2. Rat Pit Killings at 273 Water Street

273 Water Street, a brick home that was the site of a wicked South Street Seaport tale, that of the rat pit killings!

273 Water Street was originally built as a family home by the wealthy merchant and seafarer Captain Joseph Rose in 1773 when the area was considered a fashionable neighborhood. Ninety years later, it was home to Kit Burns’ Sportsman’s Hall. Down a winding passage behind the main bar at the front of the building was a second room with an amphitheater that could accommodate up to 400 people. Inside, it played host to illegal boxing matches where fighters wore no gloves.

Its most infamous events however were the rat pit killings. Wharf rats packed 50 to a cage were let loose into the area and then a weasel would be sent in. It was only when the fighting dogs were let in that the crowds would really go wild! Some of Burns’ prize dogs could kill 100 rats within a few minutes. On special occasions, Jack-the-Rat Jennings, Burns’ son-in-law, would bite the head off of a rat for a quarter. Luckily, the ASPCA helped put a stop to this wicked South Street Seaport activity. Burns was arrested for animal cruelty in 1870.