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
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
which operated with his sons on the Manhattan waterfront
during the late 19th century and presumably carried on by his son
Tommy Corcoran for a decade after his death.
was born in Balbriggen,
Ireland, near Dublin, and
immigrated to the United States when he was 25. He worked as a laborer
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.
found work as a truckman and, experiencing some predjudice
, 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 sticken
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
Frequent fighting led to alterications 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.
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. After his wife's death a month later,
Corcoran lived for another year before he died at his home
"shrived and regretted"
on November 13, 1900. 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.
original site of Dutch Hill was later partly used to construct
present-day Cob Dock at the New York Navy
Yard and became a tenement district.
was built on the site of Corcoran's Roost during
the late 1920s and a Gothic
was later engraved above the entrence of the
central Tudor Tower
in his memory.