Archive for November, 2013

Felix the Cat Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1927

Felix the Cat made his debut at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927. Unfortunately, he lost a few lives in that parade.

Whenever the forecasters call for windy weather on Thanksgiving, I always wonder whether the giant balloons are going to appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If the wind speeds are higher than 34 miles per hour, the balloons don’t fly.

That’s because in 2006, Macy’s incorporated several safety measures to prevent accidents and balloon-related injuries at its annual parade in New York City. Parade officials installed wind measurement devices to alert them to any unsafe conditions that could cause the balloons to behave erratically. They also implemented a measure to keep the balloons closer to the ground during windy conditions.

None of these safety measures were in place when the parade began in 1924. In fact, you could probably call what took place at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade during some of its early years “unorganized chaos.”

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1924 – 1931

According to Rob DelBagno of the New York Historical Society, R.H. Macy’s and Co. hired renowned illustrator and puppeteer Tony Sarg in the 1920s to help create its inaugural parade. The goal was to attract children and their parents to Macy’s newly expanded toy department at its Herald Square flagship store. Click here to see the parade in the 1947 classic, Miracle on 34th Street.

Tony Sarg designed balloons for Macy's Parade

Anthony Frederick Sarg (1880 – 1942), better known as Tony Sarg, was a German American puppeteer and an illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post. In addition to the balloons for the Macy’s parade, Tony designed the store’s mechanically animated holiday window displays.

The first parade took place on November 27, 1924, before an estimated 250,000 spectators. It was a mish-mash of floats pulled by horses, a few professional bands, and live animals in cages borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The parade also featured Macy’s employees, professional entertainers, and many tag-along ragamuffins, who marched six miles from 145th Street in Harlem to Macy’s at Herald Square.

Although it was billed as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, The New York Times called it “a retinue of clowns, freaks, animals and floats.” The parade was such a success, however, that Macy’s decided to make it an annual event.

Macy's Christmas Parade, 1924

The first Macy’s parade was billed as the Macy’s Christmas Parade. Elephants and other wild animals in cages borrowed from the Central Park Zoo were one of the highlights of the event.

Bring in the Balloons
The floats and clowns were great, but Tony Sarg wanted to feature something in the parade that everyone could see. He thought tall balloons would be perfect, and turned to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, for assistance. The result was Felix the Cat, a toy soldier, and a dragon, who all made their debut in 1927. (These were actually rubber, air-filled puppets held aloft with long poles, but they were impressive.)

Unfortunately, Felix got curious, and he wandered into some telephone wires and caught fire. The fire was put out, but Felix lost at least five lives and had to be removed from the parade.

Felix the Cat balloon Macy's Parade

Felix the Cat’s son also marched in the parade. He was small enough to require only four handlers.

The trouble really began in 1928, when five tethered, helium-filled balloons up to 125 feet long (aka “ballooniacs” and “upside down marionettes”) designed by Tony Sarg and Bil Baird, entered the parade. Someone (probably a PR guy) came up with the bright idea to give the balloons an extra shot of helium and then release them at the end of the parade — people could find them and return the balloons to Macy’s for cash prizes. Although the balloons were designed to release air slowly, they unexpectedly burst in the air. So much for the cash prizes that year.

The following year the balloons were redesigned with safety valves to allow them to float above the five boroughs of New York for a few days. Safety-schmafety. Does anyone see a public relations disaster in the making here?

1931: Felix Meets Pilot Clarence D. Chamberlin
In 1931, the annual parade started at 1:30 p.m. at 110th and Broadway (the balloons were inflated in front of The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue). This year the helium balloons included the 40-foot Terrible Turk, a two-headed Martian, Tiamet the dragon, Felix the Cat (and his youngest son), Jerry the Pig, a 40-foot hippo, and a 171-foot dragon.

Tiamet the Dragon Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

This bizarre balloon creature was apparently called Tiamet the Dragon. Here he is grinning at spectators on upper floors during the 1931 parade.

During the parade, the Turk ran into an electric sign at 72nd Street, broke in half, and deflated into the crowds. The Martian, who had a tough time getting under the tracks of the 9th Avenue El, bumped into fourth-floor windows and swooped down upon spectators when the winds blew. The pig kept bumping his snout into windows and signs, and the dragon was attacked by a little white dog. All the while, motorists on the northbound side of Broadway were causing traffic jams as they stopped to take in the show (yes, they kept traffic lanes open between Columbus Circle and 110th Street.)

•Fritz the dachshund Macy's Parade

Fritz the dachshund was rescued from the East River following the 1932 parade.

When the balloons were released at 34th Street, a wind from the west brought the giant hippo within inches of the Empire State Building, where three small planes had been flying in anticipation of the release. (The hippo was last seen headed for Brooklyn — a fisherman also reported seeing the hippo 100 miles off of Rockaway Point “walking on water.”) Felix also soared over the Empire State Building as the band played “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain.” The dragon’s tail narrowly missed several buildings – he was last reported seen sailing in the direction of Governor’s Island.

Clarence Chamberlin

Clarence Duncan Chamberlin (1893 – 1976) was the second man to pilot a fixed-wing aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean while carrying the first transatlantic passenger. Through the 1930s and 1940s, he barnstormed around New York and trained thousands of men and women in the construction and operation of airplanes. In 1973, Chamberlin was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey; in 1976, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Right about this time, ace pilot and barnstormer Colonel Clarence D. Chamberlin was making a flight from Floyd Bennet Airport with several passengers. Needless to say, he was not sure what to do when he saw Felix and Jerry the Pig heading his way. One passenger suggested the pilot try to save Felix because the cat appeared to be headed toward a transatlantic voyage, and cats hate water.

News reports state that Chamberlin lassoed the pig with some rope and snared the cat by his wing. But apparently Felix broke loose. On December 2, he died a horrific death when he got caught in a high-tension wire in West Norwood, New Jersey. A resident said she saw the silk and rubber feline float into the wire and burst into flames. You just can’t make this stuff up.

1932: Tom-Kat Takes Down a Plane and Two Pilots
In 1932, Macy’s told the New York press to warn all pilots to stay away from the balloons, and to let them know that no pilots would win a prize for recovering them. Apparently 22-year-old student pilot Annette Gipson of Brooklyn didn’t get the message.

Tom-Kat helium balloon Macy's

Tom-Kat obviously got one of his lives back: Here he is in 1933 with the 9-story Gulliver and some other balloon buddies.

At 4 p.m. on November 24, a half hour after the balloons were released, Miss Gipson and her instructor, Hugh Copeland, of Woodside, Queens, came upon the 60-foot, yellow-striped Tom Kat. Miss Gibson decided to go for the cat’s jugular and steered the plane right into him. The balloon’s fabric wrapped around the left wing, causing the plane to go into a deep tailspin. She shut off the ignition, thinking this would prevent fire when the plane crashed.

As thousands of people in Queens watched in horror, and the plane continued to fall, Annette and Hugh switched seats so the instructor could take control of the plane. At one point the cabin door flew open and Annette almost fell out of the plane. Luckily her foot got caught in her safety strap and she was able to pull herself back in.

1930s Caudron C.630 Simoun

Miss Annette Gipson and her instructor, Hugh Copeland, were flying a small cabin monoplane like the 1930s Caudron C.630 Simoun shown here when they crashed into Tom Kat.

The plane was only about 250 feet above the rooftops near Rosedale when Hugh turned on the ignition. By this time the tattered remains of Tom had flown away, so Hugh was able to resume flying and land the plane safely at Floyd Bennett Field. Following an investigation by Inspector Sanford A. Willetts of the Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Branch, the two pilots were grounded for violations of federal regulations forbidding stunting over congested areas.

Annett Gipson pioneer pilot

Annette Gipson was born in 1912 in Commerce, Georgia. She moved to New York City in 1931 and learned how to fly that same year. Her incident with Tom Kat apparently didn’t faze her: In 1933, she helped create the Annette Gipson All Women Air Race at Floyd Bennett Field. Many famous women fliers participated in these races from 1933-36 — her friend Amelia Earhart was the official race starter.

Souvenir hunters quickly pulled apart poor Tom Kat, and not a single piece was returned to Macy’s. However, a few people were able to claim the last rewards the store would ever give for the helium balloons:
•H.F. Marrit of Garden City snagged Andy the alligator.
•Jerry the pig loitered around the Empire State Building before getting rescued in East Islip by William Garrigan.
•Fritz the dachshund landed in the East River and was rescued by the tug Long Island, headed by Roy Marques of Weehawken New Jersey.
•Georgie the drum major landed in Long Island City, where he was mobbed and torn to bits. Eighty-two people tried to claim the reward money.
•Willie Red Bird was last seen about 22 miles off the coast of Fire Island. He had enough gas to last 72 hours, so if no one had claimed him by Saturday night, Macy’s planned to issue warnings to ships on the North Atlantic lanes to be on the lookout.

Hippo Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Following the 1931 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the big blue hippo was last seen about 100 miles off the coast of Rockaway Point. After 1932, the helium balloons were no longer released after the parade.

Thanksgiving Treats for the Loyal Terriers of the Lower East Side

Step back in time 83 years to November 15, 1930. It was on or about this day that a man known only as “Old Tom” passed away in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

One week after his death, his body still unclaimed at the city morgue, Old Tom’s body was shipped by ferry to Hart Island, where he was buried by inmates from Rikers Island in the country’s largest mass graveyard.

Since 1869, close to 900,000 homeless and poor people, stillborn babies, and unclaimed bodies have been buried without a prayer or eulogy in New York City’s potter’s field on Hart Island. On the anniversary of Old Tom’s death, November 15, 2013, The New York Times published an article about Hart Island, and about the Hart Island Project, a group dedicated to improving access to the 101-acre island and its 45-acre public graveyard.

This Thanksgiving story is dedicated to Old Tom and to all the other nameless and unfortunate souls who are interred with him on this island of the dead.

Thanksgiving Treats for the Loyal Terriers of the Lower East Side

Old Tom and His Terriers
Old Tom was a slight African-American man about five foot seven and 150 pounds. He had what the news reports called a “crippled” right foot and walked with crutches. Old Tom made his meager living doing odd jobs in the tenement buildings on the streets that lie in the shadows of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Despite his nickname, Tom wasn’t very old: The coroner said he was about 50 when he died from “malnutrition and other causes.” He didn’t appear to have a human family, but he did have two loyal fox terriers and their two newborn puppies to keep him company as he made his rounds along Madison and Pike streets every day.

Madison and Pike street New York

This photo by acclaimed New York photographer Berenice Abbot shows the view down Pike Street toward the Manhattan Bridge in 1936.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Benjamin Bressman, who was the janitor for the five-story tenement at 149 Madison Street, noticed that Tom hadn’t been seen for almost a week. Apparently Tom had been doing some work in the building, because Benjamin went straight to the basement to look for him. It was there he found Old Tom lying on the cold cellar floor, his crutches at his side, and his terriers standing guard.

Benjamin’s first instinct was to determine if Tom was still alive, but the dogs would not allow it. Famished but faithful, they nipped and barked to keep Benjamin away from their master. The janitor summoned the police from the Oak Street police station.

215-19 Madison Streets, New York, 1920s

Old Tom was working in the cellar of a tenement at 149 Madison Street near Pike Street (now the site of a city water supply building) when he passed away in 1930. This photo shows 215-19 Madison Street, just two blocks north, in the 1920s. These buildings are still standing.

When the two patrolmen arrived, it took some effort to get the dogs under control. Despite their starving condition, the terriers gave it their best: One of the adult dogs even bit Patrolman Edward Kilgallen on the ankle before finally surrendering.

While Old Tom was taken to the morgue, his dogs were taken to the ASPCA hospital and shelter at Avenue A and 24th Street, directly across from the East 23rd Street Bathhouse. The terriers were given their own baths and fed, and assigned the following numbers: Dog 141,293; 141, 294; 141,295; and 141;296.

Guarded Dead Master, Dogs Face Execution

The day after Tom’s body was discovered in the cellar, The New York Times reported the story. Two days later, the paper said that the police were seeking homes for the faithful dogs “of undistinguished ancestry” to prevent their execution. The headline read:
Guarded Dead Master, Dogs Face Execution: If they don’t find homes soon, they’ll be executed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (Oh, the irony.)

SPCA Avenue A 23rd Street

This 1920-22 map shows the SPCA Stable and Garage on Avenue A, directly across from the Public Bath and East River, at mid-right. Click to enlarge.

The calls came pouring in. Within two days, more than a dozen people had applied to adopt the homeless and master-less terriers. The dogs were thus saved from the “death chamber,” a small steel gas tank with glass observation windows where the animals were “humanely” asphyxiated (at one time, about 2,500 cats and dogs were euthanized every week in this gas tank).

Because one of the dogs had bitten a police officer, the New York City Health Department ruled that they first had to undergo ten days of quarantine at the shelter to observe for rabies. They also had to be officially released by the Public Administrator, since the dogs were a part, if not all, of Old Tom’s estate.

As a special treat for Thanksgiving Day, the ASPCA bestowed names on the fox terrier family: Spot One (the mom), Spot Two (the dad), Spot Three (the daughter), and Spot Four (the son). The terriers were henceforth known as the Spot Family. For Thanksgiving, the dogs also received boiled beef that was browned in a pan, which was ordered by the shelter’s veterinarian.

One week after the dogs arrived at the ASPCA, William E. Bevan, general manager of the society, told the press that their ribs were no longer protruding and their fur had taken on a healthy sheen. He said they were also making friends with the 130 other canines at the shelter, although Spot One and Spot Two did not seem to appreciate rearing their puppies in the same room as a man-biting police dog and a woman-biting Boston bull terrier.


Offers to adopt the dogs continued to come in (43 total, including several from New Jersey and one from West Virginia), but many of the prospective owners said they could take only one dog. The ASPCA wanted to keep the Spot Family together.

Then one day the society received a phone call and a signed petition from a home for blind women on Long Island, which wanted all four dogs to keep the women company. The society decided that the home for the blind would be the dogs’ new forever home.

Sadly, the night before the dogs were scheduled to go to Long Island, Spot Four passed away. The two pups were only about five weeks old, so the poor thing was apparently too young and weak to survive his ordeal.

On December 2, 1930, the three surviving members of the Spot family went to their new home on Long Island. On that very same day, Old Tom was sent to potter’s field.

A Brief History of New York’s Potter’s Field

New York City Potter's Field

Aerial view of Hart Island in Long Island Sound.

A century before unclaimed bodies were buried on Hart Island, the areas now known as Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park, and Bryant Park served as potter’s fields. Madison Square Park served as the first mass grave site from about 1794 until it was full in 1797.

The potter’s field was moved to Washington Square, but after the yellow fever epidemic of 1823, the city barred further burials downtown and routed new corpses north to what is today Bryant Park. When that area was chosen as the site of the Croton Distributing Reservoir (now the site of the New York Public Library) in 1840, the remains of about 100,000 paupers were transferred to Ward’s Island. On April 20, 1869, Louisa Van Slyke became the first person buried on Hart Island.

Potters Field

The Hart Island cemetery is the largest municipal-run graveyard in the world. Close to one million people, including Old Tom, are buried here.

Today, inmates from the prison on Rikers Island, New York City’s main prison complex, receive the dead, which are then shipped to Hart Island on a ferry run by the Department of Corrections. The deceased’s name (if known) and identification number are carved into the coffin, and a packet with other identifying information is attached to the coffin. John and Jane Does constitute one-tenth of all burials, and only about one hundred bodies are identified by relatives or friends each year.

The cemetery on Hart Island is dotted with white markers, each denoting a mass burial of 150 bodies laid out in two rows, three coffins deep. None of the dead have personal grave markers, but there are two large monuments dedicated to all who are laid to rest there.

Potter's Field

What happened to the ASPCA dispensary and ambulance house?

The ASPCA dispensary and ambulance house, where the Spot Family awaited their new home, opened in August 1912 at the southwest corner of Avenue A (today’s Asser Levy Place) and 24th Street. The complex featured a one-story structure with kennels for homeless, abandoned, and stray animals, as well as a lethal chamber where they were “humanely” euthanized via a gas chamber. An adjoining three-story structure contained the ambulance house on the ground floor and numerous rooms on the second floor, including a waiting room, examining rooms and operating rooms for small animals, separate wards for dogs and cats, an isolation ward, kitchen, and storeroom.

The second floor also had stalls and operating rooms for horses, which were transported from the ground floor via a sling and an electric trolley. The third floor had isolation stalls for the horses, a janitor’s living quarters, a bedroom for the resident vet, a hay and feed loft, and a repair shop. On the roof of the shelter was an exercise runway for the dogs.

Following World War II, the federal government, under the direction of President Harry Truman, ordered the ASPCA to vacate the premises to make room for a new six-acre Veterans Administration (VA) hospital. The ASPCA moved out in August 1950, and relocated to York Avenue at 92nd Street. Today, the handicap parking lot of the VA NY Harbor Healthcare Manhattan Campus occupies the site of the old dispensary and shelter.

What happened to Oak Street and the Fourth Precinct Police Station?

This 1933 photo shows Oak Street near Catherine Street

This 1933 photo shows Oak Street near Catherine Street. New York Public Library Digital Collections

Oak Street was a short street in the Lower East Side that ran parallel to Madison Street between Pearl and Catherine Streets. In 1870, the Fourth Precinct station house, which was one of the oldest in New York, was replaced by a new brick station house at 9–11 Oak Street, near Roosevelt Street. The complex included a four-story main building and two-story rear building for housing prisoners and vagrants. The top right corner of this 1924 map shows the police station (it was the Fifth Precinct during this time) and the adjacent lots occupied by what was then Public School No. 12.

In 1947, the buildings on Oak, Roosevelt, and several other old streets were razed for construction of the Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses, Alfred E. Smith Memorial Park, and Public School 114. Ground was broken for construction of the public housing complex in 1949, and the project was completed on April 1, 1953. Where the old station house once stood is now occupied by the northwest portion of this complex and PS 126 Jacob August Riis School.

If you enjoyed this story, you may like this episode of Secrets of New York, in which Kelly Choi visits Hart Island.

Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses

This 1951 aerial view of Old Tom’s stomping grounds in the Two Bridges section of the Lower Easy Side shows the construction of the Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses between Madison (top of construction site), Catherine (right), and South streets (bottom). The Brooklyn Bridge crossing the East River can be seen in the foreground; the arch and colonnade for the Manhattan Bridge can be seen in the top right-center of the photo.

Minnie mascot cat of Essex Market Prison

The movers and shakers of New York City were quite a progressive bunch during the holidays in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially on Thanksgiving Day. Their efforts would have certainly made New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio , Reverend Al Sharpton, Bernie Sanders, and their supporters proud.

According to news reports in The New York Times from the 1890s to the 1930s, not a court prison in the city, nor a hospital or nonprofit institution of any kind in which “the unlucky and the unfortunate” were sheltered was overlooked. On Thanksgiving Day, tens of thousands of New York City residents in dire straights would receive a free meal with all the fixings, courtesy of the many churches or the settlement houses and other charitable institutions headed by the Department of Charities.

Mrs. William Waldorf Astor, nee Mary Dahlgren Paul

Mrs. William Waldorf Astor, nee Mary Dahlgren Paul, married William Waldorf Astor in 1878. Mrs. Astor was a society leader in New York, but she was not The Mrs. Astor. That title was claimed by her husband’s aunt and social rival, Mrs. William (Caroline) Astor, the undisputed queen of New York society. Artist: Meave Thompson Gedney. NY Historical Society.

Many well-to-do private donors also contributed to the charity feasts, including socialites like Mrs. William Douglas Sloane and Mrs. William Waldorf Astor.

On November 29, 1907, The New York Times noted:

“If any one in New York missed turkey yesterday on account of hard times it was because he had hidden himself so well that a Sherlock Holmes could not have found him, for never was there a Thanksgiving Day here when so much effort was made to bring cheer and a sense of gratitude to all… The day was strikingly one of gratitude expressed in a mighty effort on the part of the fortunate to make glad the less fortunate.”

The Essex Market Police Court and Prison

In 1907, the Essex Market Police Court and Prison (aka, Third District Prison) was a major hub of activity in the Lower East Side. As one of five district prisons in the city – the others were the Harlem Prison, the West Fifty-third Street Prison, the East Fifty-seventh Street Prison, and Jefferson Market Prison — it served as a temporary holding place for criminals being arraigned in the adjoining magistrates’ court, and for prisoners waiting to be transferred to the city prison, popularly known as The Tombs.

Essex Market Police Court

The Essex Market Police Court and prison was at the intersection of Essex Street and the old Essex Market Place (pictured at left), a narrow cross street that ran between Essex and Ludlow streets until 1926. The building was designed by John Correja, Sr., and completed in 1857.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common to see 50 or more defendants lined up outside when the Essex Market Police Court opened in the morning. Most of the accused served by this court and prison were Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who lived in squalor in the neighborhood’s overcrowded, dimly lit, and dilapidated tenements that first sheltered earlier German immigrants. Tenements across from the court housed the “offices” of attorneys who advertised their services with large signs. The “lawyers” with the largest signs seemed to do the most business.

Thanksgiving at the Prison, 1907
The male and female inmates were not the only cause of overcrowding at the Essex Market Prison. The prison was apparently also overrun with cats, thanks to Minnie, the prison’s mascot cat. According to news reports, Minnie had a record of 45 families of kittens during her tenure. (The big push to spay and neuter pets didn’t start until the 1970s.)

A typical scene outside the Essex Market Police Court in the early 1900s.

A typical scene outside the Essex Market Police Court in the early 1900s. This photo is from an October 8, 1905, New York Times article about plans to abandon the building.

Nonetheless, on Thanksgiving Day in 1907, all of the prisoners at Essex Market received a big chicken dinner served by veteran matron, Mrs. R.R. Fitzgerald. The men also received cigars and the women prisoners got candy. Minnie was well fed, too: She ate so much chicken that they had to call in a nearby veterinarian the next day.

Many Minnie Felines
Minnie was an extremely popular name for cats in the previous century. I wonder if this is because of Minnie Maddern Fiske, one of the leading American actresses and playwrights of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Minnie, nee Marie Augusta Davey, not only had numerous triumphs on the Broadway stage in New York, but she was also one of the most prominent animal welfare advocates of her era.

Minnie Maddern Fiske

Minnie Maddern Fiske once told a reporter that she detested cats, but she could not bear to see any animal suffer.

Although she claimed to detest felines, Minnie was actually renowned for her tender feelings toward cats, particularly for all the strays that roamed the city streets. Whenever stray cats came around her house, she would befriend it by feeding it for a few days, and then place a ribbon around the cat’s neck before giving the cat to a friend. She was quoted as saying, “You will never have any trouble in giving away a cat that wears a handsome bow.”

The Shyster of Essex Market Police Court
If you know any Yiddish words at all, you probably know that a person who is professionally dishonest — especially in the practice of law or politics – is called a shyster. Although most dictionaries state that the word probably originates from the German scheisser (defecator), it may have in fact originated at the Essex Market Police Court in the 1800s.

According to Henry Ford, author of The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, there was once a Clinton Street lawyer named Scheuster, whose practices were not very scrupulous, and who was quite a nuisance to Justice Barnabas W. Osborne in the late 1840s. Whenever another Yiddish lawyer attempted a shady trick, Judge Osborne would declare it a “Scheuster practice.”

The Demise of the Essex Market Court

Two years after this Thanksgiving feast, Borough President John F. Ahearn requested that a committee investigate conditions at the old court building. The committee advised the most practical thing to do was tear down the building. The report noted:

What a disgrace to New York. A vile place like this would not be tolerated in Turkey. Some of the committee have seen the dungeons in the various castles in Spain. We have the same conditions today in the Essex Market Court, which is unchanged from the day it was built in 1856. We take good care of our horses and our dogs. Why not extend the same human feeling for the unfortunates locked up in the cells of this court house? There is not a Grand Juror who would not object to having his dog kept in so vile a place.

Finally on January 13, 1911, the building was abandoned and a moving van carted away whatever furniture and records could be salvaged from 69 Essex Street to the first floor of the Florence Building, a multi-purpose community center located at 22 Second Avenue (near First Street).

Seward Park Campus

The Seward Park Campus houses five different small schools: the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies, New Design High School, the Essex Street Academy, the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, and the Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law.

In 1929, Seward Park High School, named for Governor William H. Seward, was built on the site of the Essex Market Police Court and Ludlow Street Jail. Seward Park High School, formerly P.S. 62 Intermediate, was the first high school built in the Lower East Side. Some famous alumni of the school include Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller, and Keenan Ivory Wayans. The high school closed in 2006.