Middle Alley was not quite as infamous in 1821 as it was in the following 80 years. It was known during the Moore’s family residence as a place of dilapidated tenements inhabited for the most part by the Black working poor. But quickly the alley would become the local center for Black prostitution (“The Cage of Black Angels”), gambling and the illegal speakeasy. Middle Alley went on to earn its place on the notorious list of such places as St. Mary’s, Baker, Hurst and Alaska Streets.
I have not been able to locate any census or directory information on the Moores, however, their neighbors were dressmakers, coachmen, porters, trunk makers, and chimney sweeps. Yellow Fever or Typhus had ravaged the city in 1820 and it looked like 1821 was also going to be deadly.
A young physician who treated the victims of the disease in Middle Alley documented the march of the disease as he treated cases in the Dispensary and the infirmary at the Alms House. He accidently documents the cause of the disease without knowing it. He is appalled by the conditions of the streets in this section of town. The dirt, unpaved, streets have no gutters so rain and wastewater settle in pools and puddles in the roads. The paved streets are little better because garbage and animal waste block the gutters and the water runs into basements. These cellars become fetid pools (“foul pig-stye”) and consequently a perfect laboratory for breeding the female mosquitoes carrying the Yellow Fever virus. For this physician’s account of the Middle Alley epidemic please go to Google Books and enter the search term “An account of an Epidemic Fever, which prevailed among the Negroes of Philadelphia, in the year 1821.”