Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Monk Eastman’

Monk Eastman enlisted to serve in World War One at the Bedford Atlantic Armory

Monk Eastman goes to WWI: The Bedford Atlantic Armory

Address: 1322 Bedford Avenue

Status: Homeless Shelter

 

* Part of this story originally appeared in an article I wrote for Military Heritage Magazine.

 

A hushed awe fell over the army medical inspectors when William Delaney’s clothing hit the white tiled floor at the Bedford Atlantic Armory located at 1322 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn. Veterans had scars, but what the doctors witnessed was ridiculous. Delaney’s long list of injuries included a busted nose, two cauliflower ears, a patchwork quilt of knife scars and two scabby old bullet holes blasted though his bulging torso.

 

When the physicians wondered aloud about the origin of the wounds, Delaney spat the answer through a mouth full of gold teeth, “A lot of little wars around New York.” Little did the army doctors know, Delaney was actually Monk Eastman, the toughest goon ever to swing a lead pipe on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

 

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.

 

 

Monk Eastman Joins O’Ryan’s Roughnecks

 

Addled by opium and fresh out of prison, Eastman needed to a change. Time was running out for the middle-aged gangster. The day after his release in 1917, the ex-con headed home to Brooklyn to enlist in the 106th regiment of the 27th Infantry Division of the New York National Guard, a force aptly named O’Ryan’s Roughnecks for its commander Major General Frank O’Ryan.

 

Monk-Eastman-WWI-Bedford-Atlantic-Armory-Map

Monk Eastman enlisted for WWI at the Bedford Atlantic Armory located at 1322 Bedford Avenue.

 

Bedford Atlantic Armory: Monk Eastman Enlists

 

Monk must have marveled at the red-pressed brick castle on Bedford Avenue. Constructed in the Romanesque Revival Style, the architectural firm of Fowler & Hough the Bedford Atlantic Armory was built in 1891 with a 136-foot tall corner tower.

 

Scholars cannot say for sure what drove the forty- four-year-old gangster to join the 27th. Perhaps Eastman was following the example of his father Samuel who fought in the Battle of Bull Run. Some historians suppose that Monk just wanted to turn his life around and kick his opium habit. Now a member of New York’s 27th Infantry Division, the 44-year-old gangster prepared to bring his own brand of terror to the trenches of the First World.

 

Monk Eastman enlisted in the 27th infantry division here in the castle like Bedford Atlantic Armory (Image via Wikipedia).

Monk Eastman enlisted in the 27th infantry division here in the castle like Bedford Atlantic Armory (Image via Wikipedia).

 

Shipping Out: Trench Warfare School Camp Wadsworth

 

On August 30th 1917, Eastman and the 27th shipped out to the most intensive trench warfare school in the United States at Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina. In their training, the recruits faced diluted chlorine gas, trench clearing drills, and all the other horrors of the Great War.

 

Monk-Eastman-Infantry-Traning-WWI-27th-Infantry-Division-Camp-Wadsworth

 

Platoon Sergeant Hank Miller recalled that the men teased Eastman, calling him “pop” because of his advanced age, but in basic training the elderly doughboy amazed his much younger comrades. The old man could outrun anybody in the unit. When Eastman hit a bayoneting dummy, he nearly tore it in half. Delaney’s secret eventually came out and the taunting ended: pop was Monk Eastman, the infamous Bowery desperado.

 

Monk-Eastman-Trench-Warfare-School-27th-Infantry-Division

 

Bowery Brawler in the Trenches

 

The prospect of fighting on the side of New York’s deadliest brawler thrilled the young recruits, and the doughboys were soon ready for anything, for the gangster instructed the men in the Eastman school of no holds barred gutter fighting. By now, Eastman served as the linchpin of the 106th’s morale when the 27th docked in France.

 

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 on the Poperinghe Line

 

On July 9, Eastman and the 27th marched to the Poperinghe Line in the Ypres Salient to put a stop to the rampaging forces of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and his Sturmtruppen assault troops.

 

British command charged the Roughnecks with holding the line behind Dickbushe Lake against the Prince’s seasoned storm troopers. Eastman and his comrades dug in under the shadow of Mont Kemmel and Vierstraat Ridge, two German strongholds bristling with heavy artillery. For days and nights, shells and shrapnel rained down on the 27th’s position.

 

As the barrage tore holes through the unit, the first waves of elite Sturmtruppen assault teams came over the top and engaged Monk’s unit in hand-to-hand combat. It was during this bitter defense that the first tales of Eastman’s heroism began to circulate. At night, Monk led his own forays into no man’s land. When the Germans nearly overran the trenches, Monk met the Kaiser’s finest with his tattooed knuckles. While rescuing a fallen comrade, a rifle round blew through the old brawler’s hand, but he wrapped the wound and fought on.

 

Major General Frank O’Ryan leader of the 27th Infantry Division.

The hard nosed Major General Frank O’Ryan leader of the 27th Infantry Division.

 

Taking Vierstraat Ridge

 

O’Ryan ordered Colonel Franklin Ward, commander of the 106th, to seize the heavily fortified Vierstraat Ridge. Under the cover of a barrage, Ward and the screaming men of the 106th went over the top. A German staccato of machinegun fire pined down the entire regiment, but Monk broke the stalemate with a fist full of Mills Bombs. According to the New York Tribune,

 

“The German gunners caught sight of him. They could not depress their gun sufficiently to hit him and Monk crawled forward and blew them up…”–The New York Tribune

 

DSC_0385

Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria.

 

Monk Eastman Is Wounded

 

In the attack, bullets shredded Eastman’s backpack and shrapnel sliced through his leg, but the destruction of the German machinegun nest allowed the 106th to take the ridge. Because of the success at Vierstraat, in three days time, the 27th captured Mount Kemmel, Rosignoll Wood, Petite Bois, Plateau Farm, and hundreds of prisoners, but Monk was not there celebrate. He was laid up in a field hospital nursing his wounds. On September 4, the 27th moved to prepare for one of the greatest battles in the war, the taking of the impregnable Hindenburg Line, gateway to the German Homeland.

When Monk got wind of the plans in the hospital, he went renegade. The gangster stole away into the night, fleeing the hospital half-naked and barefooted. According to Lieutenant J.A. Kerrigan,

“He escaped from the hospital, equipped himself from a salvage dump, joined his company, and was in action throughout the entire Hindenburg line show.” –Lieutenant J.A. Kerrigan.

 

Cracking the Hindenburg Line

 

Unfortunately for the 27th, the Hindenburg attack made the battle in the Ypres seem easy. According to Maj. General O’Ryan’s memoirs, the line represented the “rock of Gibraltar of German moral.” Devised by Field Marshal Paul Von Hindenburg, the position consisted of three concrete trenches surrounded by three belts of barbed wire, mines, and machine gun nests.

 

Paul_von_Hindenburg_(1914)_von_Nicola_Perscheid

Field Marshal Paul Von Hindenburg, engineer of the Hindenburg line of barbed wire, mines and machine gun nests.

 

Paul von Hindenburg

German reinforcements stood in the nearby St. Quintin Canal Tunnel, a bombproof 50 meters deep brick tunnel built by Napoleon Bonaparte. The tunnel housed thousands of German reinforcements on canal boats who could be shuttled anywhere on the line unseen and under cover. The task of cracking this impressive nut naturally fell to the 106th, and Eastman’s regiment served as the battering ram that led the first charge.

 

On the morning of September 27, the 106th stormed though a hail of machineguns and artillery fire to capture a precarious foothold from which the main assault on the St. Quintin tunnel would be led. Amid this carnage, Monk showed a tender side when the 106th seized a group of German prisoners, including a cocky teenager, one of the Americans attempted to ram a bayonet though the arrogant boy’s chest. Monk stopped the solider with only a few words, “Let him alone he’s only a kid.” he said. By now the troops knew not to argue with the gangster.

 

Monk Becomes Stretcher Bearer

 

With the position secure, the 106th withdrew to the rear, but Monk begged the head surgeon, Major Larson, for permission to remain as a stretcher-bearer. According to Major Larson,

 

“All through the time that men of his company were resting Eastman served in the front line trench, carrying back wounded men.”-Major Larson

 

A few days later, the 27th demolished the canal tunnel and broke the Hindenburgh Line. The war was over.

Monk is Pardoned by Governor Al Smith

 

On March 25, 1919, the 27th marched down Fifth Avenue as heroes, but Monk’s feats of heroism were all but unknown. The gangster’s officers prepared a surprise for the hero of the 106th upon their return home. Colonel Ward, Major Scott Burton, Captain James Conroy, and Lieutenant Joseph Kerrigan presented a massive tome of over one hundred letters and signatures to Governor Smith asking for Eastman’s pardon, and on May 8, 1919, the Governor forgave Edward Eastman’s past crimes.

 

 

The New York newspapers sang the mobster’s praises and spoke of the power of reform. Unfortunately, while reporters paid the mobster compliments, Monk was back to his old tricks working as an enforcer for the Brains of Broadway Arnold Rothstein. The gangster-turned-doughboy-turned-goon did not live to see fifty. Click to read The Death of Monk Eastman. www.infamousnewyork.com/2015/01/09/the-death-of-monk-eastman-union-square/

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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?

Read Full Post »

Five Points Headquarters

57 and 59 Great Jones Street

Status: Standing

 

There weren’t many places in old New York where a goon could order up a beer, eat a plate of spaghetti, and kick back and watch a bare-knuckle boxing match, except, for the Little Naples Café and New Brighton Athletic Club located at 57 and 59 Great Jones Street.

 

These two squat interconnected buildings once headquartered the Paul A. Kelly Association, an organized hoard of repeat voters, ex-pugilists, pimps, and gangland heavies otherwise known as The Five Points Gang. The mostly Irish and Italian Five Pointers controlled every hustle west of the Bowery and were the sworn enemies of Monk Eastman’s Jewish mob that dominated everything east of the Bowery.

 

Little_naples_Today2

Paul Kelly’s New Brighton Athletic Club (right) and the Little Naples Cafe (left) today. Jean Michel Basquiat would later die of an overdose in the loft that was above the New Brighton.

 

Paul Kelly Gangland Dandy

 

Their leader, Paul Kelly, proprietor of the combination eatery and boxing arena, was a bucket-load of contradictions. The name he went by was Irish; yet the gangster was an Italian whose real name was Paolo Antonio Vaccarelli. Well
quaffed and well spoken, Kelly played the part of the gangland dandy who could bang with the best of them.

 

According to Richard Harding Davis, Kelly was,

“exquisitely scented, wearing silk socks, silk ties to his tan shoes, with rings on his well-kept fingers…”

 

Paul_Kelly

 

But Kelly’s manicured digits didn’t fool anyone in the know. A former flyweight boxer and catch-as-can wrestler of much renown, the leader of the Five Points Gang was always willing to throw down. Like the time Kelly floored Jake Shimsky, a 6 foot, 230 pound Eastman Lieutenant, with a left hook that put the giant’s brain to sleep.

 

Spoke Five Languages

 

To have said that Kelley was smart would have been an understatement. In addition to English, he spoke Spanish, French and Italian. To take advantage of a loophole, which legalized boxing matches in privately chartered athletic clubs, he opened the New Brighton Athletic Club in 1904 in a Civil War era stable located at 59 Great Jones.

 

A Gangland Nexus Is Born:

The New Brighton Athletic Club and Little Naples Cafe

 

Now free to hold bare-knuckle bouts without police interference, the customers flooded in. To feed his hardboiled clientele, Kelly opened up the Little Naples Cafe next door, and a gangland nexus was born. On any night, a hoodlum could find Chick Tricker, Louie the Lump, Kid Griffo, Rough House Hogan, 14th Street Biff Ellison, and the wrestler Leo Pardillo lounging around the bar.

 

Paul Kelly, Paolo Vaccarelli, Monk Eastman, Eat Em Up Jack McManus, Monk Eastman, Biff Ellison, Leo Pardillo, Five Points Gang

The Little Naples Cafe, 59 Great Jones St., was the headquarters of Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gang

 

Eat ‘Em Up Jack McManus

 

To keep the peace, Kelly brought in his best gorilla, the famed bar-room bouncer, Eat ‘Em Up Jack McManus, but even McManus couldn’t keep the peace, and the gunplay was regular.

 

In less than a year, Kelly’s bare fisted spaghetti kingdom began to unravel. Led by Chick Tricker, Jimmy Kelly, Jack Sirocco, and Biff Ellison, the mutinous troop of Five Pointers loaded up their gats and plotted to knockoff the boss.

 

Eat_Em_Up_Jack_McManus_And_Paul_Kelly

Paul Kelly (right) poses with bar-room bouncer Eat ’em Up Jack McManus.

 

Five Points Lightning

 

The slugs started to fly just before dawn on May 26, 1905 when words between McManus and Tricker escalated into a full blown pistol duel in font of the Little Naples.

 

Dodging and weaving from stoop to stoop, McManus blasted a few slugs into Tricker’s calf and left him for dead in the gutter, but Eat ‘Em Up Jack Should have finished the job. Days later Kelly lost his greatest strong armer, when McManus was killed by a Tricker Assassin armed with a lead pipe.

 

Jack Sirocco and Chick Tricker’s Revenge

 

Months later Jack Sirocco came looking for revenge for Tricker’s shooting, and earned a bullet in his arm. With their leadership full of lead, the Tricker Sirocco gang sent another team of torpedoes to the Little Naples the following Thursday.

 

With barking pistols in their hands, Biff Ellison and Razor Riley stormed into the Little Naples spewing bullets. The attackers caught Kelly and his bodyguard Bill Harrington completely by surprise. A shot pierced Harrington’s lung killing him instantly. Another shot knocked Kelly’s hat from his head, and bullet sliced through the sleeve of his coat.

 

As the shots rang out, showgirls dove for cover, and the lights were doused. For five minuets Kelly and his attackers traded gunfire in the darkened bar. The Little Naples and New Brighton Athletic club were closed by the police shortly thereafter. With his clubhouse padlocked, Kelly changed his name back to Vacarelli, moved uptown, and remade himself as a labor racketeer.

Read Full Post »