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Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Location: Union Square, Fourth Ave and 14th Street

Status: Standing

‘Twas the morning after Christmas, 1920, when police officers stumbled on the lifeless body of Monk Eastman sprawled out in a gutter just south of the Union Square subway station. One of the toughest mugs in New York City’s history, the Monk had survived half a dozen street wars up and down the Lower East Side, several terms in Sing Sing, and the trenches of WWI. (Click to read about Monk Eastman in WWI)

Monk came back from the war a hero and won a full pardon from Governor Alfred E. Smith, but now several weeks later; Eastman was dead.

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Monk Eastman died in the gutter of Union Square.

Boozing at the Bluebird Cafe

Christmas evening began like most days for Eastman, with a little prohibition-era binge drinking at the Bluebird Cabaret, No. 62 East 14th Street. Monk and a pack of heavies, including corrupt Prohibition Agent, Jerry Bohan, strolled into the Bluebird, sat at their reserved table and got merry. According to Neil Hanson, author of Monk Eastman, Monk boasted to a showgirl:

 

“Do you know who I am? I’m Monk Eastman, the gang leader who made good…” –Neil Hanson, Monk Eastman

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Monk Eastman had survived turn of the century street wars of the Lower East Side, and the trenches of the First World War, but on the morning after Christmas, 1920; Eastman was found face down in the gutter.

The Brain’s Brawn- Arnold Rothstein and Monk Eastman

But the $144 bankroll in his pocket, the fine Witty Brother’s suit and the gold spectacles found on Eastman’s body told another story. Eastman had hired his fearsome reputation out to the highest bidder, and that bidder turned out to be the Brain of Broadway, Arnold Rothstein. Jerome Charyn noted in Gangster and Goldiggers,

 

“It seems the Monk had been bootlegging and selling dope for The Brain. A.R. was never implicated, of course.”—Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Eastman was once the prince of the Lower East Side, but opium addiction and prison sentences destroyed his kingdom.

Monk Eastman a Rat?

Emotions were high at the Bluebird that night. Monk Eastman was running his mouth about quitting crime, making good and becoming an honest citizen, talk that made his bootlegger pals nervous. Little did he know, Eastman’s buddies had put him on the spot, and Bohan was the trigger-man.

When Eastman drunkenly stumbled onto the street, Bohan followed with a .32 caliber pistol in his hand. Just as Eastman crossed 14th street, the crooked Prohibition Agent opened fire into Monk’s back.

An eyewitness described the scene:

“A man was standing over him and as we reached the window we saw him fire four more shots into the man on the sidewalk… the murderer bent over his victim a moment, presumably to make sure he was dead…”

Bohan then hopped into a waiting taxicab and sped off into the night. Several days later, under the pressure of a police manhunt, Bohan walked into the Lee Avenue police station in Brooklyn and confessed to the crime, claiming self defense as his motive. The corrupt Prohibition Agent was sentenced to three to ten years for manslaughter (Click for newspaper story) and Eastman was buried with full military honors in the gangland funeral of the decade.

In Bohan’s version of the crime, the corrupt Prohibition Agent shot Eastman in self-defense.

In Bohan’s version of the crime, the corrupt Prohibition Agent shot Eastman in self-defense.

Infamous New York, Crime Scenes, NYC

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Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll

Accused of murdering a fifteen-year-old boy during a drive by shooting, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll (far right) and his mob yucked it up with reporters during the trial.

Location: 312 West 23rd Street

Status: Standing

 

By February of 1932, there wasn’t a soul in New York who didn’t want Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll on a slab in the morgue. The psychopathic egg had blow torched every bridge in gangland, and now Coll had to die

 

Powerful Enemies

 

During Prohibition’s heyday, Coll and his mob amassed a legendary list of underworld adversaries such as Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Owney Madden. First to join Coll’s list was the Beer Barron of the Bronx, Dutch Schultz, Coll’s former employer.

 

Paid to protect Dutch’s beer trucks, Coll, suffering from delusions of grandeur, decided to hijack the shipments instead. Schultz responded by putting the blast on Mad Dog’s kid brother and all out war erupted in the spring of 1931.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

Now a Petland Discounts store, 312 West 23rd Street played host to Coll’s brutal machine gun murder.

 

Racketeer Without a Racket

 

Without a racket to fund his war against Dutch, the freelance gangster hatched the incredibly idiotic plan of kidnapping wealthy bootleggers like Big Frenchy DeMange, best friend of Hell’s Kitchen’s resident vice lord and owner of the Cotton Club, Owney Madden, whose nickname just happened to be “Killer.”

 

Coll made a clean sneak from the crime, shaking $50,000 out of Madden, but the Mad Dog wasn’t done by a long shot.

 

On July 28, Coll and his chopper squad loaded their tommy guns, jumped into a sedan and strafed the Helmar Social Club, headquarters of Schultz policy boss, Joey Rao. Machine gun gun bullets cut down five children, killing Michael Vengalli along with two Schultz heavies.

 

The Making of Mad Dog

In response to the brutal crime, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker dubbed Vincent Coll, “Mad Dog,” but Coll wasn’t finished alienating the powerful. In September of 1931, Salvatore Maranzano hired Coll to bump off Lucky Luciano.

 

However, Luciano’s men beat Coll to the punch, arriving a few minutes earlier to dispatch Maranzano. Coll walked away from the scene smiling and with yet another nemesis.

 

Vincent_-Mad_Dog-_Coll

Mad Dog Coll

 

Joseph Bonnano noted in his autobiography, A Man of Honor,

 

“Luciano told me he was forced to strike against Maranzano after learning that Maranzano had hired Vincent Coll to kill Luciano.”—Joseph Bonnano

 

Owney Madden Puts Mad Dog Coll on the Spot

 

With the police hounding him and every mob in New York hunting him, Coll checked into the Cornish Arms Hotel on 23rd Street. On February 8, he walked into the London Chemist drugstore (now Pet Land Discounts) located at 312 West 23rd Street. Waiting for a phone call from Owney Madden to discuss a truce, Coll walked straight into an ambush.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

Gangland put Mad Dog Coll on the spot at 312 West 23rd street at the London Chemists.

Phone Booth Massacre

 

When Coll entered a phone booth and spoke with Madden, the trap was sprung. Outside, a large limousine roared up to the curb, spilling out three gangsters.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

The bullet riddled phone booth in which Mad Dog Coll was cut down. (Library of congress )

 

Two of the torpedoes covered the door, while a third drew a Thompson submachine gun from his trench coat, walked up to Coll’s phone booth and sprayed it with lead, killing the psychopathic, twenty three year old Coll instantly. According to the New York Evening Post:

 

“How many shots were fired is not known. Some witnesses said fifteen others said fifty. As the killer backed out of the store, the door of the booth opened slowly and Coll’s body pitched forward, three bullets in the head, three in the chest, one in the abdomen and eight and the arms and legs.”—New York Evening Post, 1932

 

The murder of Vincent Coll remains unsolved.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street, london chemists

A New York City police officer standing in front of the drugstore where gangster Vincent Coll was murdered. (Photo Library of Congress.

 

Monk Eastman, William Delaney, Gangs of New York, Crime, Monk Eastman’s Murder, Owney Madden, Paul Kelly, Paolo Vaccarelli, 50 Eldridge Street, Witty Brothers.

Location: 50 Eldridge Street

Status: Standing

 

Out of all of the silk stocking wearing gangland dandies such as Owney Madden, Paul Kelly and Biff Ellison, Monk Eastman was a bit of an anomaly. He and his knuckle dragging mob terrorized Manhattan’s Lower East Side with street brawling shenanigans and epically bad fashion. According to Gangs of New York author, Herbert Asbury:

 

“[Eastman] seemed to always need a haircut… He accentuated his ferociousness… by affecting a derby hat several sizes too small…”

 

The Suit They Found Him Dead In

In addition to the ill fitting derby and bad haircut, Lower Eastsiders rarely sighted Eastman with a shirt on and without a shoulder-mounted pigeon, presumably crapping all over the place. However, the suit police detectives found Eastman dead in told a far different story. Inside of his jacket, a tag read, “E. Eastman, October 22, 1919—No 17,434—W.B.”

 

Known for wearing a derby hat several sizes too small, Monk was never a dapper mobster.

Known for wearing a derby hat several sizes too small, Monk was never a dapper mobster.

 

Monk’s Tailor

The tag belonged to the Witty Brothers, a fine clothing establishment, which catered to, “The Sort of gentlemen who recognizes the import of being well-dressed. “

 

Monk Eastman, William Delaney, Gangs of New York, Crime, Monk Eastman’s Murder, Owney Madden, Paul Kelly, Paolo Vaccarelli, 50 Eldridge Street, Witty Brothers.

 

According to the New York Times obituary of Spencer Witty, heir to the Witty clothing empire:

 

“Witty Brothers, fashioned and sold elegant men’s clothing… They used luxurious fabrics, cashmere, [and] Scottish tweeds…”—The New York Times (Click to read the article)

 

After Eastman’s murder in 1920, Henry Witty told the New York Tribune:

 

“Monk Eastman, the old time gang leader… We have made clothes for him for nineteen years. The last suit we made for him was delivered October 21, this year.” –The New York Tribune (click to read the story)

 

Perhaps the Monk was more dapper than originally thought?

Location: 1500 Broadway

Status: Demolished

 

They called themselves the Broadway mob. Members of the gang rubbed shoulders with high society, supplying the most exclusive speakeasies in New York with top-shelf, uncut booze. From their offices at the now demolished Hotel Claridge, located at 1500 Broadway, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Segal and Frank Costello would go from street gang to the masters of dry New York, making themselves multi-millionaires in the process.

Hotel Claridge, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, 1500 Broadway, Bugsy Segal, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Masseria, Joe The Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Prohibition, Rum Running, Arnold Rothstein, The Brain of Broadway, Broadway, Stork Club, Silver Slipper, 21 Club, Scotch, Broadway Mob, Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Rector’s, 1500 Broadway, 44th Street, prohibition, Speakeasies,

 

Located in the heart of Times Square, on the east corner of 44th and Broadway, the Claridge Hotel was built in 1910 and according to the 1917 Real United States and Canada Pocket Guide,

 

“ Claridge’s Hotel, formerly Rector’s…was the great theatrical and bohemian after-theater restaurant…”

 

By 1922, Orwell Maximillian Zipkes purchased the hotel, adding a two-story arcade with shops and offices that Lansky, Luciano, Segal and Costello would use to build their empire.

 

Like a league of extraordinary criminals, the gang’s success came from the Broadway Mob’s remarkably diverse hoodlum resumes. Costello was the talker, forging the alliances with Tammany Hall that allowed the mob to steal at will and carry concealed weapons, legally.

 

The psychopathic Bugsy Segal provided the muscle, killing and beating anyone who stood in their way. The bookworm, Lansky, existed as a behind the scenes strategist and human adding machine, making the gangsters wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Its leader, the oldest member of the gang, was Lucky Luciano, a gangland heavy who oozed reptilian charm.

 

Hotel Claridge, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, 1500 Broadway, Bugsy Segal, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Masseria, Joe The Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Prohibition, Rum Running, Arnold Rothstein, The Brain of Broadway, Broadway, Stork Club, Silver Slipper, 21 Club, Scotch, Broadway Mob, Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Rector’s, 1500 Broadway, 44th Street, prohibition, Speakeasies,

In the 1920s, the Hotel Clairidge served as Lucky Luciano’s headquarters.

Lansky’s Law

Guided by Luciano’s charisma and Lansky’s financial acumen, the gang became rumrunners. They heisted furs and stuck-up banks to fund liquor shipments of the purist scotch in town, purchased from the Brain of Broadway, Arnold Rothstein.

 

The small time gangsters’ moxie captured A.R.’s attention, and an internship in crime ensued.

 

Meeting With The Mentor

Rothstein mentored the gang from his booth at Lindy’s, teaching them how to dress, how to speak and how to conduct themselves in high society. According to the Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Luciano recalled:

 

He [Rothestein] taught me how to dress…how to use knives and forks…about holdin’ a door open for a girl, or helpin’ her sit down…”

 

In exchange for the mentoring, Lansky, Luciano and Costello served as Rothstein’s muscle, protecting his alcohol and narcotics shipments.

 

Purist Booze in Town

They travelled abroad as Rothstein’s purchasing agents, buying direct from distilleries in Scotland, keeping the Stork Club, The Silver Slipper, The 21 Club and the rest of Broadway’s high-end speakeasies swimming in hooch.

 

Pet Gangsters

By the height of prohibition, Pet gangsters were all the rage, and Luciano, Costello, Lansky and Siegel were the coolest mob in town. Suave, wealthy and deadly, they dated Ziegfeld Girls and slept with heiresses, earning them a privileged spot as the darlings of New York high society.

 

Luciano recalled:

 “Within a year, we was buyin’ influence all over Manhattan, from lower Broadway all the way up to Harlem.”

 

Mafia Talent Scouts

But the Broadway Mob had other, less reputable, admirers. A secret criminal society mostly unheard of in America, known as the Mafia, had their eyes on Luciano, the only Sicilian member of the gang.

 

Both the Masseria Crime Family and the Maranzano Crime Family knew that whomever controlled Luciano, controlled the Broadway Mob and their fat bankrolls and political connections. Masseria would eventually win Luciano’s loyalty. He was then upgraded to a floor of suites in the Hotel Pennsylvania, but for the rest of his life in American; however, Luciano maintained an unofficial office at the Hotel Claridge. The hotel was demolished in 1972.

 

Check out the 1970s New York gang documentary, 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia.

Location: 100 East 17th Street

Status: Landmarked 

 

It was the last wigwam, the tiger’s lair where Tammany Hall reached it’s zenith before fading into historical footnote. Funded by a prohibition-era bankroll, the red brick, Neo Georgian structure located at 100 East 17th Street on the North East Corner of Union Square, represents the last true home of New York’s greatest political machine.

 

Constructed at cost of $350,000, the building was dedicated on July 4, 1929, by Presidential Candidate Alfred E. Smith, a notorious “wet” who vowed to end prohibition if elected, and his archrival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an upstate politician who would do more to destroy Tammany Hall than anyone else.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello

Tammany Hall was located at 100 East 17th Street.

 

Whitewashing Corruption

For an added touch to whitewash the corruption, the architects decked the building out in patriotic splendor, choosing bricks modeled from Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello

This balcony overlooking Union Square served as Tammany Hall’s bully pulpit, allowing politicians to address the masses below.

 

On the 17th Street entrance to the Hall, columns inspired by Federal Hall, the site of George Washington’s presidential oath, adorned the second and third floors.

 

Nearby, friezes of Christopher Columbus, a Revolutionary War era liberty cap and Chief Tammany, the organization’s namesake, ornamented the exterior of the building.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Chief Tammany, namesake of Tammany Hall.

Tammany’s Bully Pulpit

The focal point of the entire wigwam was a balcony, which served a pulpit for Tammany bigwigs such as: Mayor Jimmy Walker, presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith, and Senator Robert Wagner to speechify to masses gathered around Union Square. But little did the sachams know, Tammany Hall had nowhere to go but down.

 

Tipping the Paradigm

For over 100 years, Tammany ward heelers incubated organized crime in New York City, fostering and organizing a network of gangs whom they schooled in mayhem and rolled out on Election Day.

 

Sent to smash ballot boxes in Republican neighborhoods and repeat vote in Democratic strongholds, Tammany awarded the crooks perpetual get out of jail free cards for their work.

 

Tammany politicians looted the city and taxed vice, making themselves millionaires in the process of redistributing this wealth to the city’s most marginalized inhabitants.The Hall was known for handing out ice in the summer, coal in the winter and turkeys at Thanksgiving in a time before social security.

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Ultimately, prohibition turned the paradigm on its head. Bootleggers, gangsters and gunmen made multi-millions of dollars overnight and paid for their political protection, rather than earning it with their fists at the polls.

 

The rain of money turned into a deluge, and Tammany became minions of the mob. By the 1930s, the Hall was firmly in the hands of the National Crime Syndicate with Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Frank Costello puling the strings.

 

Tammany Hall, Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Robert Wagner, Wigwam, 100 East 17th Street, Senator Robert Wagner, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dutch Schultz, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Fiorello La Guardia, National Crime Syndicate, Frank Costello, Chief Tammany

Tammany Sachem, Alfred E. Smith, dedicated the building alongside his political rival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man who did more to destroy Tammany than anyone else.

Under intense pressure from FDR and Fiorello La Guardia, the hall vacated the building in 1943, selling it to a labor union, marking the beginning of an irreversible decline. On the occasion, Mayor La Guardia remarked:

 

“You know, I wouldn’t change the name of the building [Tammany Hall]… I would keep it as a permanent monument to the change that came for the City of New York when a mighty, ruthless organization left the building to an organization of the people.”—Fiorello La Guardia

Wickedest Man in New York, John Allen. 304 Water Street, Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport, Corlear’s Hook, 4th Ward, Westley Allen, Wess Allen, The. Allen, Theodore Allen, Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York, Saloon

The Wickedest Man’s Dance Hall and bordello at 304 Water Street circa 1868

Location: 304 Water Street

Status: Demolished

Priests, police, and just about everybody in Manhattan called John Van Allen the Wickedest Man in New York, and he reveled in it. A born self-promoter, if Allen had been alive today he probably would have had a reality television series.

 

In a twenty-year life of crime, Allen set the tabloids aflame with his wacky antics even attracting the attention of Mark Twain who described the forty-five year old dancehall owner and pimp as,

 

“A tall, plain, boney, fellow, with a good-natured look in his eye, a Water Street air all about him, and a touch of Irish in his face.”—Mark Twain

 

John Allen Wickedest Man In New York

John Allen the Wickedest Man in New York and his son, Chester, a lad “hell on reading, writing, praying and fighting.”

 

House of Rum and Prostitution

Strangely enough, Allen and his criminal brothers Westley (Wess), Theodore (The.), Martin and Jesse were the sons of a wealthy Presbyterian minister. John amassed over 113 arrests for running disorderly houses across the city, but his most infamous den was a dancehall located at 304 Water Street.

Wickedest Man in New York, John Allen. 304 Water Street, Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport, Corlear’s Hook, 4th Ward, Westley Allen, Wess Allen, The. Allen, Theodore Allen, Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York, Saloon

Known for dancing prostitutes and cheap rum, Allen’s Dancehall would earn him the title: Wickedest Man in New York

Demolished to make way for the Brooklyn Bridge in 1870, his three story bilious green, bordello offered several dance floors, an orchestra pit and booths for sex. According to Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York, Allen staffed his club with twenty prostitutes dressed in,

 

“…low black bodices of satin, scarlet skirts and stockings, and red topped boots with bells affixed to the ankles.” 

Wickedest Man in New York, John Allen. 304 Water Street, Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport, Corlear’s Hook, 4th Ward, Westley Allen, Wess Allen, The. Allen, Theodore Allen, Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York, Saloon

The Wickedest Man In New York holds court in his bar.

A Breathing Hole of Hell

According to Edward Winslow Martin’s Secrets of the Great City published in 1868, Allen’s dancehall was:

 

“…a breathing hole of hell—a trap door of the bottomless pit… where lousy loafers lurk..”

 

Allen lived above his bar with his wife, seven daughters and son, Chester, a lad who according to his dad was “hell on reading, writing, praying and fighting.”

In reality, Allen probably wasn’t the wickedest man on Water Street by a long shot (the title rightly belonged to Tommy Hadden), but after his ceaseless campaigning for the title, the moniker stuck when the Allen transformed his whorehouse into New York City’s wackiest religious revival.

 

Wickedest Man in New York, John Allen. 304 Water Street, Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport, Corlear’s Hook, 4th Ward, Westley Allen, Wess Allen, The. Allen, Theodore Allen, Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury, Gangs of New York, Saloon

Shang Draper, Thomas Shang Draper, Tenderloin, Al Smith, Casino, 6-8 West 28th Street

Location: 6-8 West 28th Street

Status: Standing

 

He was like John Dillinger, Al Capone and Jesse James rolled up into a 19th century bundle. Generous, refined, wealthy and deadly, Tomas “Shang” Draper ran one of the most opulent casinos in Manhattan here at 6 West 28th Street in the heart of Satan’s Circus.

 

King of Safecrackers

The Italianate brownstone casino represented the pinnacle of Shang Draper’s life of crime.  Former king of the bank robbers and safecracker extraordinaire, Shang was one of the best petermen in the country, blowing bank vaults from New York to Minnesota.

Thomas Shang Draper, Shang Draper, 6 West 28th Street, Manhattan Savings Institution Robbery, Manhattan Savings Institution, Fredericka Marm Mandelbaum, Marm Mandelbaum, Casino, George Leonidas Leslie, Satan’s Circus, Al Smith

Shang Draper’s casino was located at 6 West 28th Street

Fencing with Marm

Together with society figure and architect, George Leonidas Leslie, alias Western George, Shang and Leslie plundered millions, heisting the Waterford Bank in 1872, the North Hampton Bank in 1876, and the Manhattan Savings Institution in 1878.  The gang specialized in looting securities, which they fenced through Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum.

 

A Taste for the Finer Things

It seemed that Shang got a taste for the finer things from Leslie, whom he eventually shot and dumped in the wilds of the Bronx. With his bank robbing fortune, Draper headed for the Tenderloin district, a place where the glitterati of Manhattan’s Gilded Age went to drink, whore, smoke opium and gamble in style.

 

Standing six feet tall in his silk stockings, Tomas Shang Draper was a giant by 1800s standards, and he had a personality to match.

Standing six feet tall in his silk stockings, Tomas Shang Draper was a giant by 1800s standards, and he had a personality to match.

With the backing of lottery king, Al Adams, Shang settled at 6 West 28th Street, just off of fashionable 5th Avenue. To attract wealthy patrons from nearby hotels and Madison Square Garden, Shang remolded the entire building.

 

Shang’s Casino

He threw up onyx pillars on the first floor. Crimson silk curtains covered the windows. Oil paintings valued at $100,000 lined the walls. The buffet was all you could eat. The plates were china and the goblets were cut glass.

 

The roulette wheel spun for no less than $25 a twirl, and guests, who included politicians, prizefighters, millionaires and vaudevillians, could expect to find high stakes poker, faro and chuck-a-luck.

 

According to Automats, Taxi Dances and Vaudeville author, David Freeland:

 

“Future governor [and presidential candidate] Al Smith was once reputed to have stayed at the faro tables for fifty-two hours straight.”

 

Underworld Fortress

Big money meant big security. To guard against raiding cops and stickup gangs alike, Shang installed a battering-ram proof door equipped with a mechanical cross bolt that dropped into the doorjamb. Behind the door, a steel cage provided secondary defenses, while a sliding steel grate protected every window. Simply put: it was the coolest fortress in town.

 

Thomas Shang Draper, Shang Draper, 6 West 28th Street, Manhattan Savings Institution Robbery, Manhattan Savings Institution, Fredericka Marm Mandelbaum, Marm Mandelbaum, Casino, George Leonidas Leslie, Satan’s Circus, Al Smith

One of the most opulent casinos in Manhattan, Shang Draper turned this brownstone into a fortress with steel grates and a battering-ram proof door.

Coppers!

But the Parkhurst Society wanted the club closed. On October 14, 1902 police officers raided the casino, but the heavily fortified club took hours to breach, giving Shang’s customers enough time to scramble out of a secret back staircase on the building next door. The police eventually recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in Shang’s safe. After the raid Draper retired to Hot Springs Arkansans.