NYC’s first gentrification movement was all about pigs

“The Great Piggery War” paved the way for Midtown development

New York /
Feb.February 01, 2015 12:00 PM
 

Many New Yorkers fear that the forces of global capital and luxury development are sucking the character from their beloved city. But then again, so did the pig farmers of the 1850s.

In the mid-19th century, a large portion of Midtown in the ’50s between Sixth and Seventh avenues was known by locals as “Hogtown,” “Pigtown” or “Stinktown,” due to its numerous pig farms, according to the New York Post.

The proprietors boiled down food waste they found through the city, then sold some to candle makers, toothbrush manufacturers and sugar refiners, and fed what was left to their pigs.

But as real estate values grew as New Yorkers moved up Manhattan, pig men began to feel the squeeze. A local councilman even criticized those who wanted pig farms removed for being aristocrats with “refined noses.”

Another councilman argued that the neighborhood “was improving rapidly, and the people there wished to make it a pleasant residence for those doing business down town.”

The “Piggery War” of 1859 began when a new city inspector sent troops of inspectors and police officers to each piggery, confronting the owners and their guard dogs.

They ordered residents to remove or sell their hogs, otherwise they had them taken away.

It makes today’s version of gentrification look quaint in comparision. [NYP]-Christopher Cameron


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