It’s hard to imagine today, but two streams once intersected near Broadway that required bridges to cross. One was the Stone Bridge at Canal Street; the other was called the Kissing Bridge near the junction where Chatham met Roosevelt Street.
Sixteen soggy acres near Maiden Lane and William Street was known from the old Dutch days as the Shoemaker’s Pasture. In the summer, people would travel uptown to the Petersfield Farm or pick blackberries along the road in nearby Bowery Village. Children would sneak over to the Screw Dock on South Street to watch two-hundred-ton ships hoisted out of the water for repairs.
Nearby, the infamous Five Points loomed. “I would rather risk myself in an Indian fight,” wrote Davy Crockett in his 1835 memoir upon encountering the area for the first time, “than venture among these creatures after night.” The five-story Old Brewery building was still an imposing structure at the mouth of the intersection of streets that slithered and coiled snakelike through the Points Mulberry Street along the infamous Bend.
Across the way was the dangerous Bottle Alley; behind it, Bandit’s Roost.Make a wrong turn and end up on Elm Street. Nightly the Black Maria prison wagon, with no windows or means of escape, sped by on the way to the Tombs prison the echoing screams of the women inside the wagon could stop a heart.
Citizens canoodle at a Kissing Bridge near 50th and 2nd Ave not far from the FDR today.