Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cherry Hills, A Lost Neighborhood, Part l

If one goes in search of Cherry Hills originally located in the Lower East Side in downtown Manhattan, New York City, they will not find it.

For a century, from the 1830s to the early 1900s, this neighborhood contained the worst slum in NYC. Within its boundaries sat a 3-room flat that was plagued by an insidious poltergeist for 19 years.

What area looked like in the mid-1700s
In the beginning, the Cherry Hills neighborhood whose homes had a beautiful view of the East River was the fashionable place to live. George Washington during his first term as president had a home at 1 Cherry Hill Street.

John Hancock owned a home on the same street. Later Dewitt Clinton bought George Washington’s home. In 1824, the neighborhood was still upscale. Samuel Leggett founder of the New York Gas Light Company lived in the community.

The decline of Cherry Hills began with the birth of William “Boss” Tweed. He lived and worked in the neighborhood from childhood.

By the time Boss Tweed was an adult the neighborhood had become a slum. Its tenement houses became the worst in the city--including an area known as Gotham Court. The Fourth Ward now housed saloons, boarding houses, and brothels along Water Street.

Cherry Hills Tenement House
Photo Jacob Rilis
This included the legendary Hole in The Wall, which today is the Bridge Café.

The neighborhood became infamous when Jacob Rilis wrote a scathing account in 1890 entitled, “How The Other Half Lives.” He exposed the desperation, crime and
Rilis' expose
disease that was commonplace along this now notorious block.

After this, Gotham Court was demolished in 1897. By 1909, with the anchorage construction for the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, entrance traffic from the rest of the city was blocked to Cherry Hills. By 1942, with the construction of traffic ramps, what little remained of the original neighborhood was obliterated.

The Cherry Hills neighborhood should not be confused with the Albany, New York estate called Cherry Hills that is also haunted.

In Part ll of Cherry Hills: A Lost Neighborhood the story of a 19-year poltergeist ordeal is shared.

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