Enter Law and Order Fans

NEW YORK COUNTY COURTHOUSE will quickly be recognized by Law and Order fans.  This often photographed building is where Law and Order attorneys converge on its 100-foot-wide flight of steps on their way to court.  The Roman classic style building was designed by architect Guy Lowell in 1919 – 1925. The building, viewed here from a small plaza with a fountain, is in downtown Manhattan (near City Hall and Foley Square) at 60 Centre Street.  The tall modern structure in the background (on the right) is the New York City Police Department at One Police Plaza.

Ironically, the courthouse stands in an area of lower Manhattan that was once part of the most violent and crime-ridden slum in the City.  It was known as FIVE POINTS and was northeast of this courthouse at an intersection of five streets:  Anthony Street (now Worth Street), Orange Street (now Baxter), Cross Street (now Park), Mulberry Street and Little Water Street (the latter no longer exists).  Those five streets opened into a small triangle-shaped park named Paradise Square.  By 1840 Five Points had become the poorest and most notorious slum in the city and perhaps the entire world.  Author Charles Dickens visited Five Points on his 1842 trip to New York, compared it to the slums of Liverpool and said it was a place where "a vast amount of good and evil is intermixed and jumbled up together."  This neighborhood and its vicious gangs were vividly portrayed in Martin Scoresese's film THE GANGS OF NEW YORK based on a book by the same name.   

A Fresh Water Pond (known as The Collect from the Dutch word "kolch" meaning small body of water) was also located here.  In the winter the pond was used for skating parties and picnics were held there in the summer months.  Citizens washed their clothes in the pond and it was polluted by tanneries, breweries and other manufacturers.  The pond became so foul that it was finally drained and filled in and was completely gone by the year 1813.  A brewery, the Old Brewery, was  built in this neighborhood and would eventually become a boardinghouse.

On Centre Street (between White and Leonard Streets)  a new city prison was built near the pond in 1838.  The prison's design was based on drawings of an Egyptian tomb and the prison was actually named "The Tombs."