Did you know that the Lower East Side is home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in America, founded in 1683, and that it has Revolutionary War soldiers interred there? Or that Canal Street once actually had a canal, that helped drain the Collect Pond? Did you know that during the 1850s, the Lower East Side was overrun by the fearsome Dead Rabbits gang, or that the whole neighborhood celebrated with a parade at 4 in the morning after electing Meyer London in 1914, the first Socialist in Congress?
If you’re walking through the Lower East Side this month, look down and learn all these facts and more. Kicking off LES History Month is the organization’s two-day chalking event, LES Stories. Completed from Sunday, May 7 to Monday, May 8, the chalking project shared the long history of the Lower East Side on city sidewalks, available for any and all to learn. Volunteers, coordinated by FABnyc and Downtown Art, chalked trivia, drawings, stories, and historical facts on local heroes, major events, and the socio-political ups and downs of this diverse neighborhood.
Look down, and discover how the evolution of 76 acres of farmland, belonging to Jacobus Van Corlaer in the 17th century, transformed into a bustling neighborhood, with an approximate population of 166,000 in 2015. And though the Lower East Side has drastically changed in those four centuries, the urge to keep growing things hasn’t disappeared with the farms, as LES residents still enjoy almost 40 community gardens spread throughout the area.
Melanie, who works for the Lowline, chalking outside Sara D. Roosevelt Park
LES Stories is just the first of many events taking place over the month of May to celebrate the Lower East Side’s vibrant history. Check out the rest of the celebrations here!