Skip to main content

Little Syria, Manhattan

Completed by 1797 the area of Greenwich Street in lower Manhattan is planned, constructed, and land-filled.  By 1817 Washington Street becomes the westernmost avenue lined with piers, maritime stores, and basins and remaining waterfront property until the completion and opening of lower West Street in the early 1840s.


In the 1850s with the conversion of Castle Clinton into the Castle Garden immigration station nearby, the wealthy began to desert the neighborhood and by the 1880s immigrants of Eastern Europe and the Syrian province began moving in.


Little Syria is the former name of a neighborhood that once stretched from Battery Place up to Cedar Street and from Trinity Place to West Street, with Washington Street serving as the Main Street of Syrian America.

Selling cool drinks in Syrian Quarter
Library Of Congress
From the late 1800s until the 1940s construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, presently known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, the area was also known as the "Syrian Quarter,"  featuring a large population of immigrants from the former Ottoman province of Syria.

At the turn of the twentieth century Syria was not yet a country but an enormous territory encompassing present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan.  Arriving primarily from the 1880s to 1920s nearly 60,000 entered the country by 1910, some remaining in the Little Syria area while other moving to textile cities such as Paterson, New Jersey which was a major silk production center.


Relics of old New York. At Battery Place. Homes of Greeks and Syrians ca. 1930
Museum of the City of New York

Several Arabic-language newspapers published from Manhattan's Syrian Quarter including "Al-Hoda" founded in 1898 and "Syrian World" an English-language journal headquartered on lower Greenwich Street.

The Lebanon Restaurant, 88 Washington Street (1936)
New York Public Library


In 1889 America's first Maronite or Melkite parish is formed in the neighborhood and by 1925 moves into 103 Washington Street as St. George's Syrian Catholic Church.  Melkites or Maronites are Catholics whose churches are in full communion with Rome but follow Eastern liturgical traditions and customs.  In 1929 Harvey F. Cassab, a young Lebanese-American designs a facade for the building.  His design was a neo-Gothic composition of bright white terracotta.  St. Joseph's Maronite Church, first located at 57 Washington Street, was another prominent church in the neighborhood which later moved to 157 Cedar Street.

A study conducted in 1904 by Lucius Hopkins Miller found 1,661 Syrians living in the area of Cedar Street to the north, Battery Place to the south, West street to the west and Greenwich Street and Trinity Place to the east.

The survey notes two other smaller Syrian communities in Brooklyn, one scattered through Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, and Sheepshead Bay and the other in the Atlantic Avenue area between Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights.  About three quarters of the Melkites in the 1904 survey were from present-day Lebanon, approximately 20% were from the area of present-day Syria and approximately 2% were Palestinian.





Demolition on Greenwich Street April 18, 1947
Museum of the City of New York
By the 1920s the center of New York City's Syrian-American community begins to shift to the Atlantic Avenue area of Brooklyn due to the building boom of the nearby Financial District in the 1920s.  For example, Sahadi's Shop, presently on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, was formerly located on Rector Street & Washington Street.  The neighborhood further declines in Middle Eastern population after World War II.  By 1946 two Middle Eastern restaurants remained on Washington Street but impending construction by the Robert Moses led Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel approach and Battery Parking Garage leads to the condemnation of property and drives out the remaining residents and stores.

The final blow is dealt by the construction of the World Trade Center in the 1960s, and by 1975 the only remaining evidence of downtown Manhattan's Syrian Quarter were two Syrian churches.  Today only one of these still stand, the former St. George''s Syrian Catholic Church at 103 Washington Street.


St. George's Church closed for good in 1982 and sold to Chapel Moran, Inc. which operates a restaurant and bar and maintains the historic Washington Street facade.

In October 2002 the cornerstone of St. Joseph's Maronite Church was discovered during the clearing of rubble and ruins of the September 11 attacks near Cedar Street.  The cornerstone is now on display at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn Heights.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Stuyvesant Square Park, Manhattan

Stuyvesant Square (1930) New York Public Library Stuyvesant Square Park is a park spanning from East 15th Street north to East 17th Street and from Rutherford Place east to Nathan D. Perlman Place. The square is commonly thought to be named for  Peter Stuyvesant, the last of the Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherlands until it was ceded to English  control in 1664. It is actually named for Peter Gerard Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant Square (1905) Museum of the City of New York The park lies within what was the Stuyvesant family farm. The farm once stretched from the Bowery to the East River and from 3rd Street to 14th Street. The park itself is in the approximate location of the original Stuyvesant family mansion. Randel Farm Map 1818-1820 In 1836, Peter Gerard Stuyvesant and his wife Hellen Rutherford reserved four acres of the family farm and sold it to the City of New York for $5 as a public park, with the proviso that the City of New York build a fen

Ferry Point Park, The Bronx

Ferry Point Park is a park located in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx along the East River and Westchester Creek.  The park spans 413.8 acres. The neighborhood " Throggs Neck " takes its name from John Throgmorton who obtained a license on October 6, 1642 from Niew Amsterdam's Governor to settle in the area.  The area served primarily as farm land for families for the next two centuries. In 1850 the land that will become Ferry Point Park is purchased by Augustus diZerega and Jacob Lorillard, a shipping tycoon and a tobacco manufacturer, respectively. In 1916, the land is sold to the Catholic House of the Good Shepherd. The east side of Ferry Point Park prior to land-filling New York Public Library 1905 The original parcel of Ferry Point Park totaled 171 acres and came under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation in 1937.  It was purchased by New York City from the Roman Catholic House of the Good Shepherd during the a

Holland Tunnel, Manhattan

 South Tunnel of the Holland Tunnel December 6, 1923 New York Public Library  The first automobile tunnel built under the Hudson River was the Holland Tunnel, opened to vehicular traffic on November 13, 1927.  The Holland Tunnel was formerly named the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel or the Canal Street Tunnel.  Today it is named for it's chief engineer Clifford Milburn Holland (1883-1924). Beginning in 1906, a joint commission of New York and New Jersey explored the possibility of construction of a roadway crossing to connect the states.  After design proposals from various engineers including George Goethals, and the firm of Jacobs and Davies, the design of two separate tubes by Clifford Holland was chosen.  In 1919, Holland was named Chief Engineer of the project. North Tunnel of the Holland Tunnel July 20, 1925 New York Public Library On February 1, 1920 funds were appropriated for construction by the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission a