The Original "Dream Team"

Apr 29, 2009 - by Doris Lane - 0 Comments

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton Duel

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton Duel

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, the most star-crossed political foes in U.S. history, joined together in 1800 to defend a man accused – and all but convicted in the court of public opinion – of the murder of his fiancée.

 by Doris Lane

If you stood on Greene Street, off Spring Street in SoHo, looked around and imagined the past, you might be able to picture Lispenard's Meadow of 1799. Not flat, like now, but gently hilly: A rural pleasure ground for strolling New Yorkers in summer; a vast ice-skating arena when the meadows froze over in winter.

Broadway then was a narrow country lane used to herd cows north from the city to feed at the grassy salt meadow. Spring Street, today lined with art galleries and expensive shops, was a path to the Hudson River. From the corner of Broadway and Spring Street, in 1799, there would not be a cobble-stoned street in sight. If you looked through the trees you could see the white country mansion of Aaron Burr, the New York lawyer soon to be Vice President of the United States.

The Manhattan Well was located in the northeast corner of Lispenard's Meadow, a stretch of marshland between the City of New York and the Village of Greenwich, an area roughly encompassing today's SoHo and TriBeCa. It was built to hold drinking water supplied by the Manhattan Company, the great-great granddaddy of the Chase Manhattan Bank, the company founded by Burr to challenge Alexander Hamilton's Bank of New York.

Soon after it was dug in 1799, the Manhattan Well also held the dead body of Gulielma Sands. Journalists would give her name variously as Juliana Elmore Sands, or as Elmore, but most often as Elma. The 22-year-old Elma left her house on Greenwich Street to be married one dark Sunday night just three days before Christmas and never returned.

One of the men who fished her from the well reported her appearance "…was horrid enough – her hat and cap off, her hair hanging all over her head, her comb was yet hanging in her hair, tied with a white ribbon; her shawl was off; her gown was torn open with great violence, and her shoes were off."

Her murder shocked New Yorkers. Sympathy for the ingenue poured out. Her funeral was so large, the crowds so determined to participate in the mourning, that her body was laid out in the street in front of the large boarding house where she had lived and had been wooed by one of the boarders, a carpenter by the name of Levi Weeks who had earlier secretly promised to marry her the night she disappeared. To the public, the press and the prosecution, the murderer was obvious Levi Weeks. The trial, they expected, would lead to a quick conviction.

The Dream Team

 

But not so fast. Representing the accused was the formidable, albeit unlikely, duo of the populist Burr and his political nemesis, the aristocratic Alexander Hamilton.

Less than 20 years before the Sands murder, the City of New York was a British garrison town complete with trenches, forts, and barricades. Almost 2,000 buildings had burned, much of the population of 20,000 was living in tents, and the municipal government had to be built from the ground up. As for a system of American jurisprudence, it didn't exist and would be written by the lawyers of the day.

Hamilton and Burr were among 50 lawyers tilling New York's fertile legal grounds. There was plenty of legal work to go around in New York, as property ownership titles in the aftermath of the Revolution were in great flux. Hamilton, who was secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, made a great specialty of representing Tory owners whose property had been confiscated by the new American government. Burr's approach to the law was more pragmatic, even modern: "The law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained."

Burr and Hamilton had been at political odds since 1792 when Burr unseated Hamilton's father-in-law as governor of New York. The atmosphere between the two men, although rivals, was very different in early 1800 when the Weeks trial took place than it would be later that year, in November when the election of 1800 would oust Hamilton's Federalists from the national leadership, overwhelmingly due to the votes organized by Burr and the New York mechanic and artisan party.

Throughout the 1790s a drastic reordering of political groups in New York came about in response to the French Revolution. Even wealthy New Yorkers who had been Patriots were appalled at the violence in France. Even more so, when the artisan and laboring class in the city embraced the events in France and began organizing itself into a radical political force in the city, members of the city's upper class coalesced behind the British.

The Burrite Republican Party faction in New York was the Democratic-Republicans. Its membership, largely artisans, mechanics, tradesmen, and apprentices, favored the French. Hamilton's New York Federalists, large landholders, merchants and lawyers, were, in the words of its party's own President John Adams that "damned faction of British partisans." The two groups often quarreled and brawled in the streets of New York, and Hamilton and Burr had more than one public confrontation.

By the time of the Elma Sands murder, the classes in the city were sorely divided. At first glance, it might look like the accused, a carpenter, fitted in with the Democratic-Republicans. However, his brother, Ezra Weeks, was a successful builder who had allied himself with the mercantile elite and had made powerful connections. Levi was a carpenter by trade who worked closely with his brother, Ezra. The Weeks brothers' main building project at the time was Hamilton Grange, a country house on Harlem Heights in Upper Manhattan. Hamilton was having it built to rival Richmond Hill, the country home of Aaron Burr. John McCombs, architect of Hamilton Grange, and Ezra Weeks would both be key defense witnesses for Levi Weeks.

Gradually, upper class New Yorkers gathered behind Levi Weeks. Newspaper coverage of the murder, originally outraged and mournful over the death of an innocent young woman of a decent family, shifted in favor of the accused by the time of the trial in March of 1800. Ezra Weeks is known to have attempted to bribe the court clerk, William Coleman, to slant the record in favor of his brother. (In those days there were no court stenographers, just a clerk who summarized the proceedings from day to day.)

That Hamilton was on the defense team was to be expected. The surprise was that Burr, the Democratic-Republican leader, joined the defense. Biographers have puzzled over this. The only explanation offered is that it was an election year and Burr could not allow Hamilton in there without him. The Weeks trial was the celebrity trial of its day. Burr and Hamilton were the "dream team" of the year 1800.

Lispenard's Meadow had been a swamp in the 1730s beginning around Duane Street in what is now TriBeCa, going north to around Spring Street, and west to Greenwich Street. The property was granted to Anthony Rutgers, a farmer, in exchange for his draining it. Leonard Lispenard was his son-in-law and the subsequent owner. At its northeastern end at Spring Street, water flowed up from the Collect, also on Rutgers land, a spring-fed pond, which later became Foley Square, through the marshes to the Hudson River. In 1803, the Collect itself would be drained into a canal (soon Canal Street), the nearby hills leveled by 1811, and the soil used to fill in the pond. Before this, the Collect had provided drinking water, until it became polluted, at the Tea Water Pump located on today's Park Row.

The Manhattan Well never supplied much drinking water through its wooden pipelines to a reservoir on Chambers. It did supply water for firefighting and light industry and eventually evolved the wooden water towers, now scenic and quaint, atop the SoHo loft buildings.

New York was a small town indeed in 1799. It couldn't even boast lighted streets on any consistent basis. Across from Bowling Green, Government House, soon to be renamed the U.S. Customs House, had cows grazing its front lawn. The stock exchange was conducted at the Tontine Coffee House. In the streets, pigs ran freely around the legs of pedestrians. The big news story of the year, aside from the Elma Sands murder on December 22, was the national mourning over George Washington's death on December 14.

The Manhattan Well was one of several wells of the Manhattan Company's around the city. About a mile away was another located at the southwest end of Lispenard's Meadow. This was a popular spot in the meadow for picnics beneath spreading chestnut trees. This section of Lispenard's Meadow would soon become St. John's Park, a fashionable residential district until around 1850. It was covered by railroad yards in the 1860s by Cornelius Vanderbilt. Today it is part of the paved access area to the Holland Tunnel below Canal Street, with only Ericsson Place and St. John's Place to show for its past grandeur.

In Elma Sands' day, it was still part of Lispenard's Meadow. Elma lived a short couple of blocks southwest, at Franklin and Greenwich Streets, with her cousin, Catherine Ring. Catherine was a milliner and ran a respectable boarding house. Her millinery business employed 20 young women, including Elma. The Ring house was five minutes by sleigh straight up Greenwich Street and east on the path that became Spring Street, to the Manhattan Well.

The Murdered Ingenue

 

Elma had been living with the Rings for three years, along with Catherine's sister, Hope Sands. The Rings also had four children of their own living in the house and five boarders. There was one lodger; (a boarder ate in and a lodger did not). One of the boarders was a woman named Margaret Clark, and the rest were men, including Levi Weeks, who shared a room with his young apprentice, William Anderson.

While there were low boarding houses in bad neighborhoods in the city, the house Elma Sands and Levi Weeks lived in was not one of them. To live in a boarding house was no indication of social or economic class, but of New York's perennial housing shortage. The population of the city had doubled in 10 years from 30,000 to 60,000. More than a thousand buildings had burned to the ground during the British occupation. Almost everyone who arrived in the city lodged in a boarding house before they were lucky enough to find permanent housing. The Ring house was in a solid middle class district populated largely by Quaker families like the Rings.

In 1799, New York had little in the way of strictly commercial districts. Businesses were commonly run out of the home, generally on the street floor, with the residence upstairs. On one side of the Ring house was a tobacco store and on the other side a prosperous home furnishings store, both of whose proprietors lived upstairs over the shop. A long-handled public water pump stood at the curb at the corner outside the house.

The front door of the Ring house was the common Dutch door of early New York, opening and closing in two sections, one at the top and one at the bottom. Leaving the top open allowed for ventilation, leaving the bottom closed kept out pigs and chickens. Another typical use for the open top of the Dutch door was to rest against it, or "lean over it," and pass the time of day with neighbors.

There was little in the way of public entertainment in 1799 New York. Visiting was the main pastime and the streets were busy with callers who stopped for 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there in various houses on their social rounds. In particular, this being the holiday season, people came and went rather continuously in the dark streets.

The Night of the Murder

 

Sunday night, Dec. 22, 1799, was a dark and cold night.

Nobody who was looking could tell for sure in the dark that Elma and Levi, who had stepped out the Greenwich Street doorway together, had both boarded the waiting sleigh. He said, no, they had argued before boarding the sleigh; he had gone off and left her standing in front of her house. But the outraged citizens of New York said, yes, Levi Weeks killed her. He had seduced her, promised marriage to win her, and then brutally murdered her to get out of his promise. He had taken her in a one-horse sleigh to her death in Lispenard's Meadow. Witnesses swore there were two men and a woman in the sleigh.

Catherine was sitting in her parlor off the downstairs hallway with her husband, Elias, who had just returned from the Quaker meeting, and two boarders. Elma was upstairs getting ready for Levi to come for her at 8 p.m. Although it was supposed to be a sworn secret between Elma and Levi, Elma had not been able to keep in the news of her secret betrothal. Earlier in the week, she had told both of her cousins that she was to be married Sunday night.

That night, Catherine had her doubts that Levi was coming for Elma. She nervously kept going to the street door to look out. After a while, Elma was doing the same. But Catherine was concerned for Elma, who had been ill, going out into the cold night. She told her to go to a neighbor's house to borrow a muff for her hands. Elma said the reason they were going so late was that Levi wanted to go by sleigh when the streets would be iced over. Elma came back and sat with Catherine, Elias, and two of the boarders until Levi came in just before 8 p.m.

Catherine reported she then went to the front door and "leaned over it." The two boarders came out of the parlor and went upstairs to bed. The clock, she said, was striking eight. The two boarders testified that one of them had checked his watch, which read 8:10, when they climbed the stairs. (Timepieces of the day only approximated the hour; the times stated throughout the trial may vary by 10 or 20 minutes.)

Catherine shut the door and went back into the parlor, remarking to Levi and Elma, "The clock has just struck eight." She said Levi's eyes fixed on Elma as if in signal and the girl stood up and went upstairs. After a minute, Catherine took a candle and followed. She found Elma ready to leave with her hat and shawl on and the borrowed muff in her hand.

Catherine returned to the parlor where Levi was sitting with Elias Ring. As she set the candle on the mantle, Levi took his hat and left the room, stepping into the hall. She heard Elma come down the stairs and heard whispering from the hall. She heard them leave through the front door and heard the latch fall. She ran to open the Dutch door to see which way they went, but the night was too dark. Feeling unsettled and a little worried, Catherine went upstairs to assure herself that Elma had left the house with Levi.

The Courtship

 

Levi Weeks had first flirted with the boarder, Margaret Clark, until the fever season, which emptied the house of women, except for Elma. Once Elma was left in charge of the boarding house, Levi promptly switched his attentions her way. When Catherine returned home after a six-week visit to the Sands' family home in Cornwall, N.Y., it was obvious to everyone that Levi was courting Elma.

Catherine would later testify at Weeks' trial that she "paid strict attention to their conduct, and saw an appearance of mutual attachment, but nothing improper, and always discovered sufficient in their countenance to convince me what was in agitation between them."

Isaac Hatfield, a boarder, would testify, "I observed a great intimacy between the prisoner and the deceased, such as to induce me to suppose he was paying his addresses to her with a view to marry."

The lodger, Richard Crouch, described what he called, "a warm courtship going on." He expounded, "I have known the prisoner at the bar to be with the deceased Elma Sands in private, frequently and in all times of night," adding, "I saw the prisoner at the bar come out of her room, and pass the door in his shirt only, to his own room."

Not uncommonly for the day, Levi Weeks slept in the same bed as his apprentice, William Anderson. The boy testified that one day his master had told him not to think it strange that he spends so much time with Elma. "It is not for courtship or dishonor," Levi assured the boy, "but for conversation." William pretended to be asleep one night when Levi, undressed and holding a candle, checked to make sure the boy was sleeping. William said Levi went out dressed only in his shirt and did not return before morning.

To the modern ear, all of this may sound strange, but courting couples were given extraordinary privacy in the home in pre-Victorian America. In the society in which Elma and Levi lived, in the post-Revolution 18th century, sex before marriage was not condemned, but almost an ordinary ritual of courtship. Not uncommonly, marriage came about as a response to pregnancy, at which time the woman left her family home for her husband's family home.

It was a world in which everybody, children included, labored for the good of the entire family. Only the start of a new family unit was reason enough to withdraw that labor from the blood family and transfer it to the family in law. The problem, and the shame, came about if a marriage did not take place after pregnancy or after prolonged intimacy. Only then was the woman considered "ruined," and the man held in disrepute for having not fulfilled his half of the bargain.

All observers to the developing relationship between Levi and Elma would have expected marriage as the eventual outcome. Elma expected to be wed on the night of her death, for certain. An autopsy showed she was not pregnant, however. Elma was known as a girl of good character before her death, and despite a smear campaign by the defense team, she was still held blameless after her death.

The Trial

 

Public opinion agreed overwhelmingly with the prosecution's charge to the jury:

"The deceased was a young girl, who till her fatal acquaintance with the prisoner, was virtuous and modest, and it will be material for you to remark, always of a cheerful disposition, and lively manners, though of a delicate constitution. We expect to prove to you that virtue fell a sacrifice to his assiduity; that after a long period of criminal intercourse between them, he deluded her from the house of her protector under a pretence of marrying her, and carried her away to a Well in the suburbs of this city, and there he murdered her."

Levi, likewise, was known as a young man of good character. The prosecutor, assistant attorney-general of New York State and future mayor of New York City, Cadwallader David Colden, said as much to the jury, noting Levi's "amiable and engaging manners." Elma's family and neighbors spoke well of him in court. Catherine Ring said of his moral conduct, "I never saw anything amiss in it. I should call it very good."

Susanna Broad, who lived opposite Ezra Week's lumberyard, testified at trial, "On the night the deceased was lost, I heard the gate open and a carriage or sleigh come out. It made a rumbling noise, but had no bells on it, and it was not gone long when it returned again." She knew it was before 8 o'clock because her son and daughter had not returned yet from meeting, which ended at that time. "They were abed" when the sleigh returned. The yard was behind Ezra Weeks' house on Greenwich Street and nearby the Ring boarding house.

Catherine Lyon was at the Greenwich Street water pump at the corner of the Ring's house. She had come upon a lame woman who had fallen in the street and was trying to help her. As Elma walked by, Elma asked after the woman, Lyon testified, but a man called, "Let's go." Lyon said the street was very crowded with men and she couldn't be sure whom Elma was with at the time. A half-hour later, in the upper reaches of Greenwich Street, Lyon heard a woman's cry from Lispenard's Meadow, "Murder, murder! Oh, save me!"

In addition to holiday callers, many people in the streets that Sunday night were returning from church meetings. Margaret Freeman was walking in the middle of the road on upper Greenwich Street with her children. They had to step out of the way of a one-horse sleigh that came by carrying a woman and two men. When she got home a minute later, she looked at the clock, which was a little slow. It read 8:15.

Other than Burr's mansion, there were only a few modest houses in the vicinity of the Manhattan Well. Lawrence and Arnetta Van Norden lived in one of them, "about half-way from Broadway to the Well." Between eight and nine o'clock they heard a woman cry from the direction of the well, "Oh, Lord have mercy upon me! What shall I do? Help me!" The couple looked out the window and saw a man moving about the well. And then they went back to bed.

Henry Orr had been visiting in the area when he passed nearby the Well and thought he heard a woman in distress. He said it was a few minutes to nine, when he left the house he was visiting, and could place the cry at six or seven minutes after nine.

Buthrong Anderson, Joseph Stringham, and Joseph Cornwell were returning from a christening that night down the middle-road (Broadway), when a one-horse sleigh carrying two people and without bells in the harness, galloped past them at full speed coming away from the direction of the Well. These witnesses thought the time was around 8:30. In response to a question from the prosecution, Anderson said he had seen Ezra Weeks, Levi's brother, driving a similar horse.

In preparation for the trial, both the prosecution and the defense had men test how long it would take a one-horse sleigh to travel on ice from the Ring house to the Manhattan Well, along the Greenwich Street route and then return to Ezra Weeks' by way of Broadway. The round trip took 15 minutes, both men agreed. Sylvester Buskirk had stabled Ezra Weeks' horse and he testified the horse was capable of a five-minute mile. The distance up Greenwich Street was about a mile and another quarter mile or so across to the well; the distance down Broadway and across Barley Street about the same.

At 10 p.m. Levi arrived at the Ring house to unlock the bedroom door for his apprentice. Catherine Ring testified that Levi was pale and shaken. After sending the young apprentice up to bed, Levi asked Catherine, "Is Elma gone to bed?" When Catherine answered no, that she was out, Levi remarked, "I'm surprised she should go out so late and alone." Before she could question him, Catherine went to settle her baby for the night, and in the meantime, Levi went upstairs to bed.

Still thinking she should not reveal what she knew about the secret wedding, Catherine decided Elma had gone to return the borrowed muff. She waited up until midnight and then searched the house, thinking Levi had let Elma in earlier when Catherine had been upstairs. The next day Hope Sands confronted Levi, "Where is Elma? I know thee knows, tell me ingenuously, for Caty is very uneasy, and Elma told her she was going with thee, and she is sure she did." Levi insisted he never saw Elma after she went upstairs at 8 the night before. He denied they were to be married, saying he would never marry without his brother's approval.

That same Monday morning, William Lewis and his wife were sleighing to town when they noticed the track of a one-horse sleigh driven so near the wall at the Manhattan Well, they observed it was a wonder it had not turned over. Lewis had been that way on Sunday morning and observed no such track. On the Monday, he mentioned, there was a board removed from the top of the well that had been closed on Sunday.

On Christmas Eve day, Tuesday, some boys playing in the meadow saw Elma's borrowed muff floating on the water in the Manhattan Well. William Blanck, 13, fished the muff from the well and brought it home to his father. Andrew Blanck went the next day and looked in the well, but could see nothing in the murky water. He discovered the one-horse sleigh track and saw footprints in the frozen snow, a large, flat print with a heel to it. Catherine later testified her cousin's shoes had no heel.

When Elma had been missing a week, Levi approached Hope Sands with a document he wanted her to file with the Alderman. She testified, "The purport of the paper was, that he paid no more particular attention to Elma than to any other female in the house – that nothing had passed between them like courtship, or looking like marriage." Hope said the following day she told him, "Levi, if I was to do it, thee know it would be positive lies." He then asked her to go with his brother to make a statement to the police and she refused. This was a Sunday and on the same day, Elias Ring had the Hudson River dragged at Rhinelander's Docks, nearby Ezra Weeks' house.

In the course of searching for the missing Elma on Jan. 2, Elias Ring went to the Blanck house to borrow hooks and poles to sound the well. Blanck and two male guests accompanied Ring and his neighbor, Mr. Watkins, and found Elma. "Her hat was off," one of the men visiting Blanck, testified, "her gown torn open just above the waist, her shawl was off and her handkerchief and shoes was gone; her hair hung over her head." Asked if he could have bruised her face in hauling the body out of the well, James Lent said, "Not at all – the pole did not touch her head; I was particularly tender with it…. She looked as she was asleep, seemingly – I never saw her alive."

James Lent had gone to Blanck's house in Lispenard Meadow on a matter of business from the city proper. The Manhattan Well had only just been dug a short time before and he had not heard of it. When he accompanied the police to find Levi Weeks, Lent said he felt sorry for the young man's situation and told him so. Levi dropped his head and asked, "Is it the Manhattan Well she was found in?"

At trial, Matthew Mustee testified, "On the Sunday before the young woman was missing, I saw a young man sounding the Manhattan Well with a pole. I went up to him and asked him what he was about. He said he made the carpenter's work, and that he wanted to know the depth of the water." Mustee was asked in court to view the accused with a candle (the trial was conducted into the night), but he could not positively identify Levi Weeks as the young man he saw in daylight at the well.

The Alibi

 

The architect John McComb testified on Levi's behalf, saying that before 7 p.m. on Dec. 22, he and his wife visited the home of Ezra Weeks. McComb claimed that Levi was present and left his brother's house around 8. Ezra Weeks said his brother had been at his house and left for 15 minutes around 8. Ezra's wife deposed that immediately after her husband had seen the McCombs to the door and had lighted their way to the street at about 8:20 p.m., his brother Levi came in, ate supper with them, and stayed until around 10 p.m.

However, the next social call made by the McCombs was to Henry Clement a few minutes walk away. On arrival, Clement testified at trial, McComb commented on the late hour for visiting, which was 9 p.m. If Levi arrived at his brother's house just after the McCombs left, this meant he was not there shortly before 9, and certainly not at 8:20 when both his brother and sister-in-law swore he was.

Despite the strong case of circumstantial evidence against Levi, Cadwallader David Colden proved no match for Burr and Hamilton. The defense managed to imply first that Elma, although universally known as a modest and virtuous girl, was promiscuous; and second, that she was suicidal, and had, most likely, flung herself into the Manhattan Well. Evidence of Elma having previously confided in her cousins, Catherine and Hope, that she and Levi were engaged to be married, was suppressed by the presiding judge, Chief Judge John Lansing. Burr argued for the defense that such hearsay evidence of a deceased person was admissible only in "cases in extremis, after the fatal blow had been struck." And the court agreed.

The Acquittal

 

After the defense rested its case, Judge Lansing essentially instructed the jury to acquit Weeks. By today's standards, it was an extraordinary instruction by a judge to a jury.

The court was of the opinion, Lansing told the jury, that it was doubtful whether Elma and Levi Weeks left the Ring's house together. There was no reason to believe that Levi took his brother's sleigh out of the lumberyard shortly before calling for Elma. The accused had accounted for his time, except for a few minutes, almost the entire evening. The prisoner's mild disposition made it difficult to believe anything would make him a killer. It was doubtful that the corpse had been exposed to any violence other than drowning (implying suicide). He finished up by saying the court itself was convinced that there was insufficient evidence against Levi Weeks for the jury to bring a verdict against him.

It is true there was little direct evidence against Levi Weeks, but the circumstantial evidence against him was extremely strong: he had courted Elma, he did meet with her at around 8 p.m. at the boarding house the night she disappeared, a man's footprints were found at the well, a man was seen at the well just after the scream, a sleigh did drive up to the well, several witnesses told of a one-horse sleigh carrying two men and a woman, and a sleigh was heard leaving the Weeks' lumberyard.

The public outrage over the verdict was even greater than it had been over the murder. In the public mind, the victim's reputation had been murdered anew in the court. The idea that a happy young girl on her way to be wed was now categorized as a miserable suicide seemed to strike a particularly sore nerve. This is familiar to us in our day and age, but at the time, it was innovative of the defense to blame the victim. As far as the people of New York in 1800 were concerned, she was murdered, and they knew who did it.

Epilogue

 

Levi Weeks was followed in the streets to shouts of, "Murderer!" He was soon all but run out of town. He moved for a time from one city to another, ending up in Natchez, Miss., becoming a respected citizen there and an upright family man. He was the architect of Auburn, a Greek-Revival national landmark, considered the most beautiful house in Natchez.

There is a story that Catherine Ring, on hearing the jury's verdict, pointed toward the defense team and cried, "If thee dies a natural death, I shall think there is no justice in heaven!" Of course, Hamilton died at the hand of his co-counsel in 1804. Burr lived out his life in disgrace and poverty. In 1829, Judge Lansing left his room at the City Hotel and disappeared without a trace.

Elma Sands did not rest in peace, either.

The Manhattan Company, long after potable drinking water finally reached the city through the Croton Reservoir System, had to keep on pumping, or the Chase Manhattan Bank would have lost its charter. The Manhattan Well today sits just north of Spring Street under an alley alongside a loft building on Greene Street. The wooden water towers grace the rooftops of SoHo. Not least of the watery relics, the spring still runs beneath Spring Street, emptying into the Hudson River.

And the ghostly Elma Sands, for 200 years, has been seen haunting Spring Street.

E-mail Doris Lane: Jerseycoa@yahoo.com

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