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  • Susan Stoderl

Prequel to Mission 1: All in a Day's Work | Middle-Grade New York City History

[[File:Historic American Buildings Survey, Photocopy, c. 1880, Courtesy of New-York Historical Society, VIEW NORTH ALONG SIXTH AVENUE. - Third Judicial District Courthouse, 425 Avenue of HABS NY,31-NEYO,65-8.jpg|Historic_American_Buildings_Survey,_Photocopy,_c._1880,_Courtesy_of_New-York_Historical_Society,_VIEW_NORTH_ALONG_SIXTH_AVENUE._-_Third_Judicial_District_Courthouse,_425_Avenue_of_HABS_NY,31-NEYO,65-8]]

Photo from 2014

Jefferson Market Library was originally built as the Third Judicial District Courthouse from 1874 to 1877 and was designed by architect Frederick Clarke Withers of the firm of Vaux and Withers. In the typical New York City developer’s lack of regard for historical architecture, it was faced with demolition in 1958. Community leaders of the Greenwich Village community were able to negotiate with the New York Public Library to make use of the building as a library branch.

Formerly the land and structure on it were known as Jefferson Market. The block originally housed a dingy police court in the Assembly Rooms over a saloon, a volunteer firehouse, a jail, and an octagonal wooden fire lookout tower constructed in 1833. The watchman was perched 100 feet above the ground and would ring the bell to call out volunteer firemen. The number of rings signaled the fire’s location and the fire's severity. The wood tower and market structures were razed in 1873 to make way for a new civic complex and courthouse, which opened in 1877. The new tower was built in 1875 as part of the complex which cost the city almost $360,000.

The New York Times referred to the new building as “a jewel in a pig’s snout” because of its less-than-desirable surroundings. In contrast, a group of architects polled in 1895 deemed the building to be the fifth most beautiful in the United States.

Jefferson Market Library is an integral part of the Prequel to Mission 1: All in a Day’s Work. | Sophia Meets Pedro. The first-floor Children’s Room was once the notorious Night Court where drunks, women of the night, petty thieves, and thugs were taken by cops to be tried by corrupt magistrates and usually without representation. In this book, Sophia and Pedro become library sleuths tracking down the facts of the crimes against the shirtwaist strikers. Here is what some of Sophia's library sleuthing revealed:

“Guess how many young women strikers ended up being taken to Jefferson Market Night Court? Plenty!” said Sophia, looking at her notes. “Jefferson Market Night Court was a Police Court which tried criminal cases, a.k.a., ‘The Supreme Court of the Poor.’ After the judge sets the bail, the accused had the choice of paying the bail bondsman ten percent or going to prison. He split the money between the arresting policeman, clerk, lawyer, and judge. Over the night, the sum split was up to one thousand dollars or more. Judges turned a blind eye to the rich and connected by setting a small fine or bail. Those who couldn’t pay bail went to the Workhouse.”

The shirtwaist strikers were processed through Night Court in order to imply that immigrant women and girls did not live up to the standard of being a "lady," but instead ranked with the lowest of female criminals.


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