Brace yourself, dear reader. The Tribune reporter did not paint a pretty picture of this blot on the city’s escutcheon.
DOWN IN FISH ALLEY
ONE OF THE VERY FEW BLOTS ON THE CITY’S ESCUTCHEON.
Visit to a Place Which Frequently Figures in Police Annals – The Alley Is Not What It Used to be However, and Its Prestige as a Center of Criminality Is Gradually Being Lost – Sights and Scenes in Its Dark Recesses Which the General Public Little Dream of – The Day in Police Circles.
Little that is pleasant can be said about it. Even the light of the universal festival just celebrated cannot penetrate those dingy rookeries to throw even a semblance of cheerfulness upon them. The usual pastime and even occupation of the inmates are cards and whisky, and petty crimes, and Christmas is usually celebrated by having a little more of these.
The place frequently figures in the annals of the police, and hardly ever comes to the surface in any other connection. Time was when crime of a more or less desperate nature was enacted in the place, or elsewhere by its boldest inmates, but whatever of the criminal element now found there is of the cheap, timid sort, and the people are utterly without stamina of any kind. Formerly the place swarmed with negroes, Chinese and low-down white trash, but the alley is now largely deserted. A few families are found there, but most of the population is composed of roomers, devotees of vice in various forms. The latest exploit was the enticing of a farmer into one of the upper rooms by a street siren whose alleged husband at the proper moment came rushing upon the scene. Hush money was of course demanded, and would no doubt have been paid had not Officer Conroy, on whose beat Fish alley is located, appeared to prevent the consummation of the crime. The woman was sent to the work house. Conroy has made it rather unpleasant for the criminal gentry, and more than 20 inmates have moved away since he began his duties there.
NAMED FOR EARLY TIMES.
The place has its name from the fact that in early times a fish market was located there. The original building is still standing, a low, narrow structure, in the middle of the block between Seventh and Eighth avenues south. A narrow space separates it from the next building on the right, an alley just wide enough to permit a person to walk through to the rear. Here a concatenation of half-rotten stairs, galleries and doors lead to the rooms on the right and left and to the first and upper floors. Everything is in a condition of decay, corresponding well with the unwholesome moral and mental attributes of the denizens of the place. Many of the ground floor rooms fronting on Washington avenue are used for various sorts of business, meat markets, saloons, candy stores, second hand dealers, etc., and outward appearances are not so bad. But in the rear corruption and decay have full sway. The houses run into the ground here, and what is the second or third story in the front may be the first from the rear. The place swarms with rats. Dogs bark and growl as one threads his way carefully through the labyrinths, and the wails of children, or the carousal of debauchees fret the midnight air. Formerly it would have been a dangerous undertaking to go through the rookeries alone, but the danger is not great now. The surveillance of the police over the locality is so close that criminals find it but an insecure hiding place.
In its palmy days Fish alley was a city refuge for the criminal fleeing from justice. Negroes were then swarming in the block, and the razor artist who had carved a fellow citizen uptown would flee to the rookery and, sheltered by his friends, it was a difficult task to ferret him out.
Detail of C. Wright Davison's 1884 Pocket Map of Minneapolis shows the location of Fish Alley: Block 45, just south of the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway's "Car House."
Sample Minnesota newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted weekly. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Follow the blog on Twitter. Or check out "Minnesota Mysteries," a new book based on the blog.
Email your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.
Have you read "Canoeing With the Cree," Eric Sevareid's engaging account of his 1930 canoe trip from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay? Sevareid, 17, and a 19-year-old friend paddled more than 2,200 miles that summer. A few decades earlier, another 17-year-old boy from Minneapolis and two friends set out on a canoe adventure that was nearly as ambitious.
The Minnesota State Fair has featured many unusual attractions in its 150-year history: death-defying aerial acts, colliding locomotives, freak shows, live animal births, the Minnesota Iceman and premature babies in incubators. Wait … what? The Minneapolis Morning Tribune was there:
"We're more popular than Jesus now," John Lennon told an British journalist in 1966. A year later, the Monkees' Mike Nesmith, in the Twin Cities for a show at the St. Paul Auditorium, humbly explained his band's place in the cosmic pecking order.
In a resounding rebuke, Democrats joined with Republicans Wednesday to hand Barack Obama the first veto override of his presidency, voting overwhelmingly to allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for its alleged backing of the attackers.
The lead spokeswoman for North Dakota's Health Department has resigned over acknowledged "inappropriate" comments she accidentally posted on the agency's Twitter account during Monday night's presidential debate.
The video footage posted on social media by India's self-proclaimed cow saviors was brutal. It showed four bare-chested men tied with ropes to a car, flinching as an angry group of men took turns beating them with wooden sticks, belts and iron rods. Their crime: skinning a dead cow.
Even as local hospitals open up extra bed space in case of casualties, city leaders and many of the residents here are determined to put a bright, sunny, Midwest Nice face on this week's GOP gathering.
Armed men shot and killed a South Sudanese radio journalist during clashes in the country's capital, Juba, a media organization said Wednesday, and those who knew him said he was targeted because of his ethnicity.