Squatters of the Depression

Squatters of the Depression
1934 -- squatters at Morton Street and Washington Street in the West Village. Image via NYPL.
Summer 1932 -- encampment of squatters on East 9th Street and the East River. Image via NYPL.

Summer 1932 — encampment of squatters on East 9th Street and the East River. Image via NYPL.

As the city’s and nation’s economy works through its slow recovery, the New York public library reminds us how the last great national economic crisis affected our city. Though we commonly recall images of Depression-era squatters in Hoovervilles  in Central Park, various temporary encampments sprouted throughout the city during the 1930s — many of them in our neighborhoods.

Squatters along Houston Street and Broadway.

Squatters along Houston Street and Broadway. Image via NYPL.

Throughout the NYPL Digital Gallery one can find different views of Depression-era “squatters colonies” located around the city. The image above is one of several of an encampment that developed along the East River and stretched from East 9th Street to East 10th Street, and as the New York Times  notes, was composed of 80 shacks. It was cleared by the City in 1933.

To the right is an image of the southern corner of Houston Street and Broadway in 1933. Though today home to the minimalist art installation The Wall to the west, and (formerly) to the large DKNY ad to the east, eighty years ago those down on their luck created an encampment in the open areas created by the Houston Street demolitions for subway construction.

To the west we find the unemployed trying to survive on the land that would become today’s Standard Hotel — between Little West 12th Street and West 13th Street and 10th/11th Avenues.

1934 -- squatters at Morton Street and Washington Street in the West Village. Image via NYPL.

1934 — squatters at Morton Street and Washington Street in the West Village. Image via NYPL.

The Archive Building dramatically rises in the background of the 1934 photo to the left. Taken near Morton Street and Washington Street, the shanties were located near what is today the West Village Houses.

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Drew
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Drew was GVSHP's Director of Administration until March 2015.

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One comment on “Squatters of the Depression
  1. Drew Elizabeth says:

    I’ve always been interested in these. That scene near “The Wall” is just inconceivable today!

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