What Once Was
Save Washington Street’s photographs will consist of the many buildings that once populated Little Syria, artifacts, memoirs, personal family portraits as well as individual photographs, and business related information that was once within the community of Little Syria. The artifacts that we have gathered are some of the only methods of story telling regarding Little Syria and its identity. Since there is hardly no academic works or published texts that are based solely on the Arabic speaking population of Washington Street, it is very difficult to explain or even research the history to the fullest extent. There has been many dead ends and many fragmentary pieces of information throughout our research and artifact accumulations,but we hope these photographs will prove to America as well as the world that this community did in fact exist and that it did have all of the characteristics of any of the other great immigrant neighborhoods throughout New York City as well as America.
Click Here to view this collection of photographs that displays just a few of the many professions that the Arabic speaking population took part in. These photographs are some of the only professional prints that are in existence of the neighborhood and are from the 1930s and 1940s. Little Syria was a very close-knit community that often always worked together as a community. Such instances include a special Titanic relief fund, and a trial in which a Syrian/Lebanese was being denied citizenship in the United States for unethical reasons by a judge.
Click Here to view the buildings that once housed thousands of immigrants and their business establishments. Washington Street once ran from the present location of the late World Trade Center to the beginning of Battery Park. These tenement buildings were once occupied and owned predominately by Irish immigrants as well as immigrants from Germany and the Netherlands. In fact, many of the original Irish immigrants still owned a handful of tenement buildings on Washington Street at the height of Lebanese/Syrian immigration. This gallery, which was extracted from the New York Public Library, showcases the many buildings and businesses that would of been seen in Little Syria in the 1920s to the 1940s.
Click Here to view a special collection of photographs from the 1940s showing Little Syria in its final decade as an ultra diverse neighborhood. Robert Moses’ Battery Tunnel project was just about underway and the final eviction notices were sent to the homes of those who remained in August of 1946. These photographs show several buildings that were still in use in the beginning of the decade as well as the middle of the decade. Although there were many Arabic speaking families and businesses going into the 1940s, the neighborhood started to change with new ethnic groups starting to move in and conduct business. By looking at these photographs, you can almost sense change just by seeing the vacancies on the sidewalks and in the streets as opposed to just ten years prior when the street was much more active.
Click Here to view the business related artifacts that we have accumulated over the last several months. The Sadallah Family business has been established in the United States since 1893 and was one of the most successful commission based businesses in all of Little Syria. In the earlier days of the business, the family supplied peddlers with goods from Greater Syria hoping to make profits from their transactions. As the business expanded and became more successful, The Sadallah Family began to sell dry goods such as linens, silk, sewing machines, as well as supplies, embroideries, clothing, jewelry, and even food items such as pistachios and figs. On this page you will find business papers, invoices, and general business information that has survived into the 21st century.
Click Here to view our personal artifacts that have been gathered throughout the years in that pertain to Little Syria. Save Washington Street has been very fortunate in gathering a respectable collection of artifacts from Little Syria. It is often difficult to come across items such as these because the history is almost never mentioned in any form of academia or research material. This in some instances makes it very scarce and not readily available. These personal artifacts are out there however. Acquiring artifacts is one of Save Washington Street’s many goals and we will continue to do this for as long as we can.
Other nationalities especially in New York City, have museums, text books, buildings that are still standing, and many other forms of preservation. As we all know by now, Little Syria hardly has any of this. Raising awareness of this once thriving immigrant enclave located in Lower Manhattan is and always will be our top priority.
Click Here to view our my own personal collection of photographs from Little Syria. All photographs and portraits were obtained in an old steamer trunk chest just several months ago. Everyone within this collection was and in some instances, still is related to one another. Family photographs are some of the only resources we can use in trying to identify the past. They are also invaluable research tools because they can assist us in deciphering a “fork in the road.” while researching family history. These photographs were all discovered in a steamer trunk and have been in storage for over fifty years. They are an excellent reminder of the history and the legacy that once existed in the United States not too long ago. If there is anyone else who is interested in sending their own personal family pictures, please send us an email as soon as possible, so your family can also be added to the history of Little Syria as well as the entire Lebanese/Syrian American diaspora.
Since these photographs are very old and outdated, it has become quite difficult to label everyone. For now we will let the photographs and the faces of Little Syria speak for themselves. This collection of photographs are all my own personal family portraits and photographs. Everyone in this collection at one point or another was in fact related.
Click Here to view a small gallery of what remains on Washington Street today. We find it absolutely fascinating that these three buildings (which stand side by side) were able to survive the demolitions of literally every other building on Washington Street that came out of the Little Syria time period. If you are ever on Washington Street, take a look down the street towards Battery Park and just imagine the rows upon rows of tenements, business establishments, restaurants, grocery stores, the sights, sounds, and aromas of a beautiful culture and a typical New York City immigrant neighborhood that is lost in American history. This upon many other reasons, is exactly why we are so passionate upon saving Washington Street and giving it the recognition it deserves.
Click Here to view a gallery of business advertisements that have been obtained from various Al-Hoda newspapers and various published books that have survived through the years. This gallery will contain photographs of business related advertisements from Lower Manhattan as well as Brooklyn. As the Lebanese and Syrian businessmen earned a more profitable and comfortable life, they usually ventured out to Brooklyn and purchased homes in the Brooklyn Heights section of the borough, which was a short ferry ride across the water. This article which was published in 1909, discusses the business sector of Little Syria in excellent detail. It mentions the most prominent business establishments and the Lebanese and Syrians who owned them.
Daily News Story on National September 11 Museum and “Little Syria”
May 18, 2013
Today the New York Daily News posted this informative piece by Carol Kuruvilla about our efforts to preserve the neighborhood and to encourage the National September 11 Museum to include some recognition. We want to emphasize that we only went public with our frustrations after several years of local historians asking the Museum to incorporate [...]
Community Board One Resolution on “Little Syria” Historical Signage
May 16, 2013
On May 1, 2013, the Financial District Committee of Community Board One unanimously advanced the below resolution advocating signage for “Little Syria.” While not all members necessarily voted or were present, the committee includes Edward Sheffe, CHAIR; Susan Cole, CO-CHAIR; Deron Charkoudian; Linda Gerstman; Mariama James; Michael Ketring; Joel Kopel; Elizabeth Lamere; Megan McHugh; Patricia [...]
Wall Street Journal Piece on Little Syria (Jennifer Weiss)
March 26, 2013
This morning the Wall Street Journal has a wonderful print and video piece about our campaign to protect the remaining complex of three historic buildings on Washington Street in Little Syria. This is indeed an urgent situation, and we would ask that people contact the Landmarks Preservation Commission (Chairman Robert Tierney) and Mayor Bloomberg, asking [...]
Salaam Club in New York Hosts Holiday Hafleh To Benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
December 14, 2012
On Saturday, December 8, our friends at the Salaam Club of New York City hosted a holiday hafleh (the Arabic equivalent of “party”) to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the internationally-known pediatric treatment and research facility in Memphis, Tennessee. Some people may not realize that the hospital was founded by popular Lebanese-American entertainer Danny [...]
Walking Tour of Washington Street on November 10 (With Joe Svehlak and Esther Regelson)
November 6, 2012
During Hurricane Sandy, lower Washington Street was flooded to near waist-high levels. Power is still trickling back, and the basements of most buildings were flooded, leaving some damage. However, a few of the neighborhood’s great advocates — local historian Joe Svehlak and community activist Esther Regelson — are still going forward with a walking tour [...]