Jimmy Corcoran

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For other people named James Corcoran, see James Corcoran (disambiguation).
Jimmy Corcoran
Born James J. Corcoran
1819
Balbriggan, Ireland
Died November 13, 1900(1900-11-13) (aged 81)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Cause of death
Natural causes
Nationality Irish-American
Other names Paddy Corcoran
Occupation Truckman and businessman
Known for Founder of the New York Irish enclave of "Corcoran's Roost" and Kip's Bay.
Religion Catholic
Spouse(s) Kathleen Corcoran
Children Thomas Corcoran
Michael Corcoran
William Corcoran
Annie Corcoran

James J. "Jimmy" Corcoran (1819 – November 13, 1900) was an Irish-born American laborer and well-known personality among the Irish-American community of the historic "Corcoran's Roost" and the Kip's Bay districts, roughly the area near 40th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan, and was widely regarded as the champion of working class Irish immigants between 1850 and 1880.

He is alleged to have been somewhat of an underworld figure, under the alias Paddy Corcoran, founding the Rag Gang which operated with his sons on the Manhattan waterfront during the late 19th century [1][2][3] and presumably carried on by his son Tommy Corcoran for a decade after his death.[4]

Biography[edit]

Corcoran was born in Balbriggen, Ireland, near Dublin, and immigrated to the United States when he was 25. He worked as a laborer in New Orleans for a time and also lived in Cold-Spring-on-the-Hudson before settling in New York City prior to the American Civil War. He found work as a truckman and, experiencing some prejudice, Corcoran made a home in a squatter colony in Dutch Hill. The colony was constructed on an earth mound near 40th Street and the First Avenue and was considered a high-crime poverty-stricken area of the city.

Corcoran was the first to organize neighboring squatters, particularly the Ward, Henry, Nugent, Cullen and Killian families, to build a permanent shanty community. By the 1860s, he had become acknowledged as head of the colony. During its early years, residents feuded with neighboring squatters on Clara's Hill, founded by immigrants who had lived in the same region in Mountmillick, Ireland. Frequent fighting led to altercations with police, whom the squatters often turn against to the amusement of onlookers, and Corcoran would often put up bail for offenders and was reputed to have "a caustic tongue and a ready wit" when he arrived at the local station house.[citation needed]

He and his family eventually left the colony and moved to a nearby brick house on East Fortieth Street but remained involved in its affairs for another twenty years. In May 1899, he offered the deed to Corcoran's Roost as security to release Robert Dougherty on bail from Yorkville Court.[5] His wife, Kathleen, mother to his 10 children, died in August, 1899. After his wife's death, Corcoran lived for another year before he died at his home "shrived and regretted" on November 13, 1900. He was survived by three sons and a daughter. He had been successful in business during his later years, with an estate worth $25,000 and owning several roadhouses, which he left to his four children upon his death.[6]

The earth from Dutch Hill was later partly used to construct present-day Cob Dock at the New York Navy Yard and its site became a tenement district.[6] Tudor City was built on the site of Corcoran's Roost during the late 1920s and a Gothic inscription was later engraved above the entrance of the central Tudor Tower in his memory.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Federal Writers' Project. New York City: Vol 1, New York City Guide. Vol. I. American Guide Series. New York: Random House, 1939.
  2. ^ Rachlis, Eugene and John E. Marqusee. The Landlords. New York: Random House, 1963. (pg. 163)
  3. ^ Wolfe, Gerard R. New York, 15 Walking Tours: An Architectural Guide to the Metropolis. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003. (pg. 355) ISBN 0-07-141185-2
  4. ^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. (pg. 335) ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  5. ^ "James Corcoran In Court; Ruler of Corcoran's Roost Goes Bail for a Man After His Own Heart". New York Times. 02 May 1899
  6. ^ a b James J. Corcoran Dead.; Ex-Chief of Irish Squatter Colony on Old Dutch Hill Passes Away in His Eighty-second Year". New York Times. 14 November 1900
  7. ^ Nash, Eric Peter. Manhattan Skyscrapers. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999. (pg. 43) ISBN 1-56898-181-3