The Bowery in Manhattan

Monday, 20 June 2016 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City
Reading Time:  9 minutes

Houston Street © David Shankbone/cc-by-sa-3.0

Houston Street © David Shankbone/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Bowery is a street and neighborhood in the southern portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan. The street runs from Chatham Square at Park Row, Worth Street, and Mott Street in the south to Cooper Square at 4th Street in the north, while the neighborhood’s boundaries are roughly East 4th Street and the East Village to the north; Canal Street and Chinatown to the south; Allen Street and the Lower East Side to the east; and Little Italy to the west. A New York City Subway station named Bowery, serving the BMT Nassau Street Line (J / Z trains), is located close to the Bowery’s intersection with Delancey and Kenmare Streets. There is a tunnel under the Bowery once intended for use by proposed but never built New York City Subway services, including the Second Avenue Subway.

In the 17th century, the road branched off Broadway north of Fort Amsterdam at the tip of Manhattan to the homestead of Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General of New Netherland. The street was known as Bowery Lane prior to 1807. “Bowery” is an anglicization of the Dutch bouwerij, derived from an antiquated Dutch word for “farm”, as in the 17th century the area contained many large farms. As the population of New York City continued to grow, its northern boundary continue to move, and by the early 1800s the Bowery was no longer a farming area outside the city. The street gained in respectability and elegance, becoming a broad boulevard, as well-heeled and famous people moved their residences there, including Peter Cooper, the industrialist and philanthropist. The Bowery began to rival Fifth Avenue as an address. When Lafayette Street was opened parallel to the Bowery in the 1820s, the Bowery Theatre was founded by rich families on the site of the Bull’s Head Tavern, which had been purchased by John Jacob Astor; it opened in 1826 and was the largest auditorium in North America at the time. Across the way the Bowery Amphitheatre was erected in 1833, specializing in the more populist entertainments of equestrian shows and circuses. From stylish beginnings, the tone of Bowery Theatre’s offerings matched the slide in the social scale of the Bowery itself.

By the time of the Civil War, the mansions and shops had given way to low-brow concert halls, brothels, German beer gardens, pawn shops, and flophouses, like the one at No.15 where the composer Stephen Foster lived in 1864. Theodore Dreiser closed his tragedy Sister Carrie, set in the 1890s, with the suicide of one of the main characters in a Bowery flophouse. The Bowery, which marked the eastern border of the slum of “Five Points“, had also become the turf of one of America’s earliest street gangs, the nativist Bowery Boys. In the spirit of social reform, the first YMCA opened on the Bowery in 1873; another notable religious and social welfare institution established during this period was the Bowery Mission, which was founded in 1880 at 36 Bowery by Reverend Albert Gleason Ruliffson. The mission has relocated along the Bowery throughout its lifetime. By the 1890s, the Bowery was a center for prostitution that rivaled the Tenderloin. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was an impoverished area. From the 1940s through the 1970s, the Bowery was New York City’s “Skid Row,” notable for “Bowery Bums” (disaffiliated alcoholics and homeless persons). Aside from cheap clothing stores that catered to the derelict and down-and-out population of men, commercial activity along the Bowery became specialized in used restaurant supplies and lighting fixtures.

Bowery Poetry Club © David Shankbone/cc-by-2.5 The Bowery Savings Bank © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Bouwerie Lane Theatre © David Shankbone/cc-by-2.5 Former Germania Bank Building © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Houston Street © David Shankbone/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Bowery Hotel © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 The Bowery Mission © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Former Germania Bank Building © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0
The vagrant population of the Bowery declined after the 1970s, in part because of the city’s effort to disperse it. Since the 1990s the entire Lower East Side has been reviving. As of July 2005, gentrification is contributing to ongoing change along the Bowery. In particular, the number of high-rise condominiums is growing. In 2006, AvalonBay Communities opened its first luxury apartment complex on the Bowery, which included an upscale Whole Foods Market. Avalon Bowery Place was quickly followed with the development of Avalon Bowery Place II in 2007. The new development has not come without a social cost. Michael Dominic‘s documentary Sunshine Hotel followed the lives of residents of one of the few remaining flophouses. The Bowery from Houston to Delancey Street serves as New York’s principal market for restaurant equipment, and from Delancey to Grand for lamps. New York’s “Little Saigon“, though not officially designated, exists on the Bowery between Grand Street and Hester Street. Notable places are the Amato Opera, Bowery Savings Bank, Bowery Ballroom, Bowery Mural (an outdoor exhibition space located on the corner of Houston Street and the Bowery), Bowery Poetry Club, and The New Museum of Contemporary Art.

CBGB was a New York City music club opened in 1973 by Hilly Kristal in Manhattan’s East Village. The club was previously a biker bar and before that was a dive bar. The letters CBGB were for Country, BlueGrass, and Blues (the full name CBGB & OMFUG stood for “Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers”), Kristal’s original vision, yet CBGB soon became a famed venue of punk rock and new wave bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, and Talking Heads. From the early 1980s onward, CBGB was known for hardcore punk. One storefront beside CBGB became the “CBGB Record Canteen”, a record shop and café. In the late 1980s, “CBGB Record Canteen” was converted into an art gallery and second performance space, “CB’s 313 Gallery”. CB’s Gallery was played by music artists of milder sounds, such as acoustic rock, folk, jazz, or experimental music, such as Dadadah, Kristeen Young and Toshi Reagon, while CBGB continued to showcase mainly hardcore punk, post punk, metal, and alternative rock. On the other side, CBGB was operating a small cafe and bar in the mid-1990s, which served classic New York pizza, among other items. Around 2000, CBGB entered a protracted dispute over allegedly unpaid rent amounts until the landlord, Bowery Residents’ Committee, sued in 2005 and lost the case, but a deal to renew CBGB’s lease, expiring in 2006, failed. The club closed upon its final concert, played by Patti Smith, on October 15, 2006. CBGB Radio launched on the iheartradio platform in 2010, and CBGB music festivals began in 2012. In 2013, CBGB’s onetime building, 315 Bowery, was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of The Bowery Historic District (not a New York City Historic District).

In October 2011, a Bowery Historic District was registered with the New York State Register of Historic Places and, because of that, automatically nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A grassroots community organization named Bowery Alliance of Neighbors (BAN) in association with the community-based housing organization called the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council led the effort for creation of the historic district. The designation means that property owners will have financial incentives to restore rather than demolish old buildings on the Bowery. BAN was recognized for its preservation efforts with a Village Award from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation in 2013. The historic district runs from Chatham Square to Astor Place on both sides of the Bowery.

Read more on Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, The Bowery Ballroom, The Bowery House, The Bowery Hotel, Bowery Grand Hotel and Wikipedia Bowery (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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