Historic, but not famous

Helen Jewett, prostitute and murder victim

At 3 a.m. on April 10, 1836, Helen Jewett’s body was discovered in her bed. Her skull had three mortal gashes. Her body had been crisped by the fire still smoldering in her mattress. There were no signs of struggle. She was a 23 year old prostitute working in a high end brothel. Her life was taken by a 19 year old store clerk.

The following coverage by the press of the murder and trial were the precursors to every sordid website and television show covering “true crime” and gossip we have today. This was the first time the “penny press” covered anything like this with such detail of sex, crime, seduction and romance that facts became secondary to sensation.

Jewett’s blood pooled on the floor; the smoking mattress and the body were doused with water from the backyard cistern. The police checked the backyard and found a hatchet near the fence along with a long cloak. One of Helen’s regulars had been identified by the madame of the house as having been there earlier wearing the cloak and attempting to cover his face.

The murder investigation and the lives of the victim and accused were gone over by the papers, false facts, planted evidence and speculation became common place on the front page of every penny paper in NYC. The trial began on June 2, 1836, with over 6000 people trying to get into the courthouse to observe. On day 2, the courtroom was cleared.

After five days and 56 hours in court, the jury heard closing arguments, which were considered the most entertaining part of a trial. Over more than 10 hours, the prosecution and defense concluded their cases with amazing theatricality. The press and their readers ate it up.

The accused was acquitted of the murder after the judge allowed the character of the victim (a prostitute) to be the guide for the 12 man jury. Papers were shocked. The accused moved from the NYC area, but investigations and speculation continued for over 10 years unveiling over 9 months of correspondence between the accused and the victim, including threats.

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Historic, but not famous

Oliver E. Allen, historian, writer, editor, Tribeca preservationist

Oliver E. Allen, historian, writer and editor for Life magazine and later editor at Time-Life Books, authored more than a dozen books, including two histories of New York City: “New York, New York”  and “The Tiger,” a history of Tammany Hall.

In Tribeca, where he moved to a Hudson Street loft overlooking Duane Park with his wife Deborah in 1982, Allen was best known for his Tribeca Trib column, “Old Tribeca,” and for his volunteer contributions to the community as co-founder of Friends of Duane Park. He also was part of a small group whose work led to the designation of Tribeca’s four historic districts.

In the 1980s, Allen joined a band of local activists that dug into the history of Tribeca’s buildings and published “The Texture of Tribeca,” by architectural historian Andrew Dolkart. The volume, illustrated with photos by Allen, provided the Landmarks Preservation Commission with the research it needed to designate Tribeca’s historic districts in 1991 and 1992. Allen loved his neighborhood and his articles from the Old Tribeca column have been compiled into two books, two books, “Tales of Old Tribeca” and “Tribeca: A Pictorial History.”  Mr. Allen died in 2017 at the age of 94.

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Around NYC

Mmammamia! The Mmuseumm!

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The smallest, but most precious, museum in New York City is uniquely called the Mmuseumm.

It is located inside a freight elevator/lift.

The exhibits are constantly changing and can be seen 24/7 through glass when the doors are not open.

The Mmuseumm is located at 4 Cortlandt Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. Please leave a donation when visiting as this allows the museum to stay open.

Ready to check out this one of a kind museum and the Tribeca neighborhood? We Can Tour That! wecantourthat.com

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