A bill was introduced in the Legislature to wipe Mulberry Bend out bodily, and in 1888, after four years of pulling and hauling we had spunked up enough to file maps for the “Mulberry Bend Park.” Blessed promise! And it was kept, if it did take a prodigious lot of effort, for right there decency had to begin or not at all.

-The Making of an American, Jacob Riis

I'm reading a book, and the bolded part is hard to understand. Does it mean "Since it took a lot of effort to make Melberry Bend Park, it was kept. If it was not to be kept, it should have not been started at first"? And what does "Blessed promise" mean in this context? Does it mean "The result is made!" or "Accomplished!"?

1 Answer 1


I read some pages of the book at Google Books and was able to understand that the author is referring to a ceaseless campaign he led, to get a disreputable slum converted into a Children's Park. I am glad to report that the project was eventually successful, as described in detail in the chapter "The Bend is Laid by the Heels." In this context,

Blessed promise!

would mean not only that it was a promise to begin a noble work, but also, writing in retrospect, that the author was "blessed" to see its eventual completion:

And it was kept, if it did take a prodigious lot of effort

Here "it was kept" refers not to the park but to the promise: it took a tremendous amount of work, but the promise was kept and the Park became a reality.

Why is this important? Because, as the author says,

right there decency had to begin or not at all.

If the promise had not been kept the Bend would have remained a haven of crime, and the "decency" -- the reclamation of the City from "indecent elements" and the creation of safe and decent public spaces -- would not have begun.

Further reading: see the Wikipedia article on Mulberry Bend. Notable extracts:

Mulberry Bend was an area in the notorious Five Points neighborhood in lower Manhattan, New York City. It is located in what is now Chinatown, Manhattan, on Mulberry Street [...] The "Bend" in the street layout was due to the original topography of the area [...] Mulberry Bend was one of the worst parts of the Five Points, with multiple back alleyways such as Bandit's Roost, Bottle Alley and Ragpickers Row. In 1897, due in part to the efforts of Danish photojournalist Jacob Riis, Mulberry Bend was demolished and turned into Mulberry Bend Park. The urban green space was designed by Calvert Vaux. In 1911 it was renamed Columbus Park [...] The present-day Columbus Park occupies The Bend.

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