NYC: Five Points - Baxter and Worth
Worth Street was named for Major General William Jenkins Worth, second in command during the Mexican War. He died in conflict and is buried in Worth Square. Baxter Street was named in 1853 for Lieutenant Colonel Charles Baxter, a hero of the Mexican War killed at Chapultepec in 1847.
Five Points was a notorious slum centered on the intersection of Worth St. (originally Anthony St.), Baxter St. (originally Orange St.) and a now demolished stretch of Park St (today Mosco).
The neighborhood took form by about 1820 next to the site of the former Collect Pond, which had been drained due to a severe pollution problem. Surface seepage to the southeast created swampy, insect-ridden conditions resulting in a precipitous drop in land value. Most middle and upper-middle class inhabitants fled, leaving the neighborhood open to the influx of poor immigrants that started in the early 1820s and reached a torrent in the 1840s due to the Irish Potato Famine.
It was the original melting pot, at first consisting primarily of newly emancipated African Americans and newly arrived Irish and later welcoming Anglo, Jewish and Italian peoples. The local politics of "the ould Sixth ward", although riddled with corruption, set important precedents for the election of non-Anglo-Saxons to key offices. Although the tensions between the African Americans and the Irish were legendary, their cohabitation was the first large-scale example of grassroots racial integration in American history.
Around 1880, slum clearance efforts succeeded in razing Five Points and re-purposing the land. What was Five Points is today covered mostly by large city and state administration buildings, Columbus Park, Collect Pond Park and various facilities of the New York City Department of Corrections clustering around lower Centre Street.
Charles Dickens, in his 1842 work, "American Notes", wrote about the filth and wretchedness of the Five Points section. The neighborhood was the subject of Martin Scorsese's 2002 film Gangs of New York.