Filling in Collect Pond, once at today’s Centre Street behind City Hall, promised to solve two problems in late 18th century New York. First, it would do away with the foul body of water that in more bucolic times was used for drinking but in the 1700s had been given over to tanneries, slaughterhouses, and other manufacturers who polluted its waters.
However, when the City filled in the pond in 1813, the resulting land was less-than-desirable because the ground did not dry out thoroughly, causing houses to shift and tilt dramatically just a few years after construction.
Because so many diseases of the period were attributed to dampness and ‘vapours,’ few New Yorkers wanted to live in such a locale. Soon prostitution and rum shops arrived, followed by gang-related crime. Anyone who could move out of what was once called the Collect neighborhood did, and those who remained lived in Five Points, a wretched slum that persisted through most of the 19th century.
Read more about the origins of the famous Five Points slum on Ephemeral New York.