In film and at our events, place is key. This summer, we’ll dive into the history of our venues and we start with New Design High School as we make our return there after a few years away.
The corner of Grand Street, which used to connect to its counterpart in Brooklyn (before the Williamsburg Bridge, via the Grand Street Ferry), and Essex Street, which was laid out by James Delancey, a British loyalist and area landowner, has been home to quite a few colorful New York City residents. Spies, infamous criminals, Olympic athletes and world-famous celebrities have all spent time here.
Before the school was built, the corner was home to the Ludlow Street Jail. The jail housed mostly civil offenders, largely debtors and delinquent husbands, (earning the nickname “alimony club,” from the New York Times), but a certain segment of the population housed there “paid” to get better accommodations that included a billiard room, cigar lounge and lavish dinners. Al Smith, immortalized in today’s political comedy dinner, would eventually be the sheriff in charge of the jail. More on Smith in a bit. For the sake of space, we’ll highlight just two notable prisoners: William “Boss” Tweed and Victoria Woodhull.
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