has even more crazy history! Didja know its eastern terminus was once a dump?

Yep. Back in the 19th century, there was a pier right where Rivington Street met the river (like many roads in lower Manhattan that terminated east and west), and that pier’s name was “60.” It was here that a combination of night soil and horse manure reached its final destination.

This image has been archived or removed.

Etymology time!

dump (n.)

“place where refuse is dumped,” 1865, originally of mining operations, from dump (v.). Meaning “any shabby place” is from 1899. Meaning “act of defecating” is from 1942.

This brave gentleman appears to have acclimated to the stench.

This image has been archived or removed.

Museum of the City of New York, copyright: Jacob Riis circa 1890

Check out this map showing the Rivington and Stanton piers from G.W. Bromley & Co.’s Atlas (1911).

This image has been archived or removed.

Dumps, lumber yards, coal yards, and even a bathhouse. I love you, LES.

In 1873, the Report of Committee on the Affairs of the City interviewed sea captains, manure salesmen, the police department, health officials, cart men, dump workers etc. Each was asked a series of questions scrutinizing the police department’s ability to keep the City clean and sanitary. However, keep in mind that clean and sanitary was all relative during this time.

The Lower East Side was considered one of the most foul places in the Nation, second only to Chicago. Renowned reformer and slum reporter/photographer Jacob Riis (with Jane Addams):

This image has been archived or removed.

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that … – Erik Larson

And that spoke volumes.

Look into any of these houses, everywhere the same piles of rags, of malodorous bones and musty paper all of which the sanitary police flatter themselves they have banished to the dumps and the warehouses!”

— Jacob Riis regarding New York’s Lower East Side.

This image has been archived or removed.

Several cart men examined by General Barlow:

This image has been archived or removed.
This image has been archived or removed.
This image has been archived or removed.
This image has been archived or removed.

The eventual outcome was the creation of a street cleaning board that would work with the struggling Board of Health (founded in 1805 as a response to a yellow fever outbreak).

By 1888, the piers and bulkheads were dismantled and rebuilt solely for use by ships. And river pirates (piers harbored pirate gangs with names like the Daybreak Boys, the Hook Gang and the Tub of Blood Bunch).

This image has been archived or removed.

Daybreak Boys/East River Pirates at Corlear’s Hook

I’m now heading across Rivington to where my great-grandma’s tenement home used to stand (now the Baruch houses) then up and over the FDR to the East River Strait.

This image has been archived or removed.

Why? ‘Cause another favorite hobby as an urban historian/explorer is dump digging. One might equate this to playing in the dirt which another might equate to how kids play therefore we deduce that being an urban explorer who gets to dig is like being a big kid. In conclusion, it’s fun.

Think you can handle it? Bring your shovel. One man’s trash…

Contact me at @rebelknow. Let’s play.

Recent Stories

Full GovBall Lineup Announced for Summer 2020

This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island, and Founders Entertainment has tapped some big names to kick off the celebration. Headliners for this year’s festival are GovBall veterans Tame Impala, alongside New York indie darlings Vampire Weekend. New additions to the top slots include venerable Fleetwood Mac […]

International Center of Photography Launches at Essex Crossing Next Week

For the International Center of Photography, four years of transition come to an end next week, as the institution plans its inauguration at Essex Crossing. The 40,000 square-foot museum and school, reunited for the first time since the midtown move, will debut on January 25 with a free “Opening Community Day.” Visitors on day one […]

Michelin-Star Chef Bringing Omakase to Former Black Tap on Ludlow Street

From shakes to sushi. After the epic bomb that was Black Tap, 177 Ludlow Street is now taking a more upscale tack. Omakase, which is Japanese dining for the ultra-luxe set. Real Estate Weekly has the scoop, reporting that a new mystery tenant, who currently owns and operates eight restaurants in New York and Tokyo, […]

‘Karvouna’ Evicted from the Bowery After Less than a Year

Restaurants can’t seem to make it work at 241 Bowery. The latest entrant, Karvouna Mezze, just joined the growing list of failures at this address. The City Marshal paid a visit to the restaurant and shut it down. All told, Karvouna lasted barely one year. Partners Dimitris Vlahakis, Wei Chen, and Chef Giuseppe Scalco (Merakia […]

Beastie Boys and Spike Jonze Announce New Documentary for Apple+

Apple yesterday announced that a new Beastie Boys documentary is coming to its Apple+ platform this spring. Right alongside the 26th anniversary of Ill Communication. Beastie Boys Story is just that – the history of the band as told by surviving members Mike D. and Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz. It’s based on the bestselling Beastie Boys […]