Seeing history before one’s very eyes is always thrilling. After discovering the sordid story behind Butchery on Bond Street, I quickly made my way downtown, hoping I’d find the house where Harvey Burdell met his gruesome end. No such luck. The little townhouse was probably torn down before the start of the 20th century. A non-descript loft building now occupies the site.
Bond Street is a very short street. Its two blocks stretch only from Broadway west to the Bowery. Once one of the most fashionable residential streets in New York, after its heyday in the 1820s and 30s, the Bond Street started a long decline. By the mid-1840s, boarding houses and physicians offices predominated. The Broadway blocks near Astor Place filled with New York’s newest and most fashionable hotels, luxury goods emporia and restaurants, while many of the buidlings on the side streets east and west of Broadway housed the brothels and casinos that flourished in the years before the Civil War.
William Perris’ detailed maps of the area can be seen on the New York Public Library’s digital images links. Plate 49 of a series that he published during the period 1857-1862 shows Bond Street in its entirety. Lafayette Place had yet to be cut through, and Bond Street was uninterrupted from Broadway to the Bowery. If you click on the link below, you can see Bond Street and the surrounding blocks, complete with colored and outlined buildings, many with their uses and names inscribed. Use the pan and zoom feature and you can hone right in !
There on Leroy Street between numbers 160 and 170 is the Jews Synagogue. The Lafarge House, where Burdell was wont to dine with his banker friends is readily identifiable on the west side of Broadway, just south of Amity Street. A contemporary sterocard photo of the famous hotel, which opened in the early 1850s, is in the NYPL digital images collection at:
Meals at the Lafarge House were something else. Click on to enlarge and take a look at the menu from the hotel’s ornate dining salon on December 12, 1856. The bill of fare is beyond description!
And for a truly delicious description of the hotels and other commerical establishments in lower Manhattan that Harvey Burdell and his playboy pals frequented (as well as a wonderful taste of contemporary journalism) take a gander at the article in Putnam’s Monthly from April 1853 entitled New-York Daguerrotyped – Business Streets, Mercantile Blocks, Stores and Banks
that appears in Cornell University’s Making of America collection at:
One of the finest hotels mentioned in the Putnam’s Monthly article is the St. Denis, opened in 1852 at the southwest corner of 11th Street and Broadway. Alone among the hostelries described, the St. Denis survives to this day, though in a sadly debilitated form. Its ornate trim stripped and a coat of dull brown stucco applied to a once noble facade, the St. Denis still stands at the corner, converted many decades ago to office use. Today legions of aroma therapists, yoga instructors, and small press service firms occupy the building’s six floor. The inveterate time traveler is lucky that good bit of original detail survives. The 11th Street lobby entrance is probably much the same as it was 150+ years ago, save the missing odor of horse manure and the muck on the carpets. Shown below are the winding stairways and the lobby that survive to this day in the original section of the building. You can click on an image to get a close-up view.
Across Broadway from the St. Denis, Grace Church still stands, virtually unchanged from its opening day in 1846. Harvey Burdell’s funeral was conducted there on February 5, 1857 as mobs pressed for admission to the modest-sized sanctuary. But that’s a story for another post…