Life In Dangertown

December 2, 2008 by
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic 

On Thanksgiving Day of this year I wrote:

What constituted “Dangertown” here in 11222, you ask? I’m saving that for an extra juicy post!

Well, that time has come.

Although the above image did not accompany the following article from the July 18, 1886 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle I felt it illustrated perfectly the grinding poverty that was once commonplace in the fair burgh we call home. Believe it or not this see-saw was considered plush by contemporary accounts. Greenpoint at the turn of the century was rife with crime, filth and gangs with colorful noms de guerre such as the “Dangertown Slobs”, “Jolly Four”, “Sons of Rest” and the “Undertakers”. The latter most moniker is my personal favorite, as the members purportedly called themselves as such because they completed everything they undertook —but make no mistake about it: the young Republican’s Glee Club these gentlemen most decidedly were NOT.

Two things haven’t changed over the last 124 years in Greenpoint; the watering holes are still quite plentiful and there’s plenty of hideous architecture to go around.* You can read the rest of this article about “Dangertown” (and its numerous shenanigans) by clicking here.

Miss Heather

*Karl Fischer


2 Comments on Life In Dangertown

  1. Bodmin on Wed, 3rd Dec 2008 8:30 am
  2. Not just Oakland Street either. When I was first in Greenpoint in the mid-1970s I met a woman who was then around 90, thus who was born about the time of this article, who had lived in Greenpoint all her life. She was at that point in a floor-through apartment carved out of one of the brownstones on Kent Street, where she had raised her family with her late husband, but she had been born and raised in a tenement just off the corner of Freeman and Franklin. She was still living with her parents there in her late teens, thus around 1900-1905. Her family were members of the Greenpoint Reformed Church, which at that time was not on Milton, but in the grand building on Kent, just off Manhattan, which later became St. Elias Uniate Catholic and is now being converted into condos. She told me how when she was returning home in the evenings from choir practice or young people’s activities (which included the young people’s meetings of the Christian Temperance Society!) that her parents strictly enjoined her that she must walk north on Manhattan Avenue, then west on Freeman to their home – not West on Kent and north on Franklin, because Franklin was considered far too dangerous for an unaccompanied young woman to be walking alone in the evening hours.

  3. nycguy1971 on Wed, 3rd Dec 2008 11:08 pm
  4. Wow, reading “Life In Dangertown” gave me an adrenaline rush like I only get from reading the works of Henry Miller. There is definitely something to be said about news reporting before the advent of radio.

    “As a child, Henry Miller (b. Dec 1891), lived at 662 Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, known in that time (and referred to frequently in his works) as The Fourteenth Ward.”

    So, yes, Miller did not grow up in the 17th ward but he must have known of the 17th’s lore. Many pages in “Tropic of Capricorn” (for example) are devoted to his life as a child growing up with his buddies in the 14th ward… but I do not recall them venturing on excursions into the 17th ward (circa 1900 – 1905).

    I have read many of Miller’s works (and stalk his ghost at the most excellent Henry Miller blog known as but I do not recall a reference in Miller’s writings to the 17th’s Dangertown — or Greenpoint in general for that matter. I am going to alert blogger RC of Cosmotc of your excellent post to find out whether or not there is a millerfied account of dangertown/17th/greenpoint with the same amount or more of gristle that the above 1886 article spews out. If NOT, then I might find myself being a tad disappointed in my literary hero — but only for 10 minutes.

    Thank you Miss Heather.

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