The raucous slum, which took its name as it stood where several haphazardly arranged streets converged in irregular corners, was the home of flamboyant Irish-American gangsters. And stories of police raids on the Five Points became standard fare in newspapers of the day.
The site of the notorious neighborhood is now an urban landscape of office buildings and courthouses. But it is being chronicled yet again, this time in a heavily-promoted new crime drama, "Copper," which premiered last night on the BBC America network.
Following the exploits of a New York City detective circa 1864, the dark drama is something like "Deadwood" crossed with "Law and Order," a rough portrayal of lower Manhattan at the time of the Civil War.
The maze of dangerous streets was considered the great shame of New York City in the mid-1800s, and the real history of the neighborhood included a number of reform efforts to clean it up. In 1844 a reader of the New York Tribune wrote a letter chastising the paper for reporting lurid news "suitable to the tastes of the denizens of the Five Points."
The civic boosters of the mid-1800s would be horrified to know that Americans are now watching crime stories from the Five Points as Sunday night entertainment.
Illustration: Scene in the Five Points/courtesy New York Public Library Digital Collections
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