Little Germany, also called Dutchtown, was a German immigrant neighborhood located in what is now the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the latter half of the 19th century. An influx of German immigrants in the 1840s and 50s led to the development of the area, which grew steadily until reaching its peak in the 1870s. As German immigrants preferred to cluster together --as opposed to the Irish immigrants, who spread across Manhattan --, Little Germany became a complete German community, with its own schools, theatres, churches, synagogues, libraries, and factories. In its heyday, the neighborhood consisted of 400 blocks covering six avenues and nearly forty streets. German Broadway (now Avenue B) was the major commercial artery –the buildings here were all set up similarly, with a workshops in the basement, stores on the ground floor, and markets along the covered sidewalks.
In June of 1904, a fire on board the General Slocum, a large paddle-wheeler boat hired by a German Lutheran church to celebrate the end of the school year, caused the deaths of over 1,000 people and rocked the community of Little Germany. The disaster, coupled with conflicting public opinion over both who was to blame for the incident and the distribution of relief fund money, hastened the end of the already declining community. That coupled with the anti-German sentiment that would arise during World War I, led to the dissipation of the once-thriving neighborhood of Little Germany.
As second generation German-Americans hastened to move to what is now the Upper East Side or across the river to Brooklyn, Russian and Eastern European Jews settled into the neighborhood, commuting Little Germany into what became known at the Jewish Lower East Side.
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