The intersection of Mulberry Street, Worth Street, Park Street, Baxter Street, and Little Water Street (which no longer exists) was known throughout the 19th century as a neighborhood infused with crime, gangs, and run-down tenements.
Because it was built over the Collect Pond and the nearby swampland, the area’s wood frame houses began tilting over and sinking as the landfill started to decay in the 1820s. It soon became infested with disease and mosquitoes, resulting in a mass exodus. Those few who remained fell into poverty and became victims of ruthless crimes, gangs, and slum lords. The neighborhood is said to have sustained the highest murder rate of any slum in the world.
Five Points is considered by many to be the original American melting pot, consisting primarily of newly emancipated African Americans and and Irish minority. Their coexistence in the neighborhood was the first large-scale racial integration in American history. Racial integration played a critical cultural role, having gave way to tap dancing and to a music genre that was the precursor to jazz.