Vacant Essex Street Lot Reborn as ‘Temporary’ Garden Space

Posted on: May 23rd, 2017 at 5:00 am by

In a rather uncharacteristic turn of events, the property owner of 5 Essex Street is converting the long-dormant lot into green space. Over the last several days, workers were spotted marking off a rectangular parcel of land and adding a bed of gravel. A new plywood fence was also installed.

Site intel reveals that a new garden will soon bloom here. It’s temporary in nature, though, and will probably last just as long as it takes to finally net a buyer or finalize any sort of development plans. Whichever is first.

The deceased building at 5 Essex Street came down seven years ago, a few years before “3-5 Essex Partners LLC” purchased the property and its neighbor (the old M. Schames & Son hardware store that’s since relocated to Delancey) for $3.5 million.

But the long-gone bricks of this old-time tenement carry an interesting history which may haunt any replacement. Long before the Chinese New Taoism Association or Dembitzer Brothers occupied 5 Essex Street, this was once a notorious Typhus sanitarium. Back in 1892, the United Hebrew Charities arranged for the Mermer family, fresh off the Russian steamship “Massilia,” to live at this address. Ellis Island, however, failed to properly examine the boat, which was infested with the disease. Passengers with symptoms were quarantined here and further north at 42 East 12th Street. From these two locations, Typhus inevitably found its way out, and dozens of cases were later reported along the East Coast in the ensuing decade.

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