Washington Street Sentimentality
With the exception of three remaining buildings on Washington Street, Little Syria has been physically erased for quite some time now. The memories, stories, newspaper articles, and iconic images that have been passed down through the generations are all of what is left of a once thriving enclave in Lower Manhattan. Skyscrapers, the Battery Tunnel, and the late World Trade Center are just a few examples of the radical physical changes that have taken place since then. Due to Robert Moses’ construction of the Battery Tunnel, many of the original inhabitants of Little Syria were forced to relocate to other areas of the city with many of them calling Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, their new home.
Many of you who are reading this may have a personal relation to Little Syria or Washington Street. Over time, family stories and memoirs have been shared with the younger generations of people who are longing for some sort of connection in a generation in which some of us may not have anything to look back on, or hold on to as our own. Little Syria, has always had a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. The stories and tales of what it was like to work and grow up on Washington Street amazed, and still amaze me beyond measure. I am still to this day always asking and sometimes begging for more information about the lifestyle and what it was like to grow up on this street from my elders and other family members. Throughout the years, I have been fortunate enough to collect a series of pictures and short stories in which I will share with you on the photograph section of this website. I have also been fortunate enough to locate documents, business cards and other Washington Street memorabilia that is now in my personal possession. We at Save Washington Street think it would be a good idea if this portion of our website be dedicated to preserving Little Syria through personal family pictures as well as family artifacts. If anyone has any pictures or artifacts that they wish to donate or send, please contact us as soon as possible. We feel that that this is the only true way of preserving the past due to the history of Little Syria being so lost and submerged in time.
My own personal connection with Washington Street begins with the story of a young fourteen year old boy from Baskinta, Mount Lebanon. Antonio (Tanios) Joseph Sadallah (born Tanios Joseph Sadallah),a Maronite Christian, emigrated to the United States with his father, mother, sister, and three brothers in hopes to earn enough money for a comfortable living back home in Baskinta. His father, Joseph Moussa Sadallah, was the head of an exporting business that was already in great jeopardy due to the restrictive laws imposed by the Ottoman Empire. Joseph emigrated to the United States in 1891 due to hearing of the opportunities in America through word of mouth throughout the village. Once in the United States, the Sadallah family successfully opened their business at 18 Washington Street with their Sadallah cousins (who were already established in the Dominican Republic) and the Ganim family, who were also natives of Baskinta. Shortly after, they began to export dry goods to South America and beyond. These dry goods as well as other household items generally consisted of statues, tables, sewing machines (as well as sewing supplies) and Syrian linens. Jewelry was also a popular item among the consumers in South America. The Sadallah family would sometimes be at sea for up to two years at a time traveling from Mexico, to Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. They were one of the most successful businesses in all of Little Syria according to an article written by The New York Sun.
Business was often very competitive and was extremely strenuous due to the amount of time being away from friends and family. The main business was then relocated to 60-62 Washington Street with the assistance of D.J Faour Brothers, an exporting company as well as a prominent family of bankers. The relocation occurred due to a need for larger space. 60-62 Washington Street was occupied by many Lebanese merchant families and has been occupied by other members of the Sadallah family for several years prior. After this move, another move took place due to the demolition of 60-62 Washington Street. The new business was entitled “A.J” Sadallah” and was moved to 335 and 365 Broadway. These buildings were already well known for their role in the New York sewing scene.
Antonio Joseph Sadallah married Barbara Karam, who, was also a native of Baskinta and had eight children. They were married in Utica, New York which was heavily populated with Lebanese (especially from Baskinta) as well as many other nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. The first family home was at 294 Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights before moving to the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1915. This was a very common trait with the Lebanese/Syrian businessmen in that they did not always live on Washington Street, but only came to Washington Street for work and leisure activities. Nevertheless, these families still called Washington Street home and shopped here whenever they needed to restock their homes with food and other Lebanese/Syrian groceries and items.
This time period is long gone now, but the memories and stories that I own in my mind propel me even greater in seeing this area remembered and respected for the rest of time. My stories are one of probably hundreds, if not thousands of memoirs and memories from this once thriving enclave of immigrants. I hope my pictures, and their captions enrich your mind, and give you a better understanding on why we are working so hard in trying to see Washington Street preserved in which we as Americans can be educated on for the test of time.
My own personal history will be available in the photographs section of this website.