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#404 Nighthawks and Automats: Edward Hopper's New York
Within the New York City of Edward Hopper's imagination, the skyscrapers have vanished, the sidewalks are mysteriously wide and all the diners and Chop Suey restaurants are sparsely populated with well-dressed lonely people.
In this art-filled episode of the Bowery Boys, Tom and Greg look at Hopper's life, influence and specific fascination with the city, inspired by the recent show Edward Hopper's New York at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Hopper, a native of the Hudson River town of Nyack, painted New York City for over half a decade. In reality, the city experienced Prohibition and the Jazz Age, two world wars and the arrival of automobiles. But not in Hopper's world.
In his most famous work Nighthawks (1942), figures from a dreamlike film appear trapped in an aquarium-shaped diner. But Hopper has captured something else in this iconic painting: fear and paranoia. No wonder he's considered a huge influence on Hollywood film noir and detective stories.
Hopper painted New York from his studio overlooking Washington Square Park, and both he and his wife Josephine Nivison Hopper would become true fixtures of the Greenwich Village scene.
PLUS: Tom visits the Edward Hopper House in Nyack, New York, to talk the artist's early life with executive director Kathleen Motes Bennewitz. And Greg finds some of the hidden puzzles in Hopper's paintings thanks to American art historian Rena Tobey.
Visit the website for more pictures and other interesting information from this episode.
Other Bowery Boys episodes related to this one:
|Feb 03, 2023|
#403 The Fulton Fish Market: History at the Seaport
In the 19th century, the Fulton Fish Market in downtown Manhattan was to seafood what the Chicago stock yards were to the meat industry, the primary place where Americans got fish for their dinner tables.
Over the decades it went from a retail market to a wholesale business, distributing fish across the country – although as you’ll hear, that was a bit tricky in the days before modern refrigeration.
Today its former home is known by a more familiar name -- the South Street Seaport, a historical district that has undergone some incredible changes in just the past half century. The fish market, once an awkward staple of this growing tourist destination, moved to the Bronx in 2005. But you can still find ghosts of the old market along these historic stone streets.
And you can still find delicious seafood at the Seaport. And the Tin Building has taken dining in the neighborhood to the next level, literally in the architectural remains of a former fish market building.
On this show, we'll be joined by professor Jonathan H. Rees, author of the new book The Fulton Fish Market: A History. By the end of our conversation today, we're confident that you'll never look at the fish section of your local grocer in the same way.
MORE SHOWS SIMILAR TO THIS ONE:
Visit our website for more stories and images from New York City History.
|Jan 20, 2023|
Rewind: A Bar Named Julius', New York's Newest Landmark
New York City has a new landmark, a little bar in the West Village named Julius', officially recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on December 6th, 2022.
Now it may not look like much from the outside, but it's here that one moment of protest (the Sip-In of 1966) set the stage for a political revolution, “a signature event in the battle for LGBTQ+ people to gather, socialize, and celebrate openly in bars, restaurants, and other public places.”
So we thought it would be a great time to revisit our 2019 show on the history of Julius' and a look at the life of gays and lesbians in the mid 20th century. But this show also features an interview -- recorded at Julius' of course -- with When Brooklyn Was Queer author Hugh Ryan who was just on our recent show on the history of Jefferson Market and the Women’s House of Detention .
PLUS there’s even a tie-in to the Worlds Fair of 1964, linking to our last episode.
Visit our website for photographs and more details -- boweryboyshistory.com
This episode features an audio interview clip from the podcast Making Gay History, as well as a musical clip of 'I Hear A Symphony' by The Supremes (Motown).
Our thanks to Andrew Berman of Village Preservation for allowing us to use audio from the 2022 historic plaque unveiling
|Jan 13, 2023|
#402 Treasures from the World's Fair
Flushing-Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens is the home of the New York Mets, the U.S. Open, the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science and many other recreational delights. But it will always be forever known as the launching pad for the future as represented in two extraordinary 20th century world's fairs.
There is so much nostalgia today for the 1939-1940 World's Fair and its stranger, more visually chaotic 1964-65 World's Fair. And that nostalgia has fueled a thriving market for collectables from these fairs -- the souvenirs and other common household items branded with the two fairs' striking visual symbols.
The Trylon and Perisphere represented the dreams of 1930s America after the Great Depression, the strange symbols of "the World of Tomorrow." A quarter century later the Unisphere depicted its theme -- "Peace Through Understanding" -- as a space-age fantasy.
Millions of souvenirs were manufactured and sold at these two fairs. And those very treasured items which survive -- in the hands of collectors, at flea markets and antique shops -- are nearly all that remain of these special, ephemeral events.
In this show, Greg is joined by design and cultural historian Kyle Supley, recorded at Brooklyn's City Reliquary where Supley's own collection of World's Fair has found a permanent home.
How do such souvenirs allow us to visit the past? And what do they say about our world today?
Kyle Supley is a historian, curator and preservationist with a focus on Mid-Century American culture, consumer products, architecture, and design.
He is the creator and host of the TV show Kyle Supley’s Out There! on Ovation’s Journy Network, a NYC tour guide for Bowery Boys Walks, and a DJ of music from the golden age of disco, at the landmarked NYC gay bar Julius’ in Greenwich Village.
|Jan 06, 2023|
Side Streets: Good Diners, Great Pizza and Mars 2112
Greg and Tom -- with some help from producer Kieran Gannon -- reflect nostalgically upon old New York City restaurants from the 1990s (Mars 2112, anyone?), wonder what it was like to eat at a chop suey restaurant, praise the strange wonders of Chez Josephine and Congee Village and reveal their favorite places to get pizza in New York City.
Here’s the first episode of Side Streets, a conversational show about life and culture in New York City, an exclusive podcast for t hose that support the Bowery boys on Patreon. We’re giving you this preview of the first episode with hopes that you’ll join on Patreon, at any level, to check out the rest. You can listen to more by signing up at Partreon.com/boweryboys.
Featured on the show:
|Dec 30, 2022|
#401 The World Before Wordle: Talking Puzzles With AJ Jacobs
Crosswords, jigsaws, mazes, rebuses, Rubik's cubes, Myst, Words With Friends -- and now Wordle? Not only have people loved puzzles for centuries, they've actually gone wild for them. Every few years, a new tantalizing puzzle comes along to captivate the nation.
But each of these little games has an extraordinary history and for this special show, we have the "the puzzler" himself to help us unravel these unique mysteries.
Joining the show today is AJ Jacobs, author of The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life, who leads Greg and Tom down a maze of fascinating origins for the world's most popular puzzles -- many with a connection to New York City.
-- Sam Loyd, the ultimate puzzle huckster
Podcasts mentioned on this show:'
PLUS: A special New York City-themed anagram game!
|Dec 21, 2022|
The Mysteries of Absinthe: Dancing With The Green Fairy
A Special Presentation: We know some of you like to celebrate the holiday spirit with actual alcoholic spirits so we thought you'd enjoy this episode of The Gilded Gentleman, the Bowery Boys spin-off podcast hosted by Carl Raymond, which lays out everything you've wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) about absinthe -- aka the green fairy.
Absinthe was one of the most popular and most mysterious drinks in the Belle Epoque and late Victorian and Edwardian worlds, fueling Paris and London's cafe society and artistic circles
Brilliant men like Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde were proponents of the 'green fairy' along with members of the upper classes as well as everyday workers. Myths sprang up that the elixir created dramatic hallucinations and even provoked ghastly crimes. It became banned throughout most of Europe and even in the United States by the early 20th century.
Join Carl and his guest Don Spiro, creator of New York's Green Fairy Society to discuss and demystify the myths and legends of this most evocative of spirits.
|Dec 16, 2022|
#400 Jacob Riis: 'The Other Half' of the Gilded Age
In 1890 the Danish-American journalist Jacob Riis turned his eye-opening reporting and lecture series into a ground-breaking book called How The Other Half Lives, a best seller which awoke Americans to the plight of the poor and laid the groundwork for the Progressive Era.
Riis exposed more than a humanitarian crisis. He laid bare the city's complacent Gilded Age divide in revolutionary ways, most notably with the use of a new tool -- documentary photography.
For our 400th episode, following our tradition of exploring the legacies of urban planners in past centennial shows (#100 Robert Moses, #200 Jane Jacobs, #300 Andrew Haswell Green), we finally look at the life of the crusading police reporter and social reformer who forced upper and middle class New Yorker to examine the living conditions within the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Riis was himself an immigrant who spent his first years in the United States drifting from place to place, living on the street, his only companion a faithful dog. Journalism quite literally saved Riis, providing him with both a stable living and a purpose, especially after he became a police reporter for the New York Tribune in 1877.
But it was his fascination with visual media -- magic lantern shows and later flash photography -- which set him apart from other crusading writers of the period like Nellie Bly (who we only wish had a camera with her!)
Jacob Riis' culminating work How The Other Half Lives made him one of America's most famous writers -- his friend Theodore Roosevelt called Riss "the model American citizen" -- but the book has an imperfect legacy today, with Riis’ broad characterizations of the people he was writing about undercutting the book's noble purposes.
PLUS: The legacy of Riis lives in a very popular Queens beach. And Robert Moses chimes in!
After listening to this show, check out these past Bowery Boys episodes with similar themes:
Stories from this website:
|Dec 09, 2022|
#399 The Changing Lower East Side: A View From Seward Park
To wrap up our 15th anniversary celebration -- and to set up our big 400th episode -- we take a fond look at one corner of New York City which taught us to love local history.
Perhaps you know this area for Seward Park, the first municipal playground in the United States, or for Straus Square, named for Nathan Straus, philanthropist and co-owner (with his brother Isidor) of Macy's Department Store. Today, trendy artists and influencers instead spend their weekends in Dimes Square, just one block (and seemingly one world) away.
In the 19th century, as Rutgers Square, this area became a small portion of a large German immigrant community called Kleindeutschland. In an inconceivable historical moment, a statue was almost raised here -- to William 'Boss' Tweed, leader of Tammany Hall.
By the late 19th century, this place was the center for American Jewish culture, and East Broadway became Yiddish publishers row, hosting newspapers and magazines from a host of perspectives. In the 20th century, thanks to a mid-century housing boom (fueled partially by the labor unions firmly rooted to this place), some also called it Cooperative Village, with hundreds of old, deteriorating tenements replaced with new high rises.
It's a neighborhood that means so much to so many -- and we hope you learn to love it all yourself, no matter what you call it.
PLUS: We're join by staff members of the Forward, celebrating its 125th year of publication. Forward archivist Chana Pollack joins us along with Ginna Green and Lynn Harris, hosts of the the newspaper column-turned-podcast version A Bintel Brief.
|Nov 24, 2022|
#398 Marilyn Monroe in New York
In late December 1954 Marilyn Monroe came to New York City wearing a disguise.
Monroe -- the biggest movie star in the world when she arrived -- came to the East Coast to reinvent herself and her career. The year 1955 would be a turning point in her life and it all played out on the streets of the city. She intended to spend most of her life here.
It was a year of discovery -- exploring the city, working on her craft and being the toast of the town.
She came to New York to become a better actress via the Actors Studio and the influence of Lee Strasberg. But she also managed to see the most glamorous corners of New York and eventually -- she fell in love.
Contemporary portrayals of her life have focused on the most salacious, most intimate details of her biography. Many tend to rob her of her personal agency. But in this show we hope to show a very different side to Monroe's life. And a deep connection with New York City that never left her.
FEATURING: Hip New York in the 1950s with Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Marlene Dietrich and many others.
PLUS: As an extra treat we’ll be joined by Alicia Malone of TCM (and Tom's co-host on “The Official Gilded Age Podcast”) and author of the 2021 book Girls on Film: Lessons from a Life of Watching Women in Movies
|Nov 11, 2022|
Rewind: Birth of the Five Boroughs
On January 1, 2023, New York City will celebrate a special moment, the 125th anniversary of the formation of Greater New York and the creation of the five boroughs — The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.
In honor of this special moment in New York City history, we are celebrating a bit early, reissuing our episode (originally #150) on the Consolidation and the formation of the boroughs, with a new introduction.
And stay tuned for new episodes of the Bowery Boys Podcast for the rest of the year!
Here’s the story of how two very big cities and a whole bunch of small towns and villages — completely different in nature, from farmland to skyscraper — became the greatest city in the world.
This is the tale of Greater New York, the forming of the five boroughs into one metropolis, a consolidation of massive civic interests which became official on January 1, 1898. But this is not a story of interested parties, united in a common goal.
In fact, Manhattan (comprising, with some areas north of the Harlem River, the city of New York) was in a bit of a battle with anti-consolidation forces, mostly in Brooklyn, who saw the merging of two biggest cities in America as the end of the noble autonomy for that former Dutch city on the western shore of Long Island. You’ll be stunned to hear how easily it could have all fallen apart!
In this podcast is the story of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island (or Richmond, if you will) and their journey to become one. And how, rather recently in fact, one of those boroughs would grow uncomfortable with the arrangement.
Other Bowery Boys podcasts to listen to with similar themes:
|Oct 28, 2022|
#397 Ghost Stories of the Hudson River
Beware! The ghosts and goblins of the Hudson River Valley have been awakened.
In this year's annual celebration of New York urban legends and folktales, Tom and Greg journey up the Hudson River to explore the region's spookiest stories.
Tales of mystery and the supernatural have possessed the villages and towns of the Hudson River Valley since ancient times, when native tribes whispered of strange places and islands one simply didn't visit.
When Dutch settlers arrived in the 17th century, they brought their own mythology, populating the dark mountains with evil, mischievous creatures. These stories have carried over into modern times and continue to fascinate (and terrify) the residents of this beautiful area of New York State.
The Bowery Boys put on their most menacing and spooky voices to tell several stories of the region including:
-- A ghost-filled mansion in Nyack, New York that holds a unique place among all American supernatural sites. The house is legally haunted.
-- The unsettling tale behind those mysterious ruins known as Bannerman Castle
-- A ghastly death in the Colonial-era Catskills leads to a disturbing life sentence and the appearance of several hellish creatures
-- The secrets of Kingston's Old Dutch Church and an entity which may trapped beneath its holy steeple
PLUS: Who is the Heer of Dunderberg? And why should you run shrieking in fright if you happen to see him on a cold, stormy evening?
Check out the entire collection of Bowery Boys ghost story podcasts here.
|Oct 14, 2022|
Rewind: An Evening at Sardi's
In honor of an exciting new theater season, we're revisiting our 2011 episode on the history of Sardi's restaurant, updated to cover the trials and triumphs of the past decade.
The famous faces on the walls of Sardi's Restaurant represent the entertainment elite of the 20th Century, and all of them made this place on West 44th Street their unofficial home. Known for its caricatures and its Broadway opening-night traditions, Sardi's fed the stars of the golden age and became a hotspot for producers, directors and writers -- and, of course, those struggling to get their attention.
When Vincent Sardi opened his first restaurant in 1921, Prohibition had begun, and the midtown Broadway tradition was barely a couple decades old. By the time the current place threw open its doors (thanks to the Shuberts) in 1927, Broadway's stages were red hot, and Sardi found himself at the center of New York City show business world.
We have nuggets from the old days -- starring John Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing and a cast of thousands -- and the scoop on those famous (and often unflattering) framed caricatures. So sidle up to the Little Bar, order yourself a stiff drink and eavesdrop in on this tale of Broadway's longest dinner party.
Support the show at Patreon.com/BoweryBoys
|Sep 30, 2022|
#396 Samuel Tilden and the Presidential Election of 1876
You may have heard about the messy, chaotic and truly horrible presidential election of 1876 -- pitting Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B Hayes -- but did you know that New York City plays a huge role in this moment in American history?
Tilden, the governor of New York, was a political superstar, a reformer famous for taking down Boss Tweed and the corrupt machinations of Tammany Hall. From his home in Gramercy Park, the extremely wealthy governor could kept himself updated on the election by a personal telegraph line.
In a way, the presidential election came to him -- or at least to his neighborhood. The Democratic national headquarters sat only a few blocks south, while the Republican national headquarters made the Fifth Avenue Hotel (off Madison Square) its home.
All this would have made the 1876 national election somewhat unusual already -- New York City seemed to be at the center of it -- but the strange series of events spawned by a most contentious Election Day would send the entire country into pandemonium.
Not only was democracy itself on the line, but the fate of Reconstruction was also at stake. As were the rights of thousands of Black Southerners.
How did shadowy events which occurred at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in the early morning hours of November 8, 1876, change the course of American history? How did a flurry of telegrams and months of political chicanery cause an end to the country's post-Civil War ambitions?
FEATURING: A visit to Tilden's mansion on Gramercy Park, now the home of the National Arts Club!
PLUS: How was Daniel Sickles involved here?
|Sep 16, 2022|
#395 Jefferson Market and the Women's House of Detention
In the heart of Greenwich Village sits the Jefferson Market Library, a branch of the New York Public Library, and a beautiful garden which offers a relaxing respite from the busy neighborhood.
But a prison once rose from this very spot -- more than one in fact. While there was indeed a market at Jefferson Market -- dating back to the 1830s -- this space is more notoriously known for America's first night court (at the Jefferson Market Courthouse, site of today's library) and the Women's House of Detention, a facility which cast a gloom over the Village for over 40 years.
Almost immediately after the original courthouse (designed by Frederick Clarke Withers and Calvert Vaux) opened in 1877, it was quickly overburdened with people arrested in the Tenderloin district. By 1910 a women's court opened here, and by the Jazz Age, the adjacent confinement was known as "the women's jail.”
When the Women's House of Detention opened in 1931 -- sometimes referred to as the world's only Art Deco prison -- it was meant to improve the conditions for women who were held there. But the dank and inadequate containment soon became symbol of abuse and injustice.
In this special episode -- recorded live at Caveat on the Lower East Side -- Tom and Greg are joined by Hugh Ryan, author of The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison to explore the detention center's place in both New York City history and LGBT history.
How did the "House of D" figure into the Stonewall Uprising of 1969? And what were the disturbing circumstances surrounding its eventual closure?
FEATURING: Stories of Mae West, Stanford White, Alva Belmont, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Angela Davis, Andrea Dworkin and -- Tupac Shakur?
Visit our website for images of the things we spoke about in this week's show.
|Sep 02, 2022|
#394 New York Calling: A History of the Telephone
Just a few months ago, New York City removed most of the remaining phone booths from the streets, oft neglected, a nostalgic victim of our increasing use of cellphones.
For almost a century public phones have connected regular New Yorkers with the world. Who doesn’t have fond memories of using a payphone with gum on the earpiece and extremely vulgar messages written on the box? Putting in quarters!
Well this news got us thinking about how the telephone has helped change New York overall.
Ever since Alexander Graham Bell brought his first model telephone to Manhattan 145 years ago, the telephone has helped us make plans, share urgent news, and has even allowed people to move away from each other – but still feel close.
This is a national story of course, one of patents and mergers, of Bell Telephone’s monopoly over the business for over 100 years. But it's local too; the tales of sassy operators, big shiny Art Deco towers and the ever-changing New York phone number.
PLUS: We let you in on a little secret. The classic New York City phone booth is not quite gone. We'll tell you where to find one.
|Aug 19, 2022|
#393 Ric Burns and James Sanders on "New York: A Documentary Film"
In today's episode, Tom discusses the vast span of New York history with filmmakers and authors Ric Burns and James Sanders, creators of "New York: A Documentary Film".
In our episode, we discuss the 8-part documentary (which aired on PBS in installments in 1999, 2001 and 2003) and its newly updated companion book, "New York: An Illustrated History" (Knopf, 2021). We cover the guiding themes of New York's story, the greatest events and characters, and the challenges Burns and Sanders faced as they covered 9/11 and, for the final installments, COVID and other current events.
|Aug 05, 2022|
Rewind: The Story of the Yellow Taxi Cab
In honor of the 125th anniversary of the first ELECTRIC CABS hitting the streets of New York, the Bowery Boys are revisiting this episode from 2015, recounting almost 175 years of getting around New York in a private ride.
The hansom, the romantic rendition of the horse and carriage, took New Yorkers around during the Gilded Age. But unregulated conduct by — nighthawks — and the messy conditions of streets due to horses demanded a solution.
At first it seemed the electric car would save the day but the technology proved inadequate. In 1907 came the first gas-propelled automobile cabs to New York, officially — taxis — due to a French invention installed in the front seat.
By the 1930s the streets were filled with thousands of taxicabs. During the Great Depression, cab drivers fought against plunging fare and even waged a strike in Times Square. In 1937, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia debuted the medallion system as a way to keep the streets regulated.
By the 1970s many cabdrivers faced an upswing of crime that made picking up passengers even more dangerous than bad traffic. Drivers began ignoring certain fares — mainly from African-Americans — which gave rise to the neighborhood livery cab system.
Today New York taxicab fleets face a different threat — Uber and the rise of private app-based transportation services. Will the taxi industry rise to the challenge in time for the debut of their taxi of tomorrow.
|Jul 29, 2022|
Invisible Magicians: Domestic Servants in Gilded Age New York
Tom and Greg are still off celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Bowery Boys podcast, so this week we're highlighting one of the best shows produced by the Bowery Boys this year -- for The Gilded Gentleman podcast, the spin-off show hosted by Carl Raymond.
Domestic servants during the Gilded Age did more than simply maintain the mansions of the wealthy. New York City simply could not function with these 'invisible' armies of butlers, housekeepers, footmen, ladies maids, gardeners, cooks, valets and others.
The subject will be familiar to viewers of television shows like Downton Abbey, The Gilded Age and Upstairs, Downstairs. What was life like for a valet, a cook or a scullery maid in the mansions of late 19th century New York? How were houses with large staffs even managed? What were the hardships? And what were the benefits?
In this episode Carl is joined by Esther Crain, author of The Gilded Age in New York 1870-1914and the website Ephemeral New York, to look at the various roles and responsibilities of domestic staff in grand mansions and even in more modest homes.
And after you're finished with this show, subscribe to The Gilded Gentleman on your favorite podcast player to hear Carl's new episode on the mysteries of absinthe, the mysterious elixir that fueled Paris and London’s cafe society and artistic circles in the Belle Epoque and late Victorian and Edwardian worlds.
Carl is joined by Don Spiro, creator of New York’s Green Fairy Society to discuss and demystify the myths and legends of this most evocative of spirits.
|Jul 22, 2022|
#392 The Bowery Boys Podcast 15th Anniversary Special
Let's go back to 2007. Tom and Greg recorded the first episode of the podcast which would become The Bowery Boys: New York City History on June 19, 2007. The location: the Lower East Side. The method of recording: a karaoke microphone and a small white iBook.
In this special celebration of that anniversary, they set the scene with the ultimate 'situate the listener' --situating the year 2007. What were you up to that year? How has your life changed in the past 15 years? The world was very different in so many ways but in other respects, 2007 is a lot like 2022.
Then Tom and Greg launch the segment ABBA -- Ask (the) Bowery Boys Anything! Call-in questions and emails from listeners asking questions about the show's past 15 years. You may be surprised by the answers.
PLUS: What are Greg and Tom favorite episodes? Several good ones are mentioned but they (quite by accident) settle on one show in particular.
Hear all of the Bowery Boys podcasts -- in chronological order by subject -- on the website.
|Jul 08, 2022|
#391 A Walk through Little Caribbean
What wonderful surprises await the Bowery Boys in Little Caribbean? The Brooklyn enclave in Flatbush is one of the central destinations for Caribbean-American life and culture in New York City.
Since the 1960s, thousands of immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations have made this historic area of Flatbush (mostly east of Flatbush Avenue) their home. The streets are lined with restaurants and markets that bring the flavors of the islands to Brooklyn.
But the story of Caribbean immigration to New York City begins many decades before.
Tom and Greg are joined on the show today by Dr. Tyesha Maddox, assistant professor of African and African-American Studies at Fordham University, to discuss the history of Caribbean immigration into the United States (and into New York City specifically).
Then they head out into the streets of Flatbush to join Shelley Worrell, the founder of I am caribBEING who led the effort to designate an official Little Caribbean as a vibrant cultural hub. Listen in on this mini food tour of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues and discover the secrets of this bustling neighborhood.
Stops include: Peppa's Jerk Chicken (738 Flatbush Ave.), Errol's Caribbean Delights (661 Flatbush), African Record Center (1194 Nostrand Ave), Labay Market (1127 Nostrand Ave), Allan's Bakery (1109 Nostrand Ave), and Rain Eatery and Juice Bar (1166 Nostrand Ave).
This episode is brought to you by the Historic Districts Council. Funding for this episode is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Benjamin Kallos.
|Jun 28, 2022|
#390 The Story of Flatbush: Brooklyn Old and New
Over 350 years ago today's Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush was an old Dutch village, the dirt path that would one day become Flatbush Avenue, lined with wheat fields and farms.
Contrast that with today's Flatbush, a bustling urban destination diverse in both housing styles and commercial retail shops. It's also an anchor of Brooklyn’s Caribbean community -- Little Caribbean.
There have been many different Flatbushes -- rural, suburban and urban. In today's show we highlight several stories from these phases in this neighborhood's life.
If you are a Brooklynite of a certain age, the first thing that might come to mind is maybe the Brooklyn Dodgers who once played baseball in Ebbets Field here. Or maybe you know of a famous person who was born or grew up there -- Barbra Streisand, Norman Mailer or Bernie Sanders.
But the story of Flatbush reflects the many transformative changes of New York City itself. And it holds a special place in the identity of Brooklyn -- so much so that it is often considered the heart of Brooklyn.
FEATURING STORIES OF Erasmus Hall, the Kings Theater, Lefferts Historic House, the Flatbush African Burial Ground and the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.
PLUS We chat with Shelley Worrell of I Am CaribBEING about her work preserving and celebrating the neighborhood's Caribbean community.
This episode is brought to you by the Historic Districts Council. Funding for this episode is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Benjamin Kallos.
|Jun 17, 2022|
Now Playing: Cautionary Tales
Presenting "Cautionary Tales". Host Tim Harford tells tragic stories from the past, pointing out the valuable lessons in the greatest mistakes, disasters and fiascos.
|Jun 10, 2022|
#389 The Ruins of Roosevelt Island
The Renwick Ruin, resembling an ancient castle lost to time, appears along the East River as a crumbling, medieval-like apparition, something not quite believable. Sitting between two new additions on Roosevelt Island -- the campus of Cornell Tech and FDR Four Freedoms Park -- these captivating ruins, enrobed in beautiful ivy, tell the story of a dark period in New York City history.
The island between Manhattan and Queens was once known as Blackwell's Island, a former pastoral escape that transformed into the ominous 'city of asylums', the destination for the poor, the elderly and the criminal during the 19th century.
During this period, the island embodied every outdated idea about human physical and mental health, and vast political corruption ensured that the inmates and patients of the island would suffer.
In 1856 the island added a Smallpox Hospital to its notorious roster, designed by acclaimed architect James Renwick Jr (of St. Patrick's Cathedral fame) in a Gothic Revival style that captivates visitors to this day -- even if the building is in an advanced state of dilapidation.
What makes the Renwick Ruin so entrancing? How did this marvelous bit of architecture manage to survive in any form into present day?
PLUS: The grand story of the island -- from a hideous execution in 1829 to the modern delights of one of New York City's most interesting neighborhoods.
After you've listened to this show, check out these Bowery Boys podcasts with similar themes:
-- North Brother Island: New York's Forbidden Place
|Jun 03, 2022|
#388 The Hudson River School: An American Art Revolution
Two landmarks to American art history sit on either side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge over the Hudson River -- the homes of visionary artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church.
Cole and Church were leaders of the Hudson River School, a collective of 19th century American painters captivated by natural beauty and wide-open spaces. Many of these paintings, often of a massive size, depicted fantastic views of the Hudson River Valley where many of the artists lived.
In this episode, the final part of the Bowery Boys podcast mini-series Road Trip to the Hudson Valley, Greg and Tom head up to the historic towns of Catskill and Hudson to celebrate a pioneering artist and his star pupil, two men who transformed the way we look at nature and revolutionized American art. They're joined on this show by Betsy Jacks on the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Amy Hausmann and Dan Bigler of the Olana State Historic Site.
For more information on the places we visited today, head over to the websites for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Olana State Historic Site. You can also discover the natural places featured in many famous paintings by hiking the Hudson River Art Trail.
And for images of our trip to Catskill and Hudson, visit our website.
|May 20, 2022|
#387 Hyde Park: The Roosevelts on the Hudson
Hyde Park, New York, was the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States. He was born here, he lived here throughout his life, and he's buried here -- alongside his wife Eleanor Roosevelt. But it was more than just a home.
The Hyde Park presence of the Roosevelts expands outwardly from the Roosevelt ancestral mansion of Springwood, over hundreds of forested acres from former farmlands on the eastern side to the shores of the Hudson River on the west.
FDR was born here in 1882, returning through his life and throughout his storied career -- as a state senator, as a governor of New York, as a four-term president. When diagnosed with polio in 1921, Franklin rehabilitated here along the dirt roads emanating from Springwood.
FDR said of Springwood, “My heart has always been here. It always will be.”
Eleanor raised their family here, alongside FDR's protective mother Sara Delano. She would carve out her own legacy in Hyde Park at a place called Val-Kill Cottage where her political independence and social activism would flourish.
In this episode, Tom and Greg visit both Springwood and Val-Kill, along with two other historic places:
-- Top Cottage where the King and Queen of England met FDR at the dawning of the World War II (and the King enjoyed a certain staple of American cuisine)
-- And the FDR Library and Museum, America's first presidential library, where the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor lives on.
And special thanks to our patrons! Support the Bowery Boys on Patreon.com.
|May 06, 2022|
#386 On the Trail of the Old Croton Aqueduct
What 19th century American engineering landmark invites you through nature, past historic sites and into people's backyards? Where can you experience the grandeur of the Hudson Valley in (mostly) secluded peace and tranquility -- while learning something about Old New York?
Welcome to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, 26.5 miles of dusty pathway through some of the most interesting and beautiful towns and villages in Westchester County.
But this is more than a linear park. The trail runs atop -- and sometimes alongside -- the original Croton Aqueduct, a sloping water system which opened in 1842, inspired by ancient Roman technology which delivered fresh water to the growing metropolis over three dozen miles south.
At its northern end sits the New Croton Dam -- the tallest dam in the world when it was completed in 1906 -- with its breathtaking, cascading spillway (a little Niagara Falls) and its classic steel arch bridge, providing visitors with a view into a still-active source of drinking water.
In the first part of this Road Trip to the Hudson Valley mini-series adventure, Greg and Tom not only trace the history of this colossal engineering project, they literally follow the aqueduct through the village of Westchester County (with some help from Tom Tarnowsky from Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct).
WITH Nineteenth century ruins! Ancient bridges and weirs! Steep hikes and historic houses!
PLUS: How did this elaborate mechanism help revolutionize modern plumbing? And find out how portions of this 180 year old system are still used today to distribute fresh water.
For many historic images and photographs from out adventure, visit our website.
And for further listening about the Hudson River and Westchester County, check out these earlier Bowery Boys podcasts:
|Apr 22, 2022|
Now Playing: History Daily Podcast
We wanted to present to you one of our favorite new podcasts of the year -- and one we think you'll love. It's called History Daily. And yes, it really is history, daily!
Every weekday host Lindsay Graham (American Scandal, American History Tellers) takes you back in time to explore a momentous event that happened ‘on this day’ in history. Whether it’s to remember the tragedy of December 7th, 1941, the day “that will live in infamy,” or to celebrate that 20th day in July, 1969, when mankind reached the moon, History Daily is there to tell you the true stories of the people and events that shaped our world—one day at a time.
Enjoy these two sample episodes of History Daily -- the first on the formation of Barnum & Bailey's Circus, and the second on the opening of the Eiffel Tower. We love Graham's podcasts and we hope you enjoy them too. And remember to subscribe to History Daily on your favorite podcast player.
|Apr 15, 2022|
#385 Frederick Law Olmsted and the Plan for Central Park
Frederick Law Olmsted, America's preeminent landscape architect of the 19th century, designed dozens of parks, parkways and college campuses across the country. With Calvert Vaux, he created two of New York City's greatest parks -- Central Park and Prospect Park.
Yet before Central Park, he had never worked on any significant landscape project and he wasn't formally trained in any kind of architecture.
In fact, Fred was a bit of a wandering soul, drifting from one occupation to the next, looking for fulfillment in farming, traveling and writing.
This is the remarkable story of how Olmsted found his true calling.
The Central Park proposal drafted by Olmsted and Vaux -- called the Greensward Plan -- drew from personal experiences, ideas of social reform and the romance of natural beauty (molded and manipulated, of course, by human imagination).
But for Olmsted, it was also created in the gloom of personal sadness. And for Vaux, in the reverence of a mentor who died much too young.
PLUS: In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Olmsted's birth, Greg is joined on the show by Adrian Benepe, former New York City parks commissioner and president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
|Apr 08, 2022|
#384 Nuyorican: The Great Puerto Rican Migration
This episode focuses on the special relationship between New York City and Puerto Rico, via the tales of pioneros, the first migrants to make the city their home and the many hundreds of thousands who came to the city during the great migration of the 1950s and 60s.
Today there are more Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent in New York City than in any other city in the nation — save for San Juan, Puerto Rico. And it has been so for decades.
By the late 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans lived in New York City, but in a metropolis of deteriorating infrastructure and financial woe, they often found themselves at the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder, in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Puerto Rican poets and artists associated with the Nuyorican Movement, activated by the needs of their communities, began looking back to their origins, asking questions.
In this special episode Greg is joined by several guests to look at the stories of Puerto Ricans from the 1890s until the early 1970s. With a focus on the origin stories of New York's great barrios -- including East Harlem, the Lower East Side and the South Bronx.
FEATURING The origin of the Puerto Rican flag and the first bodegas in New York City!
WITH Dr. Yarimar Bonilla and Carlos Vargas-Ramos of CUNY's Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CENTRO), Kat Lloyd and Pedro Garcia of the Tenement Museum and Angel Hernandez of the Huntington Free Library and Reading Room and the Webby Award winning podcast Go Bronx.
|Mar 25, 2022|
#383 The Temple on Fifth Avenue
Temple Emanu-El, home to New York's first Reform Jewish congregation and the largest synagogue in the city, sits on the spot of Mrs. Caroline Astor's former Gilded Age mansion. Out with the old, in with the new.
The synagogue shimmers with Jazz Age style from vibrant stained-glass windows to its Art Deco tiles and mosaics. When its doors opened in 1929, the congregation was making a very powerful statement. New York's Jewish community had arrived.
This story begins on the Lower East Side with the first major arrival of German immigrants in the 1830s. New Jewish congregations splintered from old ones, inspired by the Reform movement from Europe and the possibilities of life in America.
Congregation Emanu-El grew rapidly, moving from the Lower East Side to Fifth Avenue in 1868. Their beautiful new synagogue reflected the prosperity of its congregants who were nonetheless excluded from mainstream (Christian oriented, old moneyed) high society.
Why did they move to the spot of the old Astor mansion? What does the current synagogue's architecture say about its congregation? And where in the sanctuary can you find a tribute to the congregation's Lower East Side roots?
PLUS Greg visits Temple Emanu-El and chats with Mark Heutlinger, administrator of the congregation, and Warren Klein of the Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica.
Stephen Birmingham / Our Crowd
After listening to this week’s episode on Temple Emanu-El, dive back into past episodes which intersect with his story:
|Mar 11, 2022|
#382 Architect of the Gilded Age
Richard Morris Hunt was one of the most important architects in American history. His talent and vision brought respect to his profession in the mid-19th century and helped to craft the seductive style of the Gilded Age.
So why are there so few examples of his extraordinary work still standing in New York City today?
You're certainly familiar with the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and the grand entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two commissions that came late in Hunt's life.
And perhaps you've taken a tour of two luxurious mansions designed by Hunt -- The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, and Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.
But Hunt was more than just pretty palaces.
He championed the profession of the architect in a period when Americans were more likely to associate the job with construction or carpentry. Hunt brought artistry to the fore and trained the first official class of American architects from his atelier in Greenwich Village.
He promoted certain European styles of design -- collectively known as the Beaux-Arts architecture -- to growing wealthy class of Americans who wished to emulate the grand and regal lifestyles of French aristocracy.
His legacy includes prominent organizations promoting both the field of architecture and the need for effective urban design. Along the way he built hospitals, libraries, newspaper offices, artist studios, churches and even the first American apartment building.
Join us for this look at a true arbiter of American architecture.
And for more fascinating details about the Gilded Age, listen to our spin-off podcast The Gilded Gentleman, hosted by Carl Raymond.
|Feb 25, 2022|
Introducing: Love Thy Neighbor
We’re bringing you something special this week. The trailer for a new podcast produced by Pineapple Street Studios called Love Thy Neighbor.
|Feb 21, 2022|
#381 The Wonderful Home of Louis Armstrong
New York City has an impressive collection of historic homes, but none as unique and or as joyful as the Louis Armstrong House and Museum, located in Corona, Queens.
What other historic home in the United States has a gift shop in its garage, aqua blue kitchen cabinets, bathroom speakers behind silver wallpaper, mirrored bathrooms and chandeliers over the bed? Elvis Presley's Graceland perhaps comes close, but the Louis Armstrong House has a charming comfort and a genuine grace and modesty to it, befitting its legendary former occupants.
Louis Armstrong is one of the most influential and most popular musicians in American history. Louis, like jazz itself, was born in New Orleans; in 1943, Armstrong moved to this house in Corona, thanks to the influence of his wife Lucille Armstrong, a former Cotton Club dancer and a fascinating personality in her own right.
In this episode Greg charts Armstrong's path to international fame -- and then his journey to becoming a New Yorker. And he pays a visit to the house itself, a magnificent treasure on a quiet street in Queens.
FEATURING audio of Louis and Lucille courtesy the Louis Armstrong House and Museum. And lots of music!
|Feb 11, 2022|
#380 Dorothy Parker's Last Party
Dorothy Parker was not only the wittiest writer of the Jazz Age, she was also obsessively morbid.
Her talents rose at a very receptive moment for such a sharp, dour outlook, after the first world war and right as the country went dry. Dorothy Parker’s greatest lines are as bracing and intoxicating as a hard spirit.
Her most successful verse often veers into somber moods, loaded with thoughts of self-destruction or wry despair. In fact, she frequently quipped about the epitaph that would some day grace her tombstone. Excuse my dust is one she suggested in Vanity Fair.
In this episode, Greg pays tribute to the great Mrs. Parker, the most famous member of the Algonquin Round Table, and reveals a side of the writer that you may not know -- a more engaged, politically thoughtful Parker.
Death did not end the story of Dorothy Parker. In fact, due to some unfortunate circumstances (chiefly relating to her frenemy Lillian Hellman), her remains would make a journey to several places before reaching their final home -- Woodlawn Cemetery.
Joining Greg on the show is author and tour guide Kevin Fitzpatrick of the Dorothy Parker Society who has now become a part of Parker's legacy.
|Jan 28, 2022|
#379 How Chelsea Became a Neighborhood
PODCAST What does the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea mean to you? Religion and architecture? Art galleries and gay bars? Shopping and brunch after a stroll on the High Line? Tens of thousands of people, of course, call it home.
But before it was a neighborhood, it was the Colonial-era estate of a British military officer who named his bucolic property after a London veterans hospital.
His descendant Clement Clarke Moore would distinguish himself as a theologian and writer; he invented many aspects of the Christmas season in one very famous poem. But he could no longer preserve his family estate when New York civic planners (and the Commissioners Plan of 1811) came a-calling.
Moore parceled the estate into private lots in the 1820s and 30s, creating both the exclusive development Chelsea Square and the grand, beautiful General Theological Seminary.
Slowly, over the decades, this charming residential district (protected as a historic district today) would be surrounded by a wide variety of urban needs -- from heavy industrial to venues of amusement. One stretch would even become "the Bowery of the West Side."
Further change arrived in the late 20th century as blocks of tenements were replaced with housing projects and emptied warehouses became discotheques and art collectives. Then came the Big Cup.
Join us as we celebrate over 200 years of urban development -- how Chelsea the estate became Chelsea the neighborhood.
Visit the Bowery Boys website for more information on Chelsea.
If you like the show please rate and review The Bowery Boys podcast on Apple Podcasts
|Jan 14, 2022|
#378 The Ansonia: Only Scandals In The Building
The strange, scandalous and sex-filled story of the Ansonia, an Upper West Side architectural gem and a legendary musical landmark.
In the television show Only Murders in the Building, Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez play podcasters attempting to solve a mystery in a building full of eccentric personalities. Their fictional apartment building is called The Arconia, a name partially inspired by The Ansonia, a former residential hotel with a history truly stranger than fiction.
Built by the copper scion W.E.D Stokes, the lavish Ansonia remains one of the grandest buildings on the Upper West Side. But its hallways have seen some truly dramatic events including one of the greatest sports crimes in American history.
Today the Ansonia is still known as the home for great musicians and many of the most famous composers and opera stars have lived here. But it's the music legacy of the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse once in its basement, that may resonate with pop and rock music lovers as the launching pad for one of America's great performers.
PLUS: The hedonistic disco delights of Plato's Retreat.
NOTE: This show feature discussions of adult sex clubs and bathhouses. Although the show does not linger on the specifics, parental guidance is nonetheless suggested.
|Dec 31, 2021|
The Real Mrs. Astor: Ruler or Rebel?
Believe it or not, we've got one more brand new Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast for 2021. Look for it on January 31.
But for today we wanted to give you another sampling of our new spin-off podcast called The Gilded Gentleman, a look at America's Gilded Age period, hosted by social and culinary historian Carl Raymond.
In this new episode, Carl looks at one of the most legendary figures of the period – Caroline Astor, or the Mrs Astor, the ruler and creator of New York’s Gilded Age high society in the early 1870s. In collaboration with Southern social climber Ward McAllister, Astor essentially created the rules for who was 'acceptable' in New York social circles.
But she's also known for her battles with family members -- most notably with her nephew (and next door neighbor) William Waldorf Astor. What was behind her unusual motivations? And in what unusual way did she decide to cap her legacy at the end of her life?
Carl is joined by Tom Miller, creator of the website Daytonian in Manhattan, documenting the history of New York City, one building at a time.
Subscribe to the Gilded Gentleman now and you’ll get ANOTHER new episode on the life of Murray Hall, a Tammany Hall politician and operator of an employment agency for domestic help in the late 19th century.
But Murray had a secret – one that he took to his grave. A remarkable story and one we think will move you.
|Dec 23, 2021|
Rewind: West Side Story and the Making of Lincoln Center
Steven Spielberg's new version of West Side Story is here -- and it's fantastic -- so we're re-visiting our 2016 show on the story of Lincoln Center, with a new podcast introduction discussing the film and the passing of musical icon Stephen Sondheim.
The fine arts campus assembles some of the city's finest music and theatrical institutions to create the classiest 16.3 acres in New York City. It was created out of an urgent necessity, bringing together the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Julliard School and other august fine-arts companies as a way of providing a permanent home for American culture.
However this tale of Robert Moses urban renewal philosophies and the survival of storied institutions has a tragic twist. The campus sits on the site of a former neighborhood named San Juan Hill, home to thousands of African American and Puerto Rican families in the mid 20th century. No trace of this neighborhood exists today.
Or, should we say, ALMOST no trace. San Juan Hill exists, at least briefly, within a part of classic American cinema.
The Oscar-winning film West Side Story, based on the celebrated musical, was partially filmed here. The movie reflects many realities of the neighborhood and involves talents who would be, ahem, instrumental in Lincoln Center's continued successes.
Originally released as Episode #218, December 9, 2016
|Dec 17, 2021|
Gilded Age or Gilded Cage? (With The Bowery Boys)
The following is a special presentation — the first episode of brand spin-off podcast called The Gilded Gentleman, hosted by social and culinary historian Carl Raymond.
In this debut episode, recorded at Greenwich Village's Salmagundi Club, Tom and Greg sit with Carl to formally introduce him to listeners and also to discuss the ideas surrounding the Gilded Age, a period of great wealth and great inequality during the late 19th century.
PLUS: Subscribe to The Gilded Gentleman on your favorite podcast player and get the second episode NOW -- on the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera. With many more exciting new episodes arriving in the coming weeks.
|Dec 10, 2021|
#377 The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has brought joy and sparkle to Midtown Manhattan since the early 1930s. The annual festivities may seem steady and timeless but this holiday icon actually has a surprisingly dramatic history.
Millions tune in each year to watch the tree lighting in a music-filled ceremony on NBC, and tens of thousands more will crowd around the tree's massive branches during the holiday season, adjusting their phones for that perfect holiday selfie.
But the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is more than just decor. The tree has reflected the mood of the United States itself -- through good times and bad.
The first tree at this site in 1931 became a symbol of hope during the Great Depression. With the dedication of the first official Christmas tree two years later, the lighting ceremony was considered a stroke of marketing genius for the grand new "city within a city" funded by JD Rockefeller Jr..
The tree has also been an enduring television star -- from the early years in the 1950s with Howdy Doody to its upgrade to prime time in the 1990s.
Join Greg for this festive holiday history featuring kaleidoscopic lighting displays, painted branches, whirling snowflakes, reindeer and a very tiny owl.
If you like what you hear, please rate and review our show on Apple Podcasts.
|Dec 01, 2021|
Introducing: The Gilded Gentleman
Presenting a new history podcast produced by Tom Meyers and Greg Young from the Bowery Boys: New York City History.
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, The Age of Innocence or Upstairs Downstairs, then we know The Gilded Gentleman podcast will be your cup of tea.
You’re cordially invited to join social and culinary historian Carl Raymond for a look behind the velvet curtains of America’s Gilded Age, Paris’ Belle Époque and England’s Victorian and Edwardian eras. The food, the music, the architecture -- the scandals!
The first two episodes arrive promptly on December 7.
Please RSVP by subscribing to The Gilded Gentleman wherever you get your podcasts -- so you don't miss an episode.
|Nov 25, 2021|
#376 Skid Row: The Bowery of the Forgotten
Presenting a history of the Bowery in the 20th century when this street became known as the most notorious place in America. And the stories of the lonely and desperate men whose experiences have been mostly forgotten.
From the moment that elevated train went up in 1878, the historic Bowery became a street of deteriorating fortunes. And by the 1940s, things had gotten so bad that the Bowery had taken on the nickname Skid Row.
For decades it had become the last resort for men down on their luck, filling the flophouses and the cheap gin mills. For most of the people who found themselves here, these were not the ‘good ole days’.
The only thing holding the Bowery back from total ruin were the rescue missions which began sprouting up here in the late 19th century, providing food and shelter for tens of thousands of people.
The most renown of these places was the Bowery Mission which was founded in 1879. And is still, believe it or not, on the Bowery. Performing pretty much the same function as it did over 140 years ago.
Greg and Tom take you through the dramatic history of the Bowery, then pay a visit to Jason Storbakken at the Bowery Mission to get a look at the rescue mission's current challenges and surprising struggles.
If you like what you hear, please rate and review our show on Apple Podcasts.
|Nov 18, 2021|
Toxic Turkey Day: HISTORY This Week
November 24, 1966. Millions of spectators flood Broadway in New York City to watch the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning.
The iconic floats – Superman, Popeye, Smokey the Bear – are set against a sky that can only be described as noxious. A smog of pollutants is trapped over New York City, and it will ultimately kill nearly 200 people.
How did the 1966 Thanksgiving Smog help usher in a new era of environmental protection? And how have we been thinking about environmental disasters all wrong?
This episode comes from one of our favorite podcasts HISTORY This Week from the History Channel.
You can listen to more episodes of HISTORY This Week on Apple Podcasts
|Nov 12, 2021|
#375 The Great Bank Robbery of 1878
The thrilling tale of a classic heist from the Gilded Age, perpetrated by a host of wicked and colorful characters from New York's criminal underworld.
Jesse James and Butch Cassidy may be more infamous as American bank robbers, but neither could match the skill or the audacity of George Leonidas Leslie, a mastermind known in his day as the "King of the Bank Robbers".
On October 27, 1878, Leslie's gang broke into the Manhattan Savings Institution and stole almost $3 million in cash and securities (about $71 million in today's money), making it one of the greatest bank robberies in American history.
This epic heist, which took three years to plan, was only the greatest in a string of high-profile robberies planned by Leslie and perpetrated by a rogue's gallery of New York thieves and "fences".
Many details of the crime remain a mystery, and the legend of Leslie has been immortalized -- with some mixture of truth and fiction -- in Herbert Asbury's classic The Gangs of New York.
Who was this suave and mysterious Leslie? And how do you actually go about breaking into a bank in the 1870s? (Hint: Make sure you have a "little joker" handy.)
|Nov 05, 2021|
#374 Gotham's Greatest Ghost Stories
What are the greatest ghost stories and haunted legends in New York City history?
Since 2007 -- every October for fourteen years -- the Bowery Boys podcast has shared the city's most notorious and frightening ghost stories and urban legends. Over fifty-five stories and counting -- from malevolent wraiths who walk the avenues to strange spirits forever at home in some of New York's greatest landmarks.
So for this 15th annual Bowery Boys Halloween ghost story podcast, Greg and Tom taking a look back at their favorites (and yours), the tales which have stayed with us -- which have possessed us -- like a persistent phantom who refuses to leave.
-- The Brooklyn poltergeist at the heart of an unsolved 19th century mystery
AND Greg and Tom re-visit and re-tell their favorite ghost story from their very first podcast. Does Olive Thomas still haunt the New Amsterdam Theatre?
Visit the website for a list of all the Bowery Boys ghost story podcasts and a map of all the haunted locations in the city.
|Oct 21, 2021|
#373 New York Underground: The Story of Cemeteries
The following podcast may look like the history of New York City cemeteries -- from the early churchyards of the Colonial era to the monument-filled rural cemeteries of Brooklyn and Queens.
But it's much more than that! This is a story about New York City itself, a tale of real estate, urban growth, class and racial disparity, superstition and architecture.
Cemeteries and burial grounds in New York City are everywhere -- although by design we often don’t see them or interact with them in daily life.
You see them while strolling late night through the East Village or out your taxi window headed to LaGuardia Airport. Some of your favorite parks were even developed upon the sites of old potter’s fields.
Why are there so many cemeteries on the border of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens? Why are 19th century mausoleums and tombstones so fabulously ornate? And why are there so many old burial grounds next to tenements and apartment buildings in Greenwich Village?
Featuring four tales from New York City history, illustrating the unusual relationship between cemeteries and urban areas.
If you like the show, please rate and review on Apple Podcasts.
|Oct 08, 2021|
#372 The Shuberts: The Brothers Who Built Broadway
There's no business like show business -- thanks to Lee, Sam and J.J. Shubert, the Syracuse brothers who forever changed the American theatrical business in the 20th century.
At last Broadway is back! And the marquees of New York's theater district are again glowing with the excitement of live entertainment.
And many of these theaters were built and operated by the Shubert Brothers, impresarios who helped shape the physical nature of the Broadway theater district itself, creating the close cluster of stages that give Times Square its energy and glamour.
In this show, we'll be visiting the dawn of Times Square itself and the evolution of the American musical -- from coy operettas and flirty song-filled revues filled with chorus girls.
The Shuberts were there almost from the beginning. After fending off their rivals (namely the Syndicate), the Shuberts centered their empire around an alleyway that would quickly take their name -- Shubert Alley.
They were innovative and they were ruthless, generous and often cruel (especially to each other). During the 1950s and 60s, the Shubert empire almost crumbled -- only to rise again in the 1970s and 1980s thanks to A Chorus Line and some very musical felines.
FEATURING A visit to the Shubert Archive above the Lyceum Theatre, a magical trove of historical items from the American stage.
|Sep 24, 2021|
Rewind: Revolutionary Fire/The End of Nathan Hale
On the occasion of the 245th anniversary of the Revolutionary War in New York City, we revisit the story of the Great Fire of 1776, the drumbeat of war leading up to the disaster, and the tragic story of the American patriot Nathan Hale.
This is a reedited, remastered version of an episode that we recorded in 2015.
A little after midnight on September 21, 1776, the Fighting Cocks Tavern on Whitehall Street caught on fire. The drunken revelers inside the tavern were unable to stop the blaze, and it soon raged into a dangerous inferno, spreading up the west side of Manhattan.
Some reports state that the fire started accidentally in the tavern fireplace. But was it actually set on purpose -- on the orders of George Washington?
Meanwhile, underneath this sinister story is another, smaller drama -- that of a young man on a spy mission, sent by Washington into enemy territory. His name was Nathan Hale, and his fate would intersect with the disastrous events of that perilous night.
PLUS: The legacy of St. Paul's Chapel, a lasting reminder not only of the Great Fire of 1776 but of an even greater disaster which occurred almost exactly 225 years later.
If you like the show, please rate and review on Apple Podcasts.
|Sep 17, 2021|
#371 A Visit to Little Syria: An Immigrant Story
Just south of the World Trade Center district sits the location of a forgotten Manhattan immigrant community. Curious outsiders called it "Little Syria" although the residents themselves would have known it as the Syrian Colony.
Starting in the 1880s people from the Middle East began arriving at New York's immigrant processing station -- immigrants from Greater Syria which at that time was a part of the Ottoman Empire.
The Syrians of Old New York were mostly Christians who brought their trades, culture and cuisine to the streets of lower Manhattan. And many headed over to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn as well, creating another district for Middle Eastern American culture which would outlast the older Manhattan area.
Who were these Syrian immigrants who made their home here in New York? Why did they arrive? What were their lives like? And although Little Syria truly is long gone, what buildings remain of this extraordinary district?
PLUS: A visit to Sahadi's, a fine food shop that anchors today's remaining Middle Eastern scene in Brooklyn. Greg and Tom head to their warehouse in Sunset Park to get some insight on the shop's historic connections to the first Syrian immigrants.
Join the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon for extra audio features, access to cool merchandise and early access to tickets for live events.
Please consider writing a review of our podcast on Apple Podcasts. Brand new reviews are useful in getting the show more visibility. We greatly appreciate it.
|Sep 10, 2021|
#370 Tragic Muse: The Life of Audrey Munson
By the time Audrey Munson turned 25 years old, she had became a muse for some of the most famous artists in America, the busiest artist’s model of her day,
She was such a fixture of the Greenwich Village art world in the early 20th century that she was called the Venus of Washington Square, although by 1913 the press had given her a grander nickname — Miss Manhattan.
Her face and figure adorned public sculpture and museum masterpieces. And they do to this day.
But just a few years after working with these great artists, Audrey Munson disappeared from the New York art world, caught up in a murder scandal that would unfairly ruin her reputation.
And on her 40th birthday she would be locked away forever.
Join the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon for extra audio features, access to cool merchandise and early access to tickets for live events.
Please consider writing a review of our podcast on Apple Podcasts. Brand new reviews are useful in getting the show more visibility. We greatly appreciate it.
|Aug 27, 2021|
#369 Last Dance at the Hotel Pennsylvania
When it opened in 1919, the Hotel Pennsylvania was the largest hotel in the world. Over a hundred years later, its fate remains uncertain. Is it too big to save?
After the Pennsylvania Railroad completed its colossal Pennsylvania Station in 1910, the railroad quickly realized it would need a companion hotel equal to the station's exquisite grandeur. And it would need an uncommonly ambitious hotelier to operate it.
Enter E.M. Statler, the hotel king who made his name at American World's Fairs and brought sophisticated new ideas to this exceptional hotel geared towards middle-class and business travelers.
But the Hotel Pennsylvania would have another claim to fame during the Swing Era. Its restaurants and ballrooms -- particularly the Café Rouge -- would feature some of the greatest names of the Big Band Era.
Glenn Miller played the Cafe Rouge many times at the height of his orchestra's fame. He was so associated with the hotel that one of his biggest hits is a tribute -- "Pennsylvania 6-5000."
The hotel outlived the demolition of the original Penn Station, but it currently sits empty and faces imminent demolition thanks to an ambitious new plan to rehabilitate the neighborhood.
What will be the fate of this landmark to music history? Is this truly the last dance for the Hotel Pennsylvania?
If you like the show, please subscribe and leave a rating on iTunes and other podcast services.
|Aug 13, 2021|
#368 Henry Bergh's Fight for Animal Rights in Gilded Age New York
Interview with Prof. Ernest Freeberg, author of “A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement”
Today’s show is all about animals in 19th-century New York City. Of course, animals were an incredibly common sight on the streets, market halls, and factories during the Gilded Age, and many of us probably have a quaint image of horse-drawn carriages.
But how often do we think about the actual work that those horses put in every day? The stress of pulling those private carriages -- or, much worse, pulling street trolleys, often overloaded with New Yorkers trying to get to work or home?
In the book, “A Traitor to His Species”, author Ernest Freeberg tells the story of these animals -- and of their protector, Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). He ran the organization from the 1860s to the 1880s, and was a celebrity in his day -- widely covered, and widely mocked for his unflinching defense of the humane treatment of all animals, even the lowliest pesky birds or turtles.
His story is full of surprising turns, and offers an inside account of the early fight for animal rights, and engrossing tales of Gilded Age New York from a new perspective -- the animal’s perspective!
Ernest Freeberg is a distinguished professor of humanities and head of the history department at the University of Tennessee.
|Jul 30, 2021|
#367 The Ice Craze: How the Ice Business Transformed New York
New York City on ice — a tribute to the forgotten industry which kept the city cool in the age before refrigeration and air conditioning.
Believe it or not, ice used to be big business.
In 1806 a Boston entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor cut blocks of ice from a pond on his family farm and shipped it to Martinique, a Caribbean county very unfamiliar with frozen water. He was roundly mocked — why would people want ice in areas where they can’t store it? — but the thirst for the frozen luxury soon caught on, especially in southern United States.
New Yorkers really caught the ice craze in the 1830s thanks to an exceptionally clear lake near Nyack. Within two decades, shops and restaurants regularly ordered ice to serve and preserve foods. And with the invention of the icebox, people could even begin buying it up for home use.
The ice business was so successful that — like oil and coal — it became a monopoly. Charles W. Morse and his American Ice Company controlled most of the ice in the northeast United States by the start of the 20th century.
He was known as the Ice King. And he had one surprising secret friend — the Mayor of New York City Robert A. Van Wyck.
PLUS: The 19th century technologies that allowed American to harvest and store ice. The Iceman cometh!
|Jul 16, 2021|
#366 North Brother Island: New York's Forbidden Place
There are two mysterious islands in the East River with a human population of zero. They are restricted. No human being lives there.
One of these islands has been witness to some of the most dire and dramatic moments in New York City history.
North Brother Island sits near the tidal strait known as Hell Gate, a once-dangerous whirlpool which wrecked hundreds of ships and often deposited the wreckage on the island's quiet shore.
In the 1880s the island was chosen as the new home for Riverside Hospital, a quarantine hospital for New Yorkers with smallpox, tuberculosis and many more contagious illnesses.
Greg takes the reigns in this show and leads you through the following tales featuring North Brother Island:
-- A bizarre incident -- involving a body found in the waters off the island -- which first put the place on the map;
-- The nightmarish city policy of 'forced exile' to battle the spread of disease in the city's poorest quarters;
-- The tragic crash of the General Slocum steamship;
-- The complicated struggles of Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary;
-- The implausible tale of a 1950s rehab center for teenage drug addicts.
Visit the website for images and videos of North Brother Island.
|Jul 02, 2021|
Rewind: The Historic New York City Hall
New York City Hall sits majestically inside a nostalgic, well-manicured park, topped with a beautiful old fountain straight out of gaslight-era New York.
But its serenity belies the frantic pace of government inside City Hall walls and disguises a tumultuous, vibrant history.
There have actually been two other city halls — one an actual tavern, the other a temporary seat of national government — and the one we’re familiar with today is nearing its 210th birthday. And the park it sits in is much, much older!
Join us as we explore the unusual history of this building, through ill-executed fireworks, disgruntled architects, and its near-destruction — to be saved only by a man named Grosvenor Atterbury.
PLUS: We look at the park area itself, a common land that once catered to livestock, British soldiers, almshouses and a big, garish post office.
This is a reedited and remastered version of episode #93 featuring an all-new, very special 'Choose Your Own Adventure' challenge at the end.
|Jun 25, 2021|
#365 Do The Right Thing (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
We're sliding into Summer 2021 -- ready for great music, hot dancing and breaking into fire hydrants -- and so we’ve just released an epic summertime episode of Bowery Boys Movie Club to the general Bowery Boys Podcast audience, exploring the 1989 Spike Lee masterpiece Do The Right Thing.
Lee electrified film audiences with Do The Right Thing, documenting a day in the life of one block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn on one of the hottest days of the summer.
Inspired by both Greek tragedy and actual events in 1980s New York, Lee's film observes the racial and ethnic tensions that boil over at an Italian-American owned pizzeria serving a mostly African-American clientele from the neighborhood.
Listen in as Greg and Tom recap the story and explore some of the historical context for the film — the incendiary nature of New York summers, the realistic portrait of everyday life in Brooklyn, and the true-life murders on which Do The Right Thing is based.
PLUS Support the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon and get another episode of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, exploring the brand new film In The Heights and its fascinating local angles. Another film with great music, hot dancing -- and breaking into fire hydrants!
|Jun 18, 2021|
#364 The Very Gay History of Fire Island
The third and final part of the Bowery Boys Road Trip to Long Island -- the gay history of Fire Island!
Fire Island is one of New York state’s most attractive summer getaways, a thin barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean lined with seaside villages and hamlets, linked by boardwalks, sandy beaches, natural dunes and water taxis. (And, for the most part, no automobiles.)
But Fire Island has a very special place in American LGBT history. It is the site of one of the oldest gay and lesbian communities in the United States, situated within two neighboring hamlets -- Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines.
During the 1930s actors, writers and craftspeople from the New York theatrical world began heading to Cherry Grove, its remote and rustic qualities allowing for gay and lesbians to express themselves freely -- far away from a world that rejected and persecuted them.
Performers at the Grove's Community House and Theater helped define camp culture, paving the way for the modern drag scene.
In this episode, Greg and Tom head to Cherry Grove -- and the Community House and Theater -- to get a closer look at Fire Island's unique role in the American LGBT experience.
And they are joined by Parker Sargent, a documentary filmmaker and one of the curators of Safe Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove, a new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, highlighting photography from the collection of the Cherry Grove Archives Collection.
FEATURING: The Great Hurricane of 1938! The Invasion of the Pines! The indescribable Belvedere! And the surprising origin of Fire Island's name.
|Jun 04, 2021|
#363 The Sunny Saga of Jones Beach
Our new mini-series Road Trip to Long Island featuring tales of historic sites outside of New York City. In the next leg of our journey, we visit Jones Beach State Park, the popular beach paradise created by Robert Moses on Long Island's South Shore.
Well before he transformed New York City with expressways and bridges, Moses was an idealistic public servant working for new governor Al Smith. In 1924 he became president of the Long Island State Parks Commission, tasked with creating new state parks for public enjoyment and the preservation of the region's natural beauty.
But preserving, in the mind of Moses, often meant radical reinvention. The new Jones Beach featured glamorous bathhouses, proper athletic recreations (no roller coasters here!), an endless boardwalk and even new sand, anchored to the coast with newly grown beach grass.
Sometimes called 'the American Riviera', Jones Beach made Moses' reputation and became one of the most popular beach fronts on the East Coast. But more than that, Moses and the Jones Beach project transformed the fate of Long Island's highways (or should we say parkways).
PLUS: Greg and Tom hit the road to give you a tour of Jones Beach up close -- from one end of the boardwalk to the other!
AND The overpass bridges of Southern State Parkway. Did Moses develop them with low clearance to prevent buses (i.e. transportation for low income families) from coming to Jones Beach?
|May 21, 2021|
#362 Gatsby and the Mansions of the Gold Coast
The first part of our new mini-series Road Trip to Long Island featuring tales of historic sites outside of New York City. In this episode, relive a little Jazz Age luxury by escaping into the colossal castles, manors and chateaus on Long Island's North Shore, the setting for one of America's most famous novels.
The world is perhaps most familiar with Long Island history thanks to the 1925 classic novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a tale of romantic yearning and social status during the Jazz Age -- set specifically in the year 1922, in the grand and opulent manor of its mysterious anti-hero Jay Gatsby.
A house so large and so full of luxury that it doesn't seem like it could even be real.
And yet hundreds of these types of mansions dotted the landscape of Long Island in the early 20th century, particular along the north shore. This area was known as the Gold Coast.
In this episode, we present the origin of the Gold Coast and stories from its most prominent (and unusual) mega-mansions. Lifestyle of the (very old) rich and famous!
PLUS: A road trip to Planting Fields Arboretum, the lavish grounds of the old W.R. Coe estate. Hidden rooms, bizarre murals and curious gardens!
|May 07, 2021|
#361 Landmarks of Coney Island (Extended Funhouse Mix)
Coney Island is back! After being closed for 2020 due to the pandemic, the unusual attractions, the thrilling rides and the stands selling delicious beer and hot dogs have finally reopened.
So we are releasing this very special version of our 2018 show called Landmarks of Coney Island — special, because this is an extended version of that show featuring the tales of two more Coney Island landmarks which were left out of the original show.
The Coney Island Boardwalk — officially the Riegelmann Boardwalk — became an official New York City scenic landmark in 2018, and to celebrate, we are headed to Brooklyn’s amusement capital to toast its most famous and long-lasting icons.
Recorded live on location, this week’s show features the backstories of these Coney Island classics:
— The Wonder Wheel, the graceful, eccentric Ferris wheel preparing to celebrate for its 100th year of operation;
— The Spook-o-Rama, a dark ride full of old-school thrills;
— The Cyclone, perhaps America’s most famous roller-coaster with a history that harkens back to Coney Island’s wild coaster craze;
— Nathan’s Famous, the king of hot dogs which has fed millions from the same corner for over a century;
— Coney Island Terminal, a critical transportation hub that ushered in the amusement area’s famous nickname — the Nickel Empire
|Apr 30, 2021|
#360 The Botanical Gardens of New York City
Nature and history intertwine in all five boroughs -- from The Bronx River to the shores of Staten Island -- in this special episode about New York City's many botanical gardens.
A botanical garden is more than just a pretty place; it's a collection of plant life for the purposes of preservation, education and study. But in an urban environment like New York City, botanical gardens also must engage with modern life, becoming both a park and natural history museum.
The New York Botanical Garden, established in 1891, became a sort of Gilded Age trophy room for exotic trees, plants and flowers, astride the natural features of The Bronx (and an old tobacco mill).
When the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opened next to the Brooklyn Museum in 1911, its delights included an extraordinary Japanese garden by Takeo Shiota, one of the first of its kind in the United States.
The World's Fair of 1939-40 also brought an international flavor to New York City, and one of its more peculiar exhibitions -- called Gardens on Parade -- stuck around in the form of the Queens Botanical Garden.
PLUS: Gardens help save New York City landmarks -- from an historic estate overlooking the Hudson River to a stately collection of architecture from the early 19th century in Staten Island.
|Apr 23, 2021|
#359 The Magic of the Movie Theater
In celebration of 125 years of movie exhibition in New York City -- from vaudeville houses to movie palaces, from arthouses to multiplexes.
In the spring of 1896 an invention called the Vitascope projected moving images onto a screen at a midtown vaudeville theater. The business of movies was born.
By the late 1910s, the movies were big ... and the theaters were getting bigger! Thanks to creators like architect Thomas Lamb and impresario Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel, theaters in Times Square, New York's prime entertainment district, grew larger and more opulent.
Even by the 1940s, movie theaters were a mix of film and live acts -- singers, dancers, animal acrobats and even the drama of a Wurlitzer organ.
But a major court case brought a change to American film exhibition and diversity to the screen -- both low brow (grind house) and high brow (foreign films and 'art' movies).
Today's greatest arthouse cinemas trace their lineage back to the late 1960s/early 1970s and the new conception of movies as an art form.
Can these theaters survive the perennial villain of the movies (i.e. television) AND the current challenges of a pandemic?
FEATURING: The origin story of all your favorite New York City movie theaters.
|Apr 08, 2021|
#358 The Muppets Take Manhattan (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
TOGETHER AGAIN! In 1984, Jim Henson brought his world-famous Muppets to New York for a wacky musical comedy that satirized the gritty, jaded environment of 1980s Manhattan while providing fascinating views of some of its most glamorous landmarks.
On this springtime episode of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, listen in as Greg and Tom recap the story and explore the many real New York City settings of the film — from the Empire State Building and Central Park to the corner booth at Sardi’s Restaurant and certain luncheonette in the area of today’s Hudson Square.
The Muppets Take Manhattan expresses an unfiltered enthusiasm for the promise of New York City at a time when national headlines were filled with tales of the city’s high crime and budget problems.
Can Kermit and Miss Piggy (and their roster of guest stars like Art Carney and Joan Rivers) bring magic back to the Big Apple?
To get BRAND NEW episodes of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, support the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon.
|Apr 02, 2021|
#357 Edith Wharton's New York
New York's upper class families of the late 19th century lived lives of old-money pursuits and rigid, self-maintained social restrictions -- from the opera boxes to the carriages, from the well-appointed parlors to the table settings. It was leisure without relaxation.
In this episode we examine the story of Edith Wharton -- the acclaimed American novelist who was born in New York City and raised inside this very Gilded Age social world that she would bring to life in her prose.
She was a true "insider" of New York's wealthy class -- giving the reader an honest look at what it was like to live in the mansions of Fifth Avenue, to attend an elite dinner soiree featuring tableaux vivants and to carry forth an exhausting agenda of travels to Hudson River estates, grand Newport manors and gardened European villas.
We can read her works today and enjoy them simply as wonderful fiction -- and incredible character studies -- but as lovers of New York City history, we can also read her New York-based works for these recreations of another era.
Is it possible to glimpse a bit of Edith Wharton's New York in the modern city today?
Tom and Greg are joined by Wharton lecturer and tour guide Carl Raymond, a historian who has traced her footsteps many times on the streets of New York (and through the halls of her country home The Mount in Lenox, MA.)
Also: Join us on April 13, 2013 for a virtual celebration of Gilded Age dining, hosted by Carl, Greg and Tom.
|Mar 26, 2021|
#356 Pfizer: A Brooklyn Origin Story
The story of a true Brooklyn 'start up' -- Charles Pfizer and Co, who went from developing intestinal worm medication in 1849 to being a leader of COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution in the 21st century.
The origin of Pfizer is one of German immigration in the mid 19th century and of early medical practices and concoctions that might seem alien to us today.
But this company's biography is also a celebration of Brooklyn — the City of Brooklyn in the mid 19th century, developing into an economic force in the United States and in opposition to the city of New York across the East River.
PLUS You can't tell the Pfizer story without looking at the world of apothecaries and early drug stores in New York City in the 19th century.
FEATURING Duane Reade, Keihl's, C.O. Bigelow, E. R. Squibb and Johnson & Johnson
ALSO What important American figure today grew up delivering parcels for his family drugstore in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn?
|Mar 19, 2021|
#355 The Midnight Adventures of Doctor Parkhurst
Welcome to your tour of New York City nightlife in the 1890s, to a fantasia of debauchery, to a "saturnalia of crime," your journey to a life of delicious, amoral delights!
Courtesy a private detective, a blond-headed naif nicknamed Sunbeam and -- a prominent Presbyterian minister.
In this episode, we're going to Sin City, the New York underworld of the Gilded Age -- the saloons, dance halls, opium dens, prostitution houses and groggeries of Old New York. Depicted in the sensationalist media of the day as a sort of urban Hades, a hellish landscape of vice and debauchery.
So you might be surprised that our tour guide into this debauched landscape is the respected minister Dr. Charles Parkhurst of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church.
The point of Parkhurst's sacrilegious voyage was to expose police corruption and New York law enforcement’s willingness to look the other way at illegal behavior and decrepit social situations.
This two-week dive into New York’s most sinful establishments was meant to expose the hold of corrupt law enforcement over the powerless. But did it also expose the cravings and hypocrisy of its ringleader?
What you may hear in this episode may genuinely shock you -- and change your opinion about New York City nightlife forever.
FEATURING: Stale beer dives, tight houses, a most sinful game of leap frog and something called "the French Circus."
|Mar 12, 2021|
#354 Who Wrote the First American Cookbook?
One of America's most important books was published 225 years ago this year.
You won't find it on a shelf of great American literature. It was not written by a great man of letters, but somebody who described herself simply as 'an American orphan.'
In 1796 a mysterious woman named Amelia Simmons published American Cookery, the first compilation of recipes (or receipts) using such previously unknown items as corn, pumpkins and "pearl ash" (similar to baking powder).
This book changed the direction of fine eating in the newly established United States of America.
But Amelia herself remains an elusive creator. Who was this person who would have so much influence over the American diet?
Join Greg through a tour of 70 years of early American eating, identifying the true melting pot of delicious flavors — Dutch, Native American, Spanish, Caribbean and African — that transformed early English colonial cooking into something uniquely American.
FEATURING early American recipes for johnnycakes, slapjacks and gazpacho!
|Mar 05, 2021|
#353 Harlem Before the Renaissance
“If we were to offer a symbol of what Harlem has come to mean in a short span of twenty years, it would be another statue of liberty on the landward side of New York. Harlem represents the Negro’s latest thrust towards Democracy.” -- Alain Locke
This is Part Two of our two-part look at the birth of Black Harlem, a look at the era BEFORE the 1920s, when the soul and spirit of this legendary neighborhood was just beginning to form.
The Harlem Renaissance is a cultural movement which describes the flowering of the arts and political thought which occurred mostly within the Black community of Harlem between 1920 and the 1940s. In particular the 1920s were described by writer Langston Hughes as “the period when the Negro was in vogue.” The moment when the white mainstream turned its attention to black culture.
But how Harlem become a mecca of Black culture and "the Capital of Black America"?
This is the story of constructing a cultural movement on the streets of Upper Manhattan in the 1910s. From the stages of the Lafayette Theater to the soapboxes of Speakers Corner. From the pulpits to the salons (both hair and literary)!
WITH stories of Marcus Garvey, Madam C.J. Walker, Arturo Schomburg and many more.
|Feb 26, 2021|
Rewind: Harlem Nights at the Hotel Theresa
The Hotel Theresa is considered a genuine (if under-appreciated) Harlem gem, both for its unique architecture and its special place in history as the hub for African-American life in the 1940s and 50s.
The luxurious apartment hotel was built by a German lace manufacturer to cater to a wealthy white clientele. But almost as soon as the final brick was laid, Harlem itself changed, thanks to the arrival of thousands of new black residents from the South.
Harlem, renown the world over for the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance and its burgeoning music scene, was soon home to New York’s most thriving black community. But many of the businesses here refused to serve black patrons, or at least certainly made them unwelcome.
The Theresa changed its policy in 1940 and soon its lobby was filled with famous athletes, actresses and politicians, many choosing to live at the Hotel Theresa over other hotels in Manhattan. The hotel’s relative small size made it an interesting concentration of America’s most renown black celebrities.
In this podcast, Greg gives you a tour of this glamorous scene, from the corner bar to the penthouse, from the breakfast table of Joe Louis to the crazy parties of Dinah Washington.
WITH: Martin Luther King Jr, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Fidel Castro. And music by Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine and Duke Ellington
ALSO: Who is this mysterious Theresa? What current Congressman was a former desk clerk? And what was Joe Louis’ favorite breakfast food?
The first half of this show was originally released in 2013 (as Episode #158) but has been newly edited for this release. The second half of this show is ALL NEW.
MUSIC FEATURED: "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra and "Dedicated To You" by Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan.
|Feb 19, 2021|
#352 The Birth of Black Harlem
How did Harlem become Harlem, the historic center of Black culture, politics and identity in American life? This is the story of revolutionary ideas -- and radical real estate.
By the 1920s, Harlem had become the capital of Black America, where so many African-American thinkers, artists, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs would live and work that it would spawn -- a Harlem Renaissance.
But in an era of so much institutional racism -- the oppression of Jim Crow, an ever-present reality in New York -- how did Black Harlem come to be?
The story of Harlem begins more than three and a half centuries ago with the small Dutch village of Nieuw Haarlem (New Haarlem).
During the late 19th century Harlem became the home of many different immigrant groups -- white immigrant groups, Irish and German, Italian and Eastern European Jews -- staking their claim of the American dream in newly developed housing here.
But then an extraorindary shift occurs beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, a very specific set of circumstances that allowed, really for the very first time, African-American New Yorkers to stake out a piece of that same American dream for themselves.
This is a story of real estate -- and realtors! But not just any realtor, but the story of the man who earned the nickname the Father of Harlem.
Part one of a two-part show on the origins of Harlem.
|Feb 12, 2021|
#351 Auntie Mame (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
In the latest episode of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, Tom and Greg celebrate wild and fabulous Auntie Mame, the outrageous comedy masterpiece starring Rosalind Russell that’s mostly set on Beekman Place, the pocket enclave of New York wealth that transforms into a haven for oddballs and bohemian eccentrics.
Auntie Mame cleverly uses historical events — the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Great Depression — as a backdrop to Mame’s own financial woes, and her progressive-minded care of nephew Patrick introduces some rather avant garde philosophies to movie-going audiences.
Listen in as the Bowery Boys set up the film’s history, then give a rollicking synopsis through the zany plot line.
To listen to future episodes of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, support the Bowery Boys podcast on Patreon! For those who support us there already, check your emails or head over to your Patreon page for a new episode -- on the 1961 classic Breakfast At Tiffany's.
|Feb 04, 2021|
#350 The World Trade Center in the 1970s
The World Trade Center opened its distinctive towers during one of New York City's most difficult decades, a beacon of modernity in a city beleaguered by debt and urban decay. Welcome to the 1970s.
This year, believe it or not, marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Today there’s an entire generation that only knows the World Trade Center as an emblem of tragedy.
But people sometimes forget that the World Trade Center, designed by Japanese-American architect Minoru Yamasaki, was a very complicated addition to the New York skyline when it officially opened in 1973.
While it might be fun to think of New York City in the 1970s through the lens of places like Studio 54 or CBGB, it was really the Twin Towers that redefined New York.
The journey to build the world's tallest building and its expansive complex of office towers and underground shops began in an effort by David Rockefeller to stimulate development in Manhattan's fading Financial District.
By the time Port Authority got onboard to fund the project, the Twin Towers were bonded together with another vital project -- a commuter train from New Jersey.
The World Trade Center inspired strong opinions from critics and the public alike, but eventually many grew to admire the strange towers which marked the skyline.
And some, the Twin Towers became objects of obsession.
FEATURING: The insane, completely outlandish and ultimately successful feat of acrobatics by a very bold French tightrope walker.
PLUS: An interview with with Kate Monaghan Connolly of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum about how that institution memorializes those lost in the tragedy while still celebrating the technological marvels that once stood there.
|Jan 29, 2021|
Rewind: Strange Hoaxes of the 19th Century
PODCAST REWIND Stories of outrageous hoaxes perpetrated upon New Yorkers in the early 19th century.
In the 1820s, the Erie Canal would completely change the fortunes of the young United States, turning the port city of New York into one of the most important in the world. But an even greater engineering challenge was necessary to prevent the entire southern part of Manhattan from sinking into the harbor!
That is, if you believed a certain charlatan hanging out at the market…..
One decade later, the burgeoning penny press would give birth to another tremendous fabrication and kick off an uneasy association between the media and the truth. In the summer of 1835 the New York Sun reported on startling discoveries from one of the world’s most famous astronomers. Life on the moon!
Indeed, vivid moon forests populated with a menagerie of bizarre creatures and winged men with behaviors similar those of men on Earth.
A version of this show was originally released on July 8, 2016.
|Jan 22, 2021|
#349 The Queensboro Bridge and the Rise of a Borough
“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)
This is the story of a borough with great potential and the curious brown-tannish cantilever bridge which helped it achieve greatness.
The Queensboro Bridge connects Manhattan with Queens by lifting over the East River and Roosevelt Island, an impressive landmark that changed the fate of the borough enshrined in its curious name.
In 1898, before the Consolidation of 1898, which created Greater New York and the five boroughs, much of Queens was sparsely populated -- a farm haven connected by dusty roads -- with most residents living in a few key towns, villages and one actual city -- Long Island City.
With Brooklyn and Manhattan already well developed (and overcrowded in some sectors) by the early 20th century, developers and civic leader looked to Queens as a new place for expansion. But in 1900 it had no quick and convenient connections to areas off of Long Island.
With the opening of the bridge in 1909, rich new opportunities for Queens awaited. Communities from Astoria to Bayside, Jackson Heights, Flushing and Jamaica all experienced an unprecedented burst of new development.
Thanks in small part to the bridge so famous that it inspired a classic folk song!
|Jan 15, 2021|
Rewind: The Destruction of Penn Station
To celebrate the opening of Moynihan Train Hall, a new commuters' wing at Penn Station catering to both Amtrak and Long Island Railroad train passengers, we’re going to tell the entire story of Pennsylvania Station and Pennsylvania Railroad over two episodes, using a couple older shows from our back catalog. This is PART TWO.
Why did they knock down old Pennsylvania Station?
The original Penn Station, constructed in 1910 and designed by New York’s greatest Gilded Age architectural firm, was more than just a building. Since its destruction in the 1960s, the station has become something mythic, a sacrificial lamb to the cause of historic preservation.
As Vincent Scully once said, “Through Pennsylvania Station one entered the city like a god. Perhaps it was really too much. One scuttles in now like a rat.”
In this show we rebuild the grand, original structure in our minds — the fourth largest building in the world when it was constructed — and marvel at an opulence now gone.
PLUS: We show you where you can still find remnants of old Penn Station by going on a walking tour with Untapped Cities tour guide Justin Rivers.
THIS SHOW WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED AS EPISODE 254 — FEBRUARY 16, 2018
|Jan 08, 2021|
Rewind: The Construction of Penn Station
On January 1, 2021 Moynihan Train Hall officially opens to the public, a new commuters' wing catering to both Amtrak and Long Island Railroad train passengers at New York's underground (and mostly unloved) Penn Station.
To celebrate this big moment in New York City transportation history, we’re going to tell the entire story of Pennsylvania Station and Pennsylvania Railroad over two episodes, using a couple older shows from our back catalog.
The story of Pennsylvania Station involves more than just nostalgia for the long-gone temple of transportation as designed by the great McKim, Mead and White. It's a tale of incredible tunnels, political haggling and big visions.
Pennsylvania Railroad was the largest railroad in the world by the 1880s, but thanks to Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York Central Railroad, one prize was strategically out of their grasp -- direct access to Manhattan.
An ambitious plan to link New Jersey to New York via a gigantic bridge fell apart, and it looked like Pennsylvania passengers would have to forever disembark in Jersey City.
But Penn Railroad president Alexander Cassatt was not satisfied. Visiting his sister Mary Cassatt -- the exquisite Impressionist painter -- in Paris, Cassatt observed the use of electrically run trains in underground tunnels. Why couldn't Penn Railroad build something similar?
One problem -- the mile-wide Hudson River (or in historical parlance, the North River).
This is the tale of an engineering miracle, the construction of miles of underground tunnels and the idea of an ambitious train station to rival the world's greatest architectural marvels.
ORIGINALLY RELEASED AS EPISODE 80 -- APRIL 10, 2009
|Jan 01, 2021|
#348 Cheers! The Stories of Four Fabulous Cocktails
It's the happiest of hours! The tales of four fabulous cocktails invented or made famous in New York City's saloons, cocktail lounges, restaurants and hotels.
Cocktails are more than alcoholic beverages; over the decades, they’ve been status signifiers, indulgences that show off exotic ingredients or elixirs displaying a bit of showmanship behind the bar.
In this podcast, we recount the beginning days of four iconic alcoholic drinks:
-- The Manhattan: How an elite Gilded Age social club may have invented the cocktail for a new governor of New York;
-- The Bloody Mary: A Parisian delight, enjoyed by the leading lights of the Jazz Age, makes it way to one of New York's most famous hotels;
-- The Martini: A drink of mysterious origin and potency becomes New York City's most popular drink -- and a curious lunchtime companion;
-- The Cosmopolitan: Tracing the history of a new cocktail classic from Provincetown to San Francisco -- and into two of New York's most famous 1980s hangouts
|Dec 24, 2020|
Rewind: Historic Vaccines -- The End of Polio and Smallpox
We released the following show on the history of vaccines back in early April 2020 when the idea of a COVID 19 vaccine seemed little more than distant fantasy.
Just this past Monday, on December 14, Sandra Lindsay, the director of critical care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens became the first American to receive the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine in a non-trial setting. And so this week we’re re-releasing this show — in a much more hopeful context this time around.
This is the story of the polio vaccines developed by Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin -- and then a look at the origin of the vaccine itself, first developed to combat smallpox almost 225 years ago, thanks to Edward Jenner and a cow named Blossom.
In 1916 New York City became the epicenter of one of America’s very first polio epidemics.
The scourge of infantile paralysis infected thousands of Americans that year, most under the age of five. But in New York City it was especially bad. The Department of Health took drastic measures, barring children from going out in public and even labeling home with polio sufferers, urging others to stay away.
That same year, up in the Bronx, a young couple named Daniel and Dora Salk — the children of Eastern European immigrants — were themselves raising their young son named Jonas. As an adult, Jonas Salk would spend his life combating the poliovirus in the laboratory, creating a vaccine that would change the world.
In 1921 a young lawyer and politician named Franklin Delano Roosevelt would contract what was believed at the time to be polio. He would use his connections and power — first as governor of New York, then as president of the United States — to guide the nation’s response to the virus.
AND THEN: The second half of the show is devoted to the question — who came up the first vaccine anyway?
Once upon a time there was a country doctor with a love of birds, a milkmaid with translucent skin, an eight-year-old boy with no idea what he's in for and a wonderful cow that holds the secret to human immunity.
This is the story of the first vaccine, perhaps one of the greatest inventions in modern human history. Come listen to this remarkable story of risk and bravery which led to the eradication of one of the deadliest diseases in human history.
And hear the words of Dr. Edward Jenner himself, written in the first weeks of his experiments!
|Dec 17, 2020|
#347 Steam Heat! A Gilded Age Miracle
It's HOT in the city even during the coldest winter months, thanks to the most elemental of resources -- steam heat.
This is the story of the innovative heating plan first introduced on a grand scale here in New York City in the 1880s, a plan which today heats many of Manhattan's most famous -- and tallest -- landmarks.
While most buildings in Manhattan derive heat from a private source (most often furnaces, boilers and radiators), some of the largest structures actually get heat from the city.
If you've worked in a large Midtown office building, visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art or had your clothes dry cleaned in Manhattan, you've experienced steam distributed through ConEd's steam service through a system known as district heating.
Because of steam, the city's skyline isn't filled with thousands of chimneys, belching black smoke into the sky.
FEATURING An interview with Frank Cuomo, the director of steam operations at ConEd, who will help explain to us how the city produces steam today and how customers use it.
PLUS We answer some pressing questions about city heat. Why is there no steam service in the other four boroughs? Why does your radiator clang loudly at night? And what's the function of those orange and white chimneys in the streets?
|Dec 11, 2020|
Rewind: The City in Flames - The Great Fire of 1835
PODCAST This month marks the 185th anniversary of one of the most devastating disasters in New York City history -- The Great Fire of 1835.
This massive fire, among the worst in American history, devastated the city during one freezing December evening, destroying hundreds of buildings and changing the face of Manhattan forever.
It underscored the city's need for a functioning water system and permanent fire department.
So why were there so many people drinking champagne in the street? And how did the son of Alexander Hamilton save the day?
FEATURING Such Old New York sites as the Tontine Coffee House, Stone Street, Hanover Square and Delmonico's.
PLUS: A newly recorded segment about a sequel of sorts to the 1835 fire. The Great Fire of 1845 (or really The Great Explosion of 1845) would once again imperil the lives of New Yorkers. But this time, they were prepared.
This show was originally released on March 13, 2009
|Dec 04, 2020|
#346 The Beatles Invade New York!
How Beatlemania both energized and paralyzed New York City in the mid 1960s as told by the women who screamed their hearts out and helped build a phenomenon.
Before BTS, before One Direction, before the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, before Menudo and the Jackson 5 -- you had Paul, John, George and Ringo.
The Beatles were already an international phenomenon by February 9, 1964. when they first arrived at JFK Airport. During their visits to the city between 1964 and 1966, the Fab Four were seen by thousands of screaming fans and millions of television audiences in some of New York’s greatest landmarks.
And each time they came through here, the city — and America itself — was a little bit different.
In this show, we present a little re-introduction to the Beatles and how New York City became a key component in the Beatlemania phenomenon, a part of their mythology — from the classic concert venues (Shea Stadium, Carnegie Hall) to the luxury hotels (The Plaza, The Warwick).
We’ll also be focusing on the post-Beatles career of John Lennon who truly fell in love with New York City in the 1970s. And we'll visit that tragic moment in American history which united the world 40 years ago — on December 8, 1980
But we are not telling this story alone. Helping us tell this story are recollections from listeners, the women who were once the young fans of the Beatles here in New York, the women who helped built Beatlemania.
|Nov 27, 2020|
Rewind: The Curious Case of Typhoid Mary
An account of a mysterious typhoid fever outbreak from the early 20th century and the woman — Mary Mallon, the so-called Typhoid Mary — at the center of the strange epidemic.
The tale of Typhoid Mary is a harrowing detective story and a chilling tale of disease and death.
Why are whole healthy families suddenly getting sick with typhoid fever — from the languid mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast to the gracious homes of Park Avenue?
Can an intrepid researcher and investigator named George Soper locate a mysterious woman who may be unwittingly spreading this dire illness?
This show was originally broadcast on September 18, 2015
|Nov 20, 2020|
#345 LaGuardia's War on Pushcarts: The Creation of Essex Street Market
Once upon a time, the streets of the Lower East Side were lined with pushcarts and salespeople haggling with customers over the price of fruits, fish and pickles. Whatever became of them?
New York's earliest marketplaces were large and surprisingly well regulated hubs for commerce that kept the city fed. When the city was small, they served the hungry population well.
But by the mid-19th century, massive waves of immigration and the necessary expansion of the city meant a lack of affordable food options for the city's poorest residents in overcrowded tenement districts.
Then along came the peddler, pushcart vendors who brought bargains of all types -- edible and non-edible -- to neighborhood streets throughout the city. In particular, on the Lower East Side, the pushcarts created bustling makeshift marketplaces.
Many shoppers loved the set-up! But not a certain mayor -- Fiorello LaGuardia, who promised to sweep away these old-fashioned pushcarts that packed the streets -- and instead house some of those vendors in new municipal market buildings.
For those immigrant peddlers, the Essex Street Market -- in sight of the Williamsburg Bridge -- would provide a diverse shopping experience representing a swirl of various cultures: Eastern European, Puerto Rican, Italian and more.
But could these markets survive competition from supermarkets? Or the many economic changes of life in New York City?
|Nov 13, 2020|
Rewind: On The Radio: A History of the Airwaves
The discovery of radio changed the world, and New York City was often front and center for its creation and development as America’s prime entertainment source during the 1930s and 40s.
In this show, we take you on a 50-year journey, from Marconi’s news making tests aboard a yacht in New York Harbor to remarkable experiments atop the Empire State Building.
Two of the medium’s great innovators grew up on the streets of New York, one a fearless inventor born in the neighborhood of Chelsea, the other an immigrant’s son from the Lower East Side who grew up to run America’s first radio broadcasting company (RCA).
Another pioneer with a more complicated history made the first broadcasts that featured the human voice, the ‘angelic’ tones of a Swedish soprano heard by a wireless operator at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
What indispensable station got its start as a department-store radio channel? What borough was touted in the very first radio advertisement? What former Ziegfeld Follies star strapped on a bonnet to become Baby Snooks?
Featuring tales of the Titanic, the rogue adventures of amateur operators, and a truly scary invasion from outer space!
MINOR CORRECTION: The radio show of yore was obviously called Everready Hour, not Everready House!
|Nov 06, 2020|
#344 Ghostbusters (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
To wrap up this month's series of spooky-themed shows, we're releasing this 2018 episode of our "Bowery Boys Movie Club", in which we conjure up New York City in the early 1980s in Ivan Reitman's box-office smash Ghostbusters.
How does this zany horror comedy use the plight of New York City as a backdrop for its grab bag of goofy ghosts? How do the histories of the New York Public Library, Columbia University, Central Park and the Upper West Side become entangled in its strange and hilarious plot? And why is the Tribeca location of Ghostbusters headquarters -- in an abandoned firehouse -- so important to the story?
Enjoy the show -- and be sure to join us on patreon.com/boweryboys to support the show and hear all episodes of the Movie Club!
|Oct 30, 2020|
#343 Literary Horrors of New York City
In the 14th annual Bowery Boys Halloween podcast, we celebrate some classic strange and supernatural terrors written by the most famous horror writers in New York City history.
Since 2020 is already a year full of absurd twists and frights, we thought we'd celebrate the season in a slightly different way. Don't worry! Tom and Greg are delivering a new batch of frightening stories. But this time the selected stories have been made famous by great writers who have lived and worked in New York City.
Included in this year's terrors:
-- A celebration of the 200th anniversary of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," featuring the Headless Horseman and the backstory of this classic story's creation;
-- The unsettling days of H.P. Lovecraft in Brooklyn where his xenophobia, racism and anxiety manifest into a pair of dark, claustrophobic tales, plucked from the waterfront and the West Village;
-- A bizarre and allegedly true story (or is it an urban legend?) of an unconventional jewel thief, made famous by that 20th century purveyor of all things unbelievable -- Robert Ripley;
-- And a look at the life of Patricia Highsmith -- celebrating the 100th anniversary of her birth a bit early -- whose nasty little tales of mad murderers have inspired Hollywood and unsettled a new generation of suspense lovers.
|Oct 23, 2020|
#342 Ghost Stories of Old New York (ALIVE at Joe's Pub)
Prepare to hear a few spirited stories in a whole new way.
For the past couple years hosts Tom Meyers and Greg Young have also done a LIVE cabaret version of their annual ghost story show at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. For reasons related to the fact that it’s the hellish year of 2020, we cannot bring you a live performance this year.
But we miss the wonderful Joe’s Pub so much – and we miss being with our listeners in a cabaret setting with cocktails – that we’re presenting to you a live recording of our last show at the storied venue, recorded on Halloween night 2019, featuring pianist and composer Andrew Austin and vocalist Bessie D Smith.
Prepare to hear new versions of your favorite ghost stories including:
-- A Brooklyn house haunting that may be related to the spectres from a colonial-era prison ship;
-- A famous murder trial from the year 1800 and a mysterious well that still stands in the neighborhood of SoHo;
-- The ghosts (or other supernatural entities) which guard the treasure of the famous Captain Kidd; and
-- The mournful secrets of a famed Broadway theater and the inner demons of a Hollywood icon.
With an all new ghostly tale -- WHO HAUNTS THE FORMER ASTOR LIBRARY?
|Oct 16, 2020|
#341 The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Celebrating the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 150th year since its founding -- and certainly one of the strangest years in its extraordinary existence.
The Met is really the king of New York attractions, with visitors heading up to Central Park and streaming through the doors by the millions to gasp at the latest blockbuster exhibitions and priceless works of art and history.
And who doesn’t love getting lost at the Met for a rainy afternoon — wandering from the Greek and Roman galleries to the imposing artifacts within the Arms and Armor collection and the treasures of the Asian Art rooms?
But this museum has some surprising secrets in its history -- and more than a few skeletons (or are those mummies?) in its closet.
WITH Ancient temples, fabulous fashions, classical relics, Dutch masters, controversial exhibitions and the decorative trappings of the Gilded Age.
AND Find out how the museum building has evolved over the years, employing some of the greatest architects in American history.
PLUS An interview with the Met's Andrea Bayer, Deputy Director for Collections and Administration, on the museum's celebratory exhibition Making the Met 1870-2020. How do you launch an anniversary celebration during a pandemic and lockdown?
|Oct 09, 2020|
Rewind: The Mystery of the Central Park Obelisk
Cleopatra’s Needle is the name given to the ancient Egyptian obelisk that sits in Central Park, right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the bizarre tale of how it arrived in New York and the unusual forces that went behind its transportation from Alexandra to a hill called Greywacke Knoll.
FEATURING The secrets of the Freemasons, a mysterious and controversial fraternity who have been involved in several critical moments in American history (including the inauguration of fellow Mason George Washington.)
PLUS A newly recorded tale about another ancient landmark that has made its way to New York City -- a column from the ancient city of Jerash, brought here because of ... Robert Moses?
This is a re-presentation of a show originally released on June 26, 2014 with new 2020 bonus material recorded for this episode.
|Oct 02, 2020|
#340 The Real Life Adventures of Tom Thumb
Charles Stratton, who would become world famous as “Tom Thumb” in the mid-19th century, was born in Bridgeport, CT on January 4, 1838 to parents of average height, and he grew normally during the first six months of his life -- to about 25 inches or so. And then, surprisingly, he just stopped growing.
When P.T. Barnum, the master showman, would meet Charles and his parents, Charlie was 4, and he’d be signed on the spot to play the part of “General Tom Thumb” at Barnum’s American Museum. He’d be given a fancy new wardrobe, a new nationality (British), and a new age -- 11 years old.
Charles would perform for the rest of his life as “Tom Thumb”. He’d enchant European royalty and American presidents, and sell out crowds around the world. And in 1863, during the darkest days of the Civil War, he’d be married in New York’s Grace Church to Lavinia Warren, another Barnum employee and another performer of short stature. Their wedding would be a sensation, and would actually knock news from the battlefields off the front page of the New York Times for three days.
We're joined in today’s show by four guests:
Dr. Michael Mark Chemers is a Professor of Dramatic Literature and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He’s the author of Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2008, in which he looks into the career and reception of Charles Stratton.
Eric Lehman is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Bridgeport and the author of 18 books, including Becoming Tom Thumb, published in 2013 by Wesleyan University Press.
Kathy Maher is the Executive Director of the Barnum Museum and is celebrating her 22nd year with the Museum. Located an hour out of New York City, P.T. Barnum's last museum continues to stand on Main Street in the heart of downtown Bridgeport, CT, his adopted home. Although the Barnum Museum is currently closed due to covid-19 regulations, the Museum remains active with social media, virtual programming and a major historic restoration and re-envisioning https://barnum-museum.org/
Robert Wilson has been the editor of The American Scholar magazine since 2004. Before that, he edited Preservation magazine and was the book editor and columnist for USA Today. His previous books include The Explorer King (2006), about the 19th-century scientist, explorer, and writer Clarence King, and Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation (2013), about the Civil War photographer. His most recent book, Barnum: An American Life (from 2019), has just been published in paperback.
|Sep 25, 2020|
Rewind: The Revolutionary Tavern of Samuel Fraunces
Fraunces Tavern is one of America’s most important historical sites of the Revolutionary War and a reminder of the great importance of taverns on the New York way of life during the Colonial era.
This revered building at the corner of Pearl and Broad street was the location of George Washington‘s farewell address to his Continental Army officers and one of the first government buildings of the young United States of America. John Jay and Alexander Hamilton both used Fraunces as an office.
As with many places connected to the country’s birth — where fact and legend intermingle — many mysteries still remain.
Was the tavern owner Samuel Fraunces one of America’s first great black patriots? Did Samuel use his position here to spy upon the British during the years of occupation between 1776 and 1783? Was his daughter on hand to prevent an assassination attempt on the life of George Washington? And is it possible that the basement of Fraunces Tavern could have once housed a dungeon?
ALSO: Learn about the two deadly attacks on Fraunces Tavern — one by a British war vessel in the 1770s, and another, more violent act of terror that occurred in its doorway 200 years later!
PLUS: Where to find the ruins of Lovelace's Tavern, dating back to the days of New Amsterdam.
This is a re-presentation of a show originally released on March 18, 2011 with new 2020 bonus material recorded for this episode.
|Sep 18, 2020|
#339 James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal
Interview with author Eric K. Washington, author of “Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal”.
The Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal were a workforce of hundreds of African-American men who were an essential part of the long-distance railroad experience. Passengers relied on Red caps for more than simply grabbing their bags -- they were navigators, they helped with taxis, offered advice, and provided a warm greeting.
In his 2019 book, “Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal”, author Eric K. Washington tells the remarkable story of Williams, “The Chief” of the Grand Central Red Caps. He was a boss to many, a friend to thousands of passengers, and a confidant to celebrities, politicians… even occupants of the White House.
He also tells the story of Grand Central Terminal, and specifically, of the Red Caps who worked here, especially during the Terminal’s heyday in the first half of the 20th century. And along the way, the book chronicles how New York’s African-American enclaves and communities developed and moved around the city.
That huge story is told through the lens of this one, often underappreciated, and yet instrumental man -- James Williams. He was the chief of the Red Caps, but also an under-reported figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
|Sep 11, 2020|
Rewind: The American Museum of Natural History
Ancient space rocks, dinosaur fossils, anthropological artifacts and biological specimens are housed in New York's world famous natural history complex on the Upper West Side -- the American Museum of Natural History!
Throughout the 19th century, New Yorkers tried to establish a legitimate natural history venue in the city, including an aborted plan for a Central Park dinosaur pavilion. With the creation of the American Museum of Natural History, the city finally had a premier institution that celebrated science and sent expeditions to the four corners of the earth.
Tune in to hear the stories of some of the museum's most treasured artifacts and the origins of its collection. But there's also a dark side to the museum's history, one that includes the tragic tale of Minik the Inughuit child, subject by museum directors to a bizarre and cruel lie.
PLUS: How exactly do you display a 68,100 lb meteorite?
AND: What will be the fate of that controversial Theodore Roosevelt monument? A 2020 update!
This is a re-presentation of a show originally released on November 24, 2010 with bonus material recorded in 2020.
|Sep 04, 2020|
#338 A New Deal for the Arts: Murals, Music and Theatrical Mayhem
PART 2 of our two-part podcast series, "A NEW DEAL FOR NEW YORK"
In this episode, we look at how one aspect of FDR's New Deal -- the WPA's Federal Project Number One -- was used to put the country's creative community back to work and lift the spirits of downtrodden Americans.
Federal Project Number One -- the "artistic wing" of the Works Progress Administration -- inspired one of the most important and lasting cultural revolutions in the United States, an infusion of funds that put musicians, painters, writers and the theater community back to work, creating works that would promote and celebrate the American experience.
The already-rich creative communities of New York City thrived during the program in several unique ways -- from the stages of Broadway to the art studios of Harlem.
In this episode we present several tales from the four main units of Federal One -- the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theatre Project, the Federal Art Project and the Federal Writers' Project
Including the stories of these WPA creators --
-- Juanita Hall: A future Tony-winning actress whose WPA-funded gospel chorus performed more than 5,000 times
-- Orson Welles: A brilliant stage producer (not yet a filmmaker) whose bold stage inventions pressed the limits of government censorship.
-- Jackson Pollock: A budding painter just finding his artistic voice, making a living working on murals and canvas
-- Zora Neale Hurston: The Harlem Renaissance anthropologist and novelist who used the WPA program to explore folklore and traditions in Florida.
PLUS: The mural program, the WPA Guides and the contributions of WNYC and the New York Public Library
|Aug 28, 2020|
#337 Robert Moses and the Art of the New Deal
PART ONE of a two-part podcast series A NEW DEAL FOR NEW YORK. For Part One, we look at the impact FDR and New Deal funding had in shaping New York City's bridges and parks -- thanks to an especially tenacious parks commissioner!
New York City during the 1930s was defined by massive unemployment, long lines at the soup kitchens, Hoovervilles in Central Park.
But this was also the decade of the Triborough Bridge and Orchard Beach, new swimming pools and playgrounds
Faced with the nationwide financial crisis, newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose to boldly take the crisis on a series of transformative actions by the government that became known as the New Deal.
No other American city would benefit more from the New Deal that New York City. At one point, one out of every seven dollars from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was being spent in New York.
And the two men responsible for funneling federal funding to the city was Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and his new parks commissioner Robert Moses.
Moses amassed a great amount of unchecked power, generating thousands of projects through out the city -- revitalizing the city landscape.
How did Moses acquire so much power? And how did manage to funnel so much federal assistance into his own projects?
|Aug 21, 2020|
Rewind: TESLA -- The Inventor in Old New York
The Serbian immigrant Nikola Tesla was among the Gilded Age's brightest minds, a visionary thinker and inventor who gave the world innovations in electricity, radio and wireless communication.
So why has Tesla garnered the mantle of cult status among many?
Part of that has to do with his life in New York City, his shifting fortunes as he made his way (counting every step) along the city streets.
Tesla lived in Manhattan for more than 50 years, and although he hated it when he first arrived, he quickly understood its importance to the development of his inventions.
Travel with us to the many places Tesla worked and lived in Manhattan -- from the Little Italy roost where the Tesla Coil may have been invented to his doomed Greenwich Village laboratory. From his first job in the Lower East Side to his final home in one of Midtown Manhattan's most famous hotels.
Nikola Tesla, thank you for bringing your genius to New York City.
PLUS: The marvelous demonstration at Madison Square Garden in 1898 that proves that Tesla invented the drone!
Visit our website for more images illustrating the events from this week's show:
This episode was originally released on April 29, 2016. Now including newly recorded bonus material for 2020! (And you might hear from David Bowie.)
|Aug 14, 2020|
#336 The War on Newspaper Row
The newspapers of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst -- the New York World and the New York Journal -- were locked in a fierce competition for readers in the mid 1890s. New Yorkers loved it. The paper's sensational style was so shocking that it became known as "yellow journalism".
So what happens when those flamboyant publications are given an international conflict to write about?
On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine mysteriously exploded while stationed in Havana Harbor in Cuba. While President McKinley urged calm and patience, two New York newspapers jumped to a hasty conclusion -- Spain had destroyed the ship!
The Spanish-American War allowed Hearst (with Pulitzer playing catch up) fresh opportunities to sell newspapers using exaggerated reports, melodramatic illustration and even outlandish stunts. (Think Hearst on a yacht, barreling into conflicts where he didn't belong.)
But by 1899, with the war only a recent memory, the publishers faced a very different battle -- one with their own newsboys, united against the paper's unfair pricing practices. It's a face-off so dramatic, they wrote a musical about it!
PLUS: How have the legacies of Pulitzer and Hearst influenced our world to this day? And where can you find the remnants of their respective empires in New York City today?
This is Part Two of our two-part series on Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Listen to Episode 335 (Pulitzer vs. Hearst: The Rise of Yellow Journalism) before listening to this show.
Support the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon, the patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for just a small contribution. Visit patreon.com/boweryboys for more information.
|Aug 07, 2020|
#335 Pulitzer vs Hearst: The Rise of Yellow Journalism
In the 1890s, powerful New York publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst engaged in an all-out battle for readers of their respective newspapers, developing a flamboyant, sensational style of coverage today referred to as "yellow journalism".
This battle between the New York World and the New York Journal would determine the direction of the American media landscape and today we still feel its aftermath -- from melodramatic headlines to the birth of eyewitness reporting and so-called "fake news".
The two men come from very different backgrounds. Pulitzer, a Hungarian immigrant who started his publishing empire in St. Louis, used the World to highlight injustices upon the working class and to promote worthy civic projects (like the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty).
Hearst, himself the wealthy publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, entered the New York publishing world, specifically aimed at competing with Pulitzer. In many ways, he "out-Pulitzered" Pulitzer, creating extraordinary daily publications which appealed to all types of New Yorkers. (Even children!)
In Part One of this two-part series, we introduce you to the two publishers and meet them on a battlefield of newsprint and full-page headlines -- located on just a couple short blocks south of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Support the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon, the patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for just a small contribution. Visit patreon.com/boweryboys for more information.
|Jul 31, 2020|
Rewind: The Land of the Lenape
The story of the Lenape, the native people of New York Harbor region and their experiences with the first European arrivals — the explorers, the fur traders, the residents of New Amsterdam.
Before New York, before New Amsterdam — there was Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape, the original inhabitants of the places we call Manhattan, Westchester, northern New Jersey and western Long Island.
This is the story of their first contact with European explorers and settlers and their gradual banishment from their ancestral land.
Fur trading changed the lifestyles of the Lenape well before any permanent European settlers stepped foot in this region. Early explorers had a series of mostly positive experiences with early native people.
With the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the Lenape entered into various land deals, “selling" the land of Manhattan at a location in the area of today’s Inwood Hill Park.
But relations between New Amsterdam and the surrounding native population worsened with the arrival of Director-General William Kieft, leading to bloody attacks and vicious reprisals, killing hundreds of Lenape and colonists alike.
Peter Stuyvesant arrives to salvage the situation, but further attacks threatened any treaties of peace. But the time of English occupation, the Lenape were decimated and without their land.
And yet, descendants of the Lenape live on today in various parts of the United States and Canada. All that and more in this tragic but important tale of New York City history.
Visit our website for more images illustrating the events from this week's show:
This episode was originally released in June 2016.
|Jul 24, 2020|
#334 Midnight Cowboy (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
It's summer in the city, so we're re-issuing our Bowery Boys Movie Club podcast devoted to Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 buddy film starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight.
There are few time capsules of New York’s darker days quite as pleasurable as Midnight Cowboy. It’s hardly as provocative as when it was released in May 1969, but its ragged edges have only become more remarkable to view as a piece of history, paying tribute to an era often romanticized today.
If you’ve never seen the film — don’t worry, we’ll walk you through it, scene by scene, with some history and bad jokes thrown in. Or you could stop and watch it now, and then listen — it’s up to you!
Be sure to check out our blog post about Midnight Cowboy, which includes filming locations around the city.
This episode is made possible by our supporters on Patreon, and is part of our patron-only podcast series "Bowery Boys Movie Club". Join us on Patreon to access all Movie Club episodes, along with other patron-only audio.
|Jul 17, 2020|
Rewind: The Secret Origin of Comic Books
A history of the comic book industry in New York City, how the energy and diversity of the city influenced the burgeoning medium in the 1930s and 40s and how New York’s history reflects out from the origins of its most popular characters.
In the 1890s a newspaper rivalry between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzee helped bring about the birth of the comic strip and, a few decades later, the comic book.
Today, comic book superheroes are bigger than ever — in blockbuster summer movies and television shows — and most of them still have an inseparable bond with New York City.
What’s Spider-Man without a tall building from which to swing? But not only are the comics often set here; the creators were often born here too.
Many of the greatest writers and artists actually came from Jewish communities in the Lower East Side, Brooklyn or the Bronx.
For many decades, nearly all of America’s comic books were produced here. Unfortunately that meant they were in certain danger of being eliminated entirely during a 1950s witch hunt by a crusading psychiatrist from Bellevue Hospital named Frederic Wertham.
FEATURING a special chat with comics historian Peter Sandersonabout the unique New York City connections of Marvel Comics’ most famous characters. Sanderson is the author of The Marvel Comics Guide to New York City and The Marvel Encyclopedia.
WITH: The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, Batman, Doctor Strange and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
The episode is a rebroadcast of a show which first aired on July 24, 2015.
|Jul 10, 2020|
#333 Tearing Down King George: The Monumental Summer of 1776
In New York City, during the tumultuous summer of 1776, the King of England lost his head.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, Colonial New York received a monumental statue of King George III on horseback, an ostentatious and rather awkward display which once sat in Bowling Green park at the tip of Manhattan.
On July 9, 1776, angry New Yorkers violently tore down that statue of King George and, as the story goes, rendered his body into bullets used in the battles of the Revolutionary War.
Flash forward to 2020 — cities across the United States today are reevaluating the meaning of their own public monuments. Critics say that removing memorials to the Confederacy, for instance, work to ‘erase history’.
But a monument itself is not history lesson, but a time capsule of the motivations of the culture who created them.
And that’s why this story from 1776 resonates so strongly today. Public statues do have meaning. And for New Yorkers — in the run up to American independence — one statue represented oppression, servitude and annihilation.
In this episode, take a trip back to the city right before the war, when New York was split into those sympathetic to the Tories and those to the Sons of Liberty, an early organization dedicated to the liberty of the American colonies.
PLUS: The story lives on! Find out where you can locate artifacts from this story throughout the city today.
FEATURING A young Alexander Hamilton, that rascal Cadwallader Colden and an unsung hero named William Pitt
|Jul 03, 2020|
#332 Welcome to Yorkville: German Life on the Upper East Side
EPISODE 332 The Manhattan neighborhood of Yorkville has a rich immigrant history that often gets overlooked because of its location on the Upper East Side, a destination usually associated with wealth and high society.
But Yorkville, for over 170 years, has been defined by waves of immigrant communities which have settled here, particular those cultures from Central and Eastern Europe -- Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs and Slovaks.
The neighborhood developed thanks to its location to various streetcar and train lines, but that proximity insured that Yorkville would evolve in quite a different way from the more luxurious Fifth Avenue just a few blocks away.
Yorkville's German cultural identity was centered around East 86th Street -- aka "Sauerkraut Boulevard" -- where cafes and dance halls catered to the amusements of German Americans. The Yorkville Casino was a 'German Madison Square Garden', featuring cabaret, film, ballroom dancing and even political rallies.
Does the spirit of old Yorkville still exist today? While events in the early 20th century brought dramatic change to this ethnic enclave, those events didn't entirely erase the German spirit from the city streets.
In this show, we tell you where can still find the most interesting cultural artifacts of this often overlooked historical gem.
This episode is brought to you by the Historic Districts Council. Funding for this episode is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Benjamin Kallos.
|Jun 26, 2020|
Rewind: Seneca Village and New York's Forgotten Black Communities
The history of black and African-American settlements and neighborhoods which once existed in New York City in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Today we sometimes define New York City's African-American identity by the places where thriving black culture developed -- Harlem, of course, and also Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, neighborhoods that developed for groups of black residents in the 20th century.
But by no means were these the first in New York City. Other centers of black and African-American life existed long before then. In many cases, they were obliterated by the growth of the city, sometimes built over without a single marker, without recognition.
This is the story of a few of those places. From the 'land of the blacks' -- the home to New Amsterdam and British New York's early black population -- to Seneca Village, a haven for freed people of color in the early 19th century that was wiped away by the need for a city park.
From Little Africa -- the Greenwich Village sector for the black working class in the mid 19th century -- to Sandy Ground, a rural escape in Staten Island with deep roots in the neighborhood today.
And then there's Weeksville, Brooklyn, the visionary village built to bond a community and to develop a political foothold.
The episode is a rebroadcast of a show which first aired on June 9, 2017. Stay tuned to the end of this show for some newly written material and an update on the Black Gotham Experience and the Weeksville Heritage Center.
Visit our website for more images and information.
|Jun 19, 2020|
#331 The East Side Elevateds: Life Under the Tracks
During the Gilded Age, New York City had one form of rapid transit -- the elevated railroad.
The city's population had massively grown by the 1870s thanks to large waves of immigration from Ireland and Germany. Yet its transportation options -- mostly horse-drawn streetcars -- were slow and cumbersome.
As a result, people rarely lived far from where they worked. And in the case of most working class New Yorkers, that meant staying in overcrowded neighborhoods like the Lower East Side.
In the 1870s, New York hoped to alleviate the population pressure by constructing four elevated railroad lines -- along 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th Avenues -- in the hopes that people would begin inhabiting Upper Manhattan and the newly acquired portion of Westchester County known as the Annexed District (today's South Bronx).
In this show, we focus on the two eastern-most lines and their effects on the city's growth. Take a ride with us -- through Lower Manhattan, the Lower East Side, Midtown Manhattan, Yorkville, East Harlem and Mott Haven!
FEATURING an interview with elevated expert and tour guide Michael Morgenthal.
|Jun 12, 2020|
#330 The Silent Parade of 1917: Black Unity in a Time of Crisis
"To the beat of muffled drums 8,000 negro men, women and children marched down Fifth Avenue yesterday in a parade of 'silent protest against acts of discrimination and oppression' inflicted upon them in this country." -- New York Times, July 29, 1917
EPISODE 330 The Silent Parade of July 28, 1917, was unlike anything ever seen in New York City -- thousands of black men, women and children marching down Fifth Avenue. Today it is considered New York's (and most likely America's) first African-American civil rights march.
The march was organized by the NAACP in direct response to a horrible plague of violence against black Americans in the 1910s, culminating in the East St. Louis Riots, a massacre involving white mobs storming black neighborhoods in sheer racial animus.
There were no chants or rallying cries. The women were dressed all in white, the men in black. Thousands of onlookers had lined the parade route that day out of curiosity, amusement, pride, anger and joy.
How did this unusual protest come to be? How did New Yorkers really react? And why has the Silent Parade gone mostly forgotten for most Americans?
FEATURING: W.E.B. Du Bois, Madam C.J. Walker, James Weldon Johnson, Lillian Wald and more
|Jun 04, 2020|
#329 The First Ambulance: The Humans (and Horses) That Saved New York
EPISODE 329 Did you know that the first modern ambulance -- as in a 'mobile hospital' -- was invented in New York City?
On June 4, 1869, America’s first ambulance service went into operation from Bellevue Hospital with a driver, a surgeon, two horses and equipment including a stretcher, a stomach pump, bandages and sponges, handcuffs, a straight-jacket, and a quart of brandy.
Within just a couple years, the ambulance became an invaluable feature of New York health, saving the lives of those who might otherwise die on the streets of the city. They proved especially helpful in a riot -- of which there were many in the 19th century!
In this show, you'll be introduced to a new way of thinking about urgent injuries and emergency care. True emergency medicine was not a serious factor in major hospitals until the 1960s. Yet on-the-job injuries and terrible trauma from violent crime was a perpetual problem in New York.
What was life like in the city before the advent of the ambulance? How did ambulances work in the era before the telephone?
PLUS: A tribute to the ambulance workers -- the EMTs, paramedics and drivers -- who have risked their lives to save those of other New Yorkers.
|May 29, 2020|
#328 Chop Suey City: A History of Chinese Food in New York
EPISODE 328 New Yorkers eat a LOT of Chinese food and have enjoyed Chinese cuisine – either in a restaurant or as takeout – for well over 130 years. Chinese food entered the regular diet of the city before the bagel, the hot dog and even the pizza slice.
In this episode, Greg explores the history of Chinese food in New York City -- from the first Mott Street kitchens in Manhattan's Chinatown to the sleek 20th century eateries of Midtown.
We have one particular dish to thank for the mainstreaming of Chinese food -- chop suey. By the 1920s, chop suey had taken New York by storm, a cuisine perfect for the Jazz Age.
Through the next several decades, Chinese food would be transformed into something truly American and the Chinese dining experience would incorporate neon signs, fabulous cocktails and even glamorous floor shows by the 1940s.
FEATURING: Such classics as the Port Arthur Restaurant, the Chinese Tuxedo, Ruby Foo's Den, Tao, Lucky Cheng's and the eateries of 'Szechuan Valley'.
PLUS: Bernstein-on-Essex and the love affair between Chinese food and Jewish New Yorkers.
|May 22, 2020|
#327 Listener Stories: At Home In New York Part Two
EPISODE 327 This is Part Two of a special Bowery Boys podcast event featuring the voices of our listeners.
What makes New York feel like home — whether you live here or not? Why do people feel comfortable in New York City -- even in troubling times? When do you officially become a New Yorker?
In this episode, we focus on a few tales from New York transplants, those who were born here and moved to the city in search of employment, adventure, love -- or purpose. And stories from those native New Yorkers who have moved away but keep a part of the city with them always (and in a couple cases, we mean this literally.)
ALSO: How the residents of New York City come together in crisis times.
Featuring the 'origin stories' of both Tom and Greg, both of whom moved to New York City in the early 1990s. It took both the simple pleasures of urban living and major traumatic events to turn them into New Yorkers.
|May 18, 2020|
#326 Listener Stories: At Home in New York Part One
EPISODE 326 A special episode featuring the listeners of the Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast.
What makes New York feel like home -- whether you live here or not?
|May 15, 2020|
#325 The Staten Island Quarantine War
EPISODE 325 In 1858, during two terrible nights of violence in September, the needs of the few outweighed the needs of the many when a community, endangered for decades and ignored by the state, finally reached its breaking point.
In Staten Island, near the spot of today’s St. George Ferry Terminal, where thousands board and disembark the Staten Island Ferry everyday, was once America’s largest quarantine station – 30 acres of hospitals, medical facilities, shanties and doctors' homes, surrounded by a six-foot-tall brick wall.
Since its construction in the year 1799, Staten Islanders had fought for the removal of the Quarantine Ground, considered a menacing danger to the health of residents and a blight upon any possible development.
Yet the need for such an extensive facility at the Narrows -- the gateway to the New York Upper Bay and the Hudson River -- was so important that the state of New York mostly turned a blind eye to their wishes.
And so the residents of Staten Island took matters into their own hands.
Was this a case of righteous revolution in the service of safety and well-being against a tyrannical state? Or a grave and malicious act of terror?
FEATURING: Cornelius Vanderbilt and two American vice presidents. And origins of New York neighborhoods, Tompkinsville, St. George and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn!
|May 08, 2020|
#324 Moving Day! Madness and Mayhem in Old New York
EPISODE 324 At last! The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast looks at one of the strangest traditions in this city's long history -- that curious custom known as Moving Day.
Every May 1st, for well over two centuries, from the colonial era to World War II, rental leases would expire simultaneously, and thousands of New Yorkers would pack their possessions into carts or wagons and move to new homes or apartments. (Later on, October 1st would become the second ‘moving day’.)
Of course, for the rest of the world May 1 would mean all different things – a celebration of spring or moment of political protest. And it would mean those things here in New York – but on a backdrop of just unbelievable mayhem in the streets.
There are a few theories about the origin of Moving Day but most of them trace back the Dutch colony of New Netherlands. So why did New Yorkers continue the custom for centuries?
FEATURING Davy Crockett, The Jeffersons, Mickey Mouse and an amazing New Yorker named Amy Armstrong with a really stubborn husband.
Make sure you're subscribed to the Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast so you don't miss an episode.
|May 01, 2020|
#323 The Bowery Wizards: A History of Tattooed New York
EPISODE 323 Two tales from New York’s incredible history with tattooing.
The art of tattooing is as old as written language but it would require the contributions of a few 19th century New York tattoo artists — and a young inventor with no tattoos whatsoever — to take this ancient art to the next level.
The first documented tattoo parlor (or atelier) in the United States was a small second-floor place near the East River waterfront and close to the site of the Brooklyn Bridge.
But as more sailors and seamen — the principal customers for tattoo purveyors — came to New York, more would-be tattoo artists opened shops. By the 1880s, there were a great number of professional tattooists, scattered along the waterfront and up along the Bowery.
Meanwhile, over in Brooklyn, sailors in need of a fresh tattoo could head to small shops in Coney Island or near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
In this episode, Greg shares two tales from New York City tattoo history:
— An unsuccessful Thomas Edison invention becomes a revolutionary device for tattoo artists. The electric tattoo machine was first perfected in a tiny tattoo parlor underneath a New York elevated train in Chatham Square.
— Believe it or not, tattooing was outlawed in New York City in 1961! And would remain so for 36 years. How is that even possible in a city with a vibrant music scene and iconic venues like CBGB just steps from the heart of Manhattan’s old tattooing industry?
|Apr 28, 2020|
#322 Nickelodeons and Movie Palaces: New York and the Film Industry 1893-1920
EPISODE 322 The historic movie studio Kaufman Astoria Studios opened 100 years ago this year in Astoria, Queens. It remains a vital part of New York City's entertainment industry with both film and television shows still made there to this day. The Museum of the Moving Image resides next door in a former studio building.
To honor this anniversary, we are re-issuing a new version of one of our favorite shows from the back catalog -- New York City and the birth of the film industry.
New York City inspires cinema, but it has also consistently manufactured it. Long before anybody had heard of Hollywood, New York and the surrounding region was a capital for movies, the home to the earliest American film studios and the inventors who revolutionized the medium.
It began with Thomas Edison's invention of the Kinetoscope out in his New Jersey laboratory. Soon his former employees would spread out through New York, evolving the inventor's work into entertainments that could be projected in front of audiences.
By the mid 1900s, New Yorkers fell in love with nickelodeons and gasped as their first look at moving pictures. Along the way, films were made in locations all throughout the city -- from the rooftop of Madison Square Garden to a special super-studio in the Bronx.
This is a special 'director's cut' of a podcast we first released on February 18, 2011.
For more information, visit our website.
|Apr 24, 2020|
#321 Lauren Bacall ... At Home At The Dakota Apartments
EPISODE 321 The Hollywood icon and Broadway star Lauren Bacall lived at the Dakota Apartments on the Upper West Side for 53 years. Her story is intertwined the Dakota, a revolutionary apartment complex built in 1884. In this episode, we tell both their stories.
Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske, the daughter of Jewish Eastern European immigrants, worked her way from theater usher to cover model at a young age, then became a movie star before she was 20 years old. Her film pairings with husband Humphrey Bogart define the classic Hollywood era.
After Bogart died, she returned to New York City to reinvent her career, her sights aimed at the Broadway stage. And she chose the Dakota as her home.
Built by Singer Sewing Machine president Edward Clark, the Dakota was a pioneer of both apartment-style living and of living, generally speaking, on the Upper West Side.
This is the story of second and third acts -- both for an woman of grit and independent spirit and for a landmark with a million stories to tell (and a million more to come).
|Apr 21, 2020|
#320 Hart Island: The Loneliest Place in New York
Few people are allowed to go onto Hart Island, the quiet, narrow island in the Long Island Sound, a lonely place in sight of the bustling community of City Island.
For more than 150 years, Hart Island has been New York's potter's field, the burial site for more than one million people -- unclaimed bodies, stillborn babies, those who died of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s, and, in 2020, the location of burials of those who have died of COVID-19 coronavirus.
Hart Island's appearance in the international press this past week has drawn attention to the severity of the pandemic in New York City, but it has also drawn attention to the island itself.
By the early 19th century, this peaceful place -- most likely named for deer which may have called it home -- had already developed a violent reputation as a renegade site for boxing matches. During the Civil War, black Union troops trained here and later Confederate soldiers were imprisoned in refitted prison barracks.
But in the late 1860s the city prepared the island for its eventual and longest lasting purpose. Today it is the world's largest potter's field. And thanks to groups like the Hart Island Project, New Yorkers may finally get a glimpse at this strange, forlorn place and the previously forgotten people buried here.
|Apr 17, 2020|
#319 The Tale of Charging Bull and Fearless Girl
EPISODE 319 In simpler times, thousands of tourists would flock to the northern tip of Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan to take a picture with a rather unconventional New Yorker -- the bronze sculpture Charging Bull by Italian-American artist Arturo Di Modica.
Bull is a product of the 1980s New York art scene, delivered as a gift to the New York Stock Exchange (and to the American people, according to the artist) one late night in December 1989.
Nobody may have asked for this particular gift, but soon New Yorkers fell in love with the bull, and the sculpture was soon placed near Bowling Green, one of New York City's oldest public spaces.
By the early 1990s, Charging Bull had become one of the most photographed pieces of art in America, beloved as both work of sculpture and a genuine, photo-friendly curiosity.
But in 2017, the bull faced down an unusual new neighbor -- another bronze named Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal. Girl soon became very popular with budding selfie-takers, but her proximity to Bull changed its fundamental meaning. An art scandal in lower Manhattan was brewing!
|Apr 14, 2020|
#318 Moonstruck: That's Amore!
EPISODE 318 Moonstruck, the 1987 comedy starring Cher and Nicolas Cage, not only celebrates that crazy little thing called love, but also pays tribute to the Italian working class residents of the old "South Brooklyn" neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.
Listen in as Greg and Tom recap the story and explore the many real New York City settings of the film -- from the glamorous Lincoln Center to the still-gritty streets of 1980s Little Italy.
While the film's most recognizable location (the townhouse on Cranberry Street) is still with us, other places like the Cammareri Bros. Bakery are no longer with in business.
This podcast can be enjoyed both by those who have seen the film and those who’ve never even heard of it.
We think our take on Moonstruck might inspire you to look for the film’s many fascinating (but easy to overlook) historical details, so if you don’t mind being spoiled on the plot, give it a listen first, then watch the movie! Otherwise, come back to the show after you’ve watched it.
Also: Announcing the Bowery Boys "Safe At Home" Listener Challenge
Take part in a future Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast! We're looking for stories about feeling at home in New York City.
As we discuss at the beginning of the show, we're looking for stories about "home in New York" from native New Yorkers, those who have moved to New York, and those who only visit New York.
Just call our Bowery Boys hotline and record a message. Our number is (844) 4-BOWERY.
Messages can be up to one minute long. Be sure to leave your first name and the city you’re calling from. And we’ll include as many stories as we can in our upcoming show. Thank you!
|Apr 10, 2020|
#317 Vaccinated: New York and the Polio Outbreak
EPISODE 317 In 1916 New York City became the epicenter of one of America's very first polio epidemics.
The scourge of infantile paralysis infected thousands of Americans that year, most under the age of five. But in New York City it was especially bad. The Department of Health took drastic measures, barring children from going out in public and even labeling home with polio sufferers, urging others to stay away.
That same year, up in the Bronx, a young couple named Daniel and Dora Salk -- the children of Eastern European immigrants -- were themselves raising their young son named Jonas. As an adult, Jonas Salk would spend his life combating the poliovirus in the laboratory, creating a vaccine that would change the world.
In 1921 a young lawyer and politician named Franklin Delano Roosevelt would contract what was believed at the time to be polio. He would use his connections and power -- first as governor of New York, then as president of the United States -- to guide the nation's response to the virus.
FEATURING: The story of Albert Sabin and the origin of the March of Dimes.
ALSO: The second half of the show is devoted to the question -- who came up the first vaccine anyway? Presenting the story of Edward Jenner -- and a cow named Blossom.
Subscribe to the Bowery Boys podcast today on your favorite podcast player.
|Apr 07, 2020|
#316 Jenny Lind at Castle Garden
EPISODE 316 What happens when P. T. Barnum, America's savviest supplier of both humbug and hoax, decides it's time to go legit? Only one of the greatest concert tours in American history.
If you've seen the film musical The Greatest Showman, you've been introduced to Jenny Lind, the opera superstar dubbed "The Swedish Nightingale". And you also know that Barnum, taken with the Swedish songstress, brings her to New York to begin a heavily promoted American debut.
But the film sidesteps many of the more fascinating details. Lind was greeted like a queen and rock star when she arrived at the Canal Street dock despite most New Yorkers having never heard her sing.
Her stage was Castle Garden, the former fort turned performance venue that sat in New York harbor, connected to the Battery by a small bridge.
The concert proved legendary. And Lind proved herself an enterprising businesswoman, bending even the will of a profiteer like Barnum. Her financial arrangement for the tour would influence 170 years of musical performances and cement her reputation as one of the greatest vocalists of the 19th century.
|Apr 03, 2020|
#315 Abandoned Pantheon: The Hall of Fame for Great Americans
EPISODE 315 The Hall of Fame for Great Americans, founded in 1900, was a precursor to the Nobel Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a vaunted tribute to those who have contributed greatly to the development the United States of America.
Located on the campus of Bronx Community College in the University Heights neighborhood of the Bronx, the Hall of Fame features the sculpted bronze busts of 96 individuals considered worthy of renown in their day, arranged along a columned arcade designed by Stanford White.
It was so important in the early 20th century that the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame derive from its example. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans even pops up in The Wizard of Oz!
But today it is virtually forgotten. And no person has been elected to the Hall of Fame since the 1970s.
This is the story of a university with lofty intentions, a snapshot of early 20th century optimism, and a look at a few questionable considerations of 'greatness'.
*There were once 98 busts but two were removed in 2017.
|Mar 31, 2020|
#314 Tillie Hart - The Holdout of London Terrace
London Terrace, an English-inspired apartment complex, is a jewel of apartment living in the neighborhood of Chelsea. In 1929, a set of historic townhouses -- also named London Terrace -- were demolished to construct this spectacular set of buildings.
That is, all townhouses but one -- the home of Mrs. Tillie Hart, a tenacious tenant who refused to leave.
In a real-life example of the movie Up, Hart's tale is a battle between urban development and an individual's right to their longtime home -- a genuine David vs. Goliath tale on the landscape of New York City real estate.
In her favor -- the support of the public and the regular attention of the New York Daily News. Will Hart prevail?
PLUS: A history of the Chelsea neighborhood and its "godfather" Clement Clarke Moore.
|Mar 27, 2020|
#313 The Straw Hat Riots of 1922
EPISODE 313 "No man likes to have his hat snatched from his head by somebody he has not yet been introduced to."
During the month of September 1922, as summer passed into autumn, large groups of rowdy 'hoodlums' swarmed the streets of New York City, grabbing straw hats off the heads of men, leaving the gutters filled with thousands of smashed lids.
Why in the world would so many people become outraged at the sight of a straw hat?
This is the story of the ultimate fashion faux pas, Jazz Age style, and a look at the dangers of men's wear uniformity.
NOTE: As this is our first remotely recorded episode, we're a bit more slap-happy than usual. Expect an extra dosage of puns.
Special thanks to Newspapers.com
|Mar 24, 2020|
#312 Has Jack the Ripper Come to Town? A Gilded Age Hysteria
EPISODE 312 The Whitechapel murders of 1888 -- perpetrated by the killer known as Jack the Ripper -- inspired one of the greatest cultural hysterias of the Victorian era. The idea that the Ripper could appear anywhere -- even in New York City.
The usual vicious crimes of gang members and roughs on the Bowery were not only compared to those of the Ripper, they were often framed as though they were the Ripper himself, an omnipresent specter of evil. The sordid misdeeds of other criminals were elevated by the press in comparisons to Jack the Ripper.
But then, in April of 1891, a crime was committed on the East River waterfront that was so brutal, so garish, that comparisons to the London killer were inevitable.
This is also the story of a man named Ameer Ben Ali, an Algerian immigrant who also became a victim -- of one of the greatest instances of criminal injustice in New York City history.
This is a tale of an infamous crime, a controversial detective and an unjust conviction. And hovering over it all -- a devil, a specter of fear and violence.
Who killed Old Shakespeare?
|Mar 20, 2020|
#311 Uprising: The Shirtwaist Strike of 1909
EPISODE 311 Nobody had seen anything quite like it. In late November 1909, tens of thousands of workers went on strike, angered by poor work conditions and unfair wages within the city's largest industry.
New York City had seen labor strikes before, but this one would change the city forever.
The industry in question was the garment industry, the manufacture of clothing -- and, in the case of this strike, the manufacture of shirtwaists, the fashionable blouse worn by many American women.
The strikers in question were mostly young women and girls, mostly Eastern European Jewish and Italian immigrants who were tired of being taken advantage of by their male employers.
Leading the charge were labor leaders and activists, and in particular, a young woman named Clara Lemlich who would incite a crowd of thousands at Cooper Union with a rousing speech that would forever echo as a cry of solidarity for an underpaid and abused workforce.
|Mar 06, 2020|
#310 1918: The Harlem Hellfighters
On February 17, 1919, in the waning months of World War I, the Harlem Hellfighters – officially the 369th Infantry Regiment, originally a New York National Guard division that had just come from intense battle in France – marched up Fifth Avenue to an unbelievable show of support and love.
The Hellfighters were comprised of young African-American men from New York City and the surrounding area, its enthusiastic recruits made up of those who had arrived in the city during a significant period of population migration from the Reconstruction South to (only slightly) more tolerant Northern cities.
They were not able to serve in regular American military units because of segregation, but because of an unusual series of events, the regiment instead fought alongside the French in the trenches, for 191 days in the year 1918, more than any other American unit during the war.
They became legends. They were known around the world for their valor, ferocity and bravery. This is the story of New York musicians, red caps, budding painters, chauffeurs and teenagers just out of school, serving their country in a way that would become legendary.
FEATURING the voices of World War I veterans telling their own stories. PLUS some brilliant music and a story from Barack Obama (okay it’s just a clip of the former president but still.)
|Feb 21, 2020|
#309 What Gets Saved? Landmarks & Historic Districts Explained
They're tearing down your favorite old building and putting up a condo in its place. How can this be?
Before you plunge into fits of despair, you should know more about the tools of preservation that New Yorkers possess in their efforts to preserve the spirit and personality of the city.
In the 1960s, in the wake of the demolition of Pennsylvania Station and other beloved historic structures, the New York City Landmarks Law was enacted, granting the city powers to protect its most precious endangered places.
Walking down the beautiful street and see a brown street sign instead of the usual green? You're in a historic district.
But preservation can be a tricky business; after all, the city is basically imposing rules about how someone else’s private property, in most cases, should look and be maintained. How do you preserve the past amid a rapidly changing metropolis
In this episode, we present a sort of "landmarking 101", mapping the history of the New York City preservation movement and looking at the surprising and sometimes mysterious process of landmarking. It's everything you’ve wanted to know about landmarks (but were afraid to ask)!
FEATURING SPECIAL GUESTS
— Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director, Historic Districts Council
This show was recorded live at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, as part of the Brooklyn Podcast Festival
|Feb 07, 2020|
#308 Andrew Carnegie and New York's Public Libraries
EPISODE 308 In the final decades of his life, steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie -- one of the richest Americans to ever live -- began giving his money away.
The Scots American had worked his way up from a railroad telegraph office to amass an unimaginable fortune, acquired in a variety of industries -- railroads, bridge building, iron and steel.
In the age of the monopoly, Gilded Age moguls often made their money in ways we might consider unethical and illegal today. But Carnegie's view of his wealth was quite different than that of his rarefied clubhouse peers
Carnegie devoted his latter years to philanthropy, primarily devoting his energies to the creation of libraries across the country.
By the late 19th century, the New York City area already had dozens of libraries and reading rooms throughout the future five boroughs. But they were certainly not welcoming to every person. And those circulating libraries that were available were limited and woefully overburdened.
Carnegie's unprecedented financial gift to the city would jump start the city's nascent library systems (the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library) and broaden their reach into communities with the development of dozens of new branch libraries.
In this episode, we are joined by Adwoa Adusei and Krissa Corbett Cavouras, hosts of the Brooklyn Public Library podcast Borrowed, who give the Bowery Boys a tour of one of Carnegie's most popular New York City libraries.
In the winter of 1908, thousands stood in line to visit the new Brownsville branch library. How do treasured structures like Brownsville continue to serve the needs of the neighborhood in the 21st century? Are Carnegie libraries, most of which still stand, prepared for the future?
|Jan 23, 2020|
#307 The Holland Tunnel: The Wonder of the Jazz Age
EPISODE 307 The Holland Tunnel, connecting Manhattan with Jersey City beneath the Hudson River, is more important to daily life in New York City than people may at first think.
Before the creation of the Holland Tunnel, commuters and travelers had painfully few options if they wanted to get to and from Manhattan. And for the city's many waterfront industries, there was mostly only one option --- barges and ferries that carried cargo across the crowded Hudson River, maneuvering through an overcrowded port system which profited from the grotesque congestion.
And then along came the automobile, rapidly transforming the American way of life. How could an average motorist -- or a regular cargo truck -- get back and forth to New York City in its current chaotic state?
The new tunnel envisioned by chief engineer Clifford Milburn Holland would create a new pathway for motor vehicles, the first for such conveyances under the Hudson River.
Yet one pressing problem stood in the way of its completion. Railways and mass transit could travel through long, underground tunnels because their tracks were electrified. But automobiles produced poisonous exhaust -- carbon monoxide -- making a contained tunnel almost 100 feet underwater a deadly proposition.
The ingenious solution would ensure not only the success of the New York/New Jersey tunnel, but would change the fate of automobile transportation in the United States and around the world.
PLUS: The tragic story behind the naming of the Holland Tunnel
|Jan 10, 2020|
#306 Just Desserts: The Origins of New York Cheesecake, Cannoli and More
EPISODE 306 Recorded live at the WNYC Greene Space in downtown Manhattan
In this special episode, the Bowery Boys podcast focuses on the delicious treats that add to the New York experience. These aren't just the famous foods that have been made in New York, but the unique desserts that make the city what it is today.
The origins of some of these treats go way, way back -- the Dutch New Amsterdam. Others have become staples of the New York diet thanks to immigrant groups who first developed and perfected them in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side.
So while this show may seem like a trifle, the underlying story celebrates the contributions of local communities in creating timeless food classics, served in historic bake shops, candy stores, soda fountains and cafes.
Cheesecake and cannoli are two of our five historic treats. What are the other three? Tune in and find out! (And definitely save some room after dinner for dessert.)
|Dec 26, 2019|
#305 Christmas in New York: The Lights of Dyker Heights
EPISODE 305 There's a special kind of magic to Christmas in New York City, from that colossal Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center to the fanciful holiday displays in department store windows.
But in the past three decades, a new holiday tradition has grown in popularity and in a surprising quarter -- the quiet residential neighborhood of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.
Every December many residents of this area of southwestern Brooklyn ornament their homes in a wild and brilliant parade of Christmas lights and decorations -- from gigantic animatronic Santas to armies of toy soldiers. This electrical spectacle draws thousands of tourists a year, attracted to this imaginative (and often mind-blowing) display of Christmas spirit.
In this episode, we look at the lights of Dyker Heights from a few angles. First we explore the history of Christmas lighting in New York City and how such displays, at first mere promotional uses of Edison lighting, brought Christmas into the secular public sphere.
Then we look at the history of Dyker Heights, tracing back to one of the first Dutch settlements and a neighborhood which has developed into a stable Italian community.
Finally, we send our researcher and producer Julia Press on an excursion into Dyker Heights to reveal the origin of the Christmas display extravaganza. Featuring an interview with one of the residents who started it all!
A big thank you to Lucy Spata and Tony Muia of A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours for allowing us to record at the synagogue. And of course thanks to Julia Press for contributing to this show and helping up over the past few months. Please check out her website for more links to her past work.
|Dec 12, 2019|
#304 The Miracle on Eldridge Street
EPISODE 304: The Eldridge Street Synagogue is one of the most beautifully restored places in the United States, a testament to the value of preserving history when it seems all is lost to ruin.
Today the Museum at Eldridge Street maintains the synagogue, built in 1887 as one of the first houses of worship in the country for Eastern European orthodox Jews. The Moorish revival synagogue, adorned in symbolic decoration and sumptuous stained glass, reflected the Gilded Age opulence of the day while keeping true to the spirit of the Jewish faith.
But by the 1950s, most of the Lower East Side's Jewish population had left for other districts, and the remaining congregation sealed off its beautiful sanctuary. For decades, it was hidden from all eyes, the ruinous space left to the ravages of deterioration. "Pigeons roosted in the balcony, benches were covered with dust, and stained glass windows had warped with time."
However, thanks to a handful of determined preservationists, this capsule of Jewish American life in the late 19th century has not only been restored, but even elevated to a new height. The Museum at Eldridge Street is not only a celebration of Jewish American culture, but a breathtaking tribute to the power of preservation.
PLUS: We discuss the birth of Jewish New York and how the city's growth directly changed the way Jewish Americans worshiped in the 19th century. Did you know that evidence of New York's very first Jewish congregation sits just a couple blocks from the foot of Eldridge Street?
And support the Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast on Patreon to receive our NEW after-show conversation called THE TAKEOUT. In this week’s episode, Greg explores the history of another Lower East Side synagogue – one that suffered a less glorious fate – while Tom shares an additional scene from our interview at the synagogue.
|Nov 28, 2019|
#303 Building Stuyvesant Town: A Mid-Century Controversy
EPISODE 303: The residential complexes Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, built in the late 1940s, incorporating thousands of apartments within a manicured "campus" on the east side, seemed to provide the perfect solution for New York City's 20th century housing woes.
For Robert Moses, it provided a reason to clear out an unpleasant neighborhood of dilapidated tenements and filthy gas tanks. For the insurance company Metropolitan Life, the city's partner in constructing these complexes, it represented both a profit opportunity and a way to improve the lives of middle class New Yorkers. It would be a home for returning World War II veterans and a new mode of living for young families.
As long as you were white.
In the spring of 1943, just a day before the project was approved by the city, Met Life's president Frederick H. Ecker brazenly declared their housing policy: "Negros and whites don’t mix. Perhaps they will in a hundred years, but not now.”
What followed was a nine year battle, centered in the 'walled fortress' of Stuy Town, against deeply ingrained housing discrimination policies in New York City. African-American activists waged a legal battle against Met Life, representing veterans returning from the battlefields of World War II.
But some of the loudest cries of resistance came from the residents of Stuy Town itself, waging a war from their very homes against racial discrimination.
|Nov 15, 2019|
#302 Gangs of New York (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
EPISODE 302: With Martin Scorsese's new film The Irishman being released this month, we thought we'd share with you an episode of the Bowery Boys Movie Club that explores the director's film Gangs of New York and its rich historical details. The Bowery Boys Movie Club is an exclusive podcast for those who support us on Patreon.
Gangs of New York is a one-of-a-kind film, Scorsese's 2002 epic based on a 1927 history anthology by Herbert Asbury that celebrates the grit and grime of Old New York.
Its fictional story line uses a mix of real-life and imagined characters, summoned from a grab bag of historical anecdotes from the gutters of the 19th century and poured out into a setting known as New York City’s most notorious neighborhood — Five Points.
Listen in as Greg and Tom discuss the film’s unique blend of fact and fiction, taking Asbury’s already distorted view of life in the mid 19th century and reviving it with extraordinary set design and art direction. The film itself was released a year after September 11, 2001, and the final cut should be looked at in that context.
Meanwhile some elements of the film are more relevant in 2019 than ever.
Should you watch the movie before you listen to this episode? This podcast can be enjoyed both by those who have seen the film and those who’ve never even heard of it.
We think our take on Gangs of New York might inspire you to look for the film’s many fascinating (but easy to overlook) historical details, so if you don’t mind being spoiled on the plot, give it a listen first, then watch the movie! Otherwise, come back to the show after you’ve watched it.
|Nov 01, 2019|
#301 Haunted Houses of Old New York
EPISODE 301: Welcome to the unlucky 13th Annual Bowery Boys ghost stories podcast, where history combines with folklore for a bone-chilling listening experience.
In this year's Halloween-themed special, Greg and Tom take you into some truly haunted private residences from throughout New York City history. These rowhouses, brownstones and mansion all have one thing in common -- stories of restless spirits who refuse to leave.
-- Near Madison Square Park in Manhattan, an eccentric writer posts a classified ad, hoping to rent out an attic room to a prospective subletter. Unfortunately the room already an occupant -- a greenish ghost with a troubling Civil War history.
-- The Conference House in Staten Island played an interesting role in the Revolutionary War, and some residents from that period may still wander its ancient hallways.
-- On the Upper East Side, a lavish penthouse ballroom may be permanently vexed with the ghost of a testy spirit named Mrs. Spencer. Can a legendary funny lady and a Vodou priestess manage to keep the ghoul under control?
And for the first time in Bowery Boys ghost-stories history, Greg and Tom record a segment of the show -- from within an actual haunted house. Merchant's House docent Carl Raymond joins them for a close look at the life of Gertrude Tredwell and the rooms where she lived and died -- and may, to this very day, haunt.
|Oct 17, 2019|
#300 The Forgotten Father of New York City
EPISODE 300: Andrew Haswell Green helped build Central Park and much of upper Manhattan, oversaw the formation of the New York Public Library, helped found great institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo, and even organized the city's first significant historical preservation group, saving New York City Hall from demolition.
This smart, frugal and unassuming bachelor, an attorney and financial whiz, was critical in taking down William Tweed and the Tweed Ring during the early 1870s, helping to bail out a financially strapped government.
But Green's greatest achievement -- championing the consolidation of the cities of New York and Brooklyn with communities in Richmond County (Staten Island), Westchester County (the Bronx) and Queens County (Queens) -- would create the City of Greater New York, just in time for the dawn of the 20th century.
Kenneth T. Jackson, editor of the Encyclopedia of New York, called Green "arguably the most important leader in Gotham's long history, more important than Peter Stuyvesant, Alexander Hamilton, Frederick Law Olmsted, Robert Moses and Fiorello La Guardia.''
So why is he virtually forgotten today? "Today not one New Yorker in 10,000 has heard of Andrew Haswell Green," wrote the New York Daily News in 2003.
In our 300th episode, we're delighted to bring you the story of Mr. Green, a public servant who worked to improve the city for over five decades. And we'll be joined by an ardent Green advocate -- former Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione.
|Oct 04, 2019|
#299 The Promenade and Preservation of Brooklyn Heights
EPISODE 299: Part Two of our series on the history of Brooklyn Heights, one of New York City's oldest neighborhoods.
By the 1880s, Brooklyn Heights had evolved from America's first suburb into the City of Brooklyn's most exclusive neighborhood, a tree-lined destination of fine architecture and glorious institutions.
The Heights would go on a roller-coaster ride with the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge and the transformation of Brooklyn into a borough of Greater New York. The old-money wealthy classes would leave, and the stately homes would be carved into multi-family dwellings and boarding houses.
The new subway would bring the bohemians of Greenwich Village into Brooklyn Heights, transforming it into an artist enclave for most of the century. But even with addition of trendy hotels and the Brooklyn Dodgers (whose front office was located here), the Heights faced an uncertain future.
When Robert Moses began planning his Brooklyn Queens Expressway in the 1940s, he planned a route that would sever Brooklyn Heights and obliterate many of its most spectacular homes. It would take a devoted community and some very clever ideas to re-route that highway and cover it with something extraordinary -- a Promenade, allowing all New Yorkers to enjoy the exceptional views of New York Harbor.
This drama only served to highlight the value and unique nature of Brooklyn Heights and its extraordinary architecture, leading New York to designate the former tranquil suburb on a plateau into the city's first historic district.
FEATURING: Truman Capote, Jackie Robinson, Gypsy Rose Lee, St. Ann's Warehouse, Matt Damon and the Jehovah's Witnesses!
|Sep 19, 2019|
#298 The Story of Brooklyn Heights
EPISODE 298: This is the first of a two-part celebration of Brooklyn Heights, a picturesque neighborhood of architectural wonder, situated on a plateau just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.
A stroll through Brooklyn Heights presents you with a unique collection of 19th century homes -- from wooden houses to brownstone mansions, all preserved thanks to the efforts of community activists in the 20th century.
But in this episode, we'll explain how they got here. And the answer can be found on almost any street sign in the neighborhood -- Pierrrepont, Hicks, Middagh, Remsen.
Those are more than just street names. Each sign traces back to an original landholder who developed this special place in the early 19th century. In a way, the neighborhood tells its own story.
By then, the land once known as Clover Hill had seen its share of both tranquility and drama, the former site of a Revolutionary War fort and a crucial evening in the saga of the Revolutionary War.
But in the 19th century, most Americans knew Brooklyn Heights for more than just architecture and George Washington. This was the home to respected cultural institutions and to scores of churches, so many that the borough received a very spiritual nickname.
FEATURING: Henry Ward Beecher, Robert Fulton, the Marquis de Lafayette and, of course, the Lady Montague.
|Sep 05, 2019|
#297 Dr. Hosack's Enchanted Garden: Botany, Medicine, and Discovery in Old New York
EPISODE 297: Dr. David Hosack was no ordinary doctor in early 19th-century New York. His patients included some of the city’s most notable citizens, including Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, both of whom he counted as close friends -- and both of whom agreed to bring him along to their fateful duel.
But it was Dr. Hosack’s love and appreciation for the field of botany that would eventually make him famous in his time. In 1801 he opened his Elgin Botanic Garden on 20 acres of land located three miles north of the city on Manhattan Island.
In this first public botanical garden in the country, Hosack would spend a decade planting one of the most extraordinary collections of medicinal plants, along with native and exotic plants that could further the young nation’s agriculture and manufacturing industries.
And yet, he also spent a decade looking for funding for this important project, and for validation that this kind of work was even important.
In this episode we discuss Hosack’s life and surprising legacy with Victoria Johnson, author of the 2018 book, “American Eden, David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic,” a New York Times Notable Book of 2018, a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction, and a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History.
|Aug 23, 2019|
Introducing Mob Queens
Check out Mob Queens, a new podcast from Stitcher! Mob stories are always all about the guys. But not this one. Anna Genovese is a New York drag club maven and bad-ass mob wife. Hollywood besties Jessica Bendinger (writer, Bring It On) and Michael Seligman (writer, RuPaul’s Drag Race) are obsessed. They piece together Anna's story, racing between speakeasies, mob informants and former drag queens. But will their heroine's secrets unlock more than they want to know about Anna... and themselves? Mob Queens is out NOW - listen wherever you get your podcasts.
|Aug 19, 2019|
#296 Talking Trash: The NYC Department of Sanitation
EPISODE 296: Picture New York City under mountains of filth, heaving from clogged gutters and overflowing from trash cans. Imagine the unbearable smell of rotting food and animal corpses left on the curb. And what about snow, piled up and unshoveled, leaving roads entirely unnavigable?
This was New York City in the mid-19th century, a place growing faster than city officials could control. It seemed impossible to keep clean.
In this episode, we chart the course to a safer, healthier city thanks to the men and women of the New York City Department of Sanitation, which was formed in the 1880s to combat this challenging humanitarian crisis.
Along the way, we'll stop at some of the more, um, pungent landmarks of New York City history -- the trash heaps of Riker's Island, the mountainous Corona Ash Dump, and the massive Fresh Kills Landfill.
PLUS: We'll be joined by two special guests to help us understand the issues surrounding New York City sanitation in the 21st century:
Robin Nagle is a Clinical Professor at NYU and the Anthropologist in Residence for New York City’s Department of Sanitation, and the author of "Picking Up - On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City".
Maggie Lee is the records management officer in the Sanitation Department, and also serves as the deputy director for Museum Planning for the Foundation for New York’s Strongest. She has helped organize “What is Here is Open: Selections from the Treasures in the Trash Collection” -- an art show centered around pieces thrown out with the trash, which is currently running at the Hunter East Harlem Gallery at 119th and 3rd Avenue through September 14, 2019.
|Aug 09, 2019|
#295 Saving the City: Women of the Progressive Era
EPISODE 295: This is a podcast about kindness and care. About the Progressive Era pioneers who saved the lives of people in need -- from the Lower East Side to Washington Heights, from Hell's Kitchen to Fort Greene.
Within just a few decades – between the 1880s and the 1920s – so much social change occurred within American life, upending so many cultural norms and advancing so many important social issues, that these years became known as the Progressive Era. And at the forefront of many of these changes were women.
In this show, Greg visits two important New York City social landmarks of this era -- Henry Street Settlement, founded by Lillian Wald in the Lower East Side, and the Cabrini Shrine, where Mother Frances X. Cabrini continued her work with New York's Italian American population.
Then he pays a visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society and their exhibition Taking Care of Brooklyn: Stories of Sickness and Health, featuring artifacts from the borough's surprising connection to medical and social innovation -- from settlement houses to the birth control revolution advocated by Margaret Sanger.
If you have ancestors who came through New York City during 1880s through the 1920s, most likely they came into contact with the efforts of some of the women featured in this show. From the White Rose Mission, providing help for young black women, to the life-saving investigations of 'Dr. Joe' aka Sara Josephine Baker, leading the city's fight for improvements to public health.
Greg is joined by several wonderful guests helping to tell this story, including Tanya Bielski-Braham (currently of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh), Beckett Graham (of the History Chicks podcast), Julie Golia (Vice President for Curatorial Affairs and Collections at the Brooklyn Historical Society), Cherie Sprosty (director of liturgy at the Cabrini Shrine) and Katie Vogel (public historian at the Henry Street Settlement).
|Jul 25, 2019|
#294 That Daredevil Steve Brodie, 'King of the Bowery'
EPISODE 294: A tale of the 'sporting life' of the Bowery from the 1870s and 80s. A former newsboy named Steve Brodie grabs the country's attention by leaping off the Brooklyn Bridge on July 23, 1886. Or did he?
The story of Steve Brodie has all the ingredients of a Horatio Alger story. He worked the streets as a newsboy when he was very young, fighting the bullies (often his own brothers) to become one of the most respected newsies in Manhattan.
He experienced his first taste of adulation and respect as a minor sports celebrity, participating in pedestrian competitions across the country. Back in New York, Brodie started a family and promptly lost most of his money at the race track. He yearned to do something athletic and attention grabbing again.
The Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, was a crowning architectural jewel linking two major cities; Brodie witnessed much of its construction during afternoons diving from East River docks. He now proposed an outrageous stunt that would garner him instant fame and fortune.
He would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge!
Was Steve Brodie a hero or a fool? A daredevil or a con artist? His story provides a window into the 'sporting men' life of the Bowery and a look into what may possibly be the greatest hoax of the Gilded Age.
Our thanks to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words
Featuring clips from the 1933 film The Bowery, the 1949 Warner Brothers cartoon Bowery Bugs and the 1958 recording of "The Bowery" by Billy Randolph & The High Hatters
|Jul 11, 2019|
Secret Places of Upper Manhattan
EPISODE 293: In Washington Heights and Inwood, the two Manhattan neighborhoods above West 155th Street, the New York grid plan begins to become irrelevant, with avenues and streets preferring to conform to northern Manhattan's more rugged terrain. As a result, one can find aspects of nearly 400 years of New York City history here -- along a secluded waterfront or tucked high upon a shaded hill.
In this episode, we look at four specific historic landmarks of Upper Manhattan, places that have survived into present day, even as their surroundings have become greatly altered.
-- A picturesque cemetery -- the final resting place for mayors, writers and scandal makers -- split in two;
-- An aging farmhouse once linked to New York's only surviving natural forest with a Revolutionary secret in its backyard;
-- A Roman-inspired waterway that once provided a vital link to New York City's survival;
-- And a tiny lighthouse, overwhelmed by a great bridge and saved by a strange twist of fame.
For those who live and work in Washington Heights and Inwood, these historic landmarks will be familiar to you. For everybody else, prepare for a new list of mysterious landmarks and fascinating places to explore this summer.
And that's just the beginning! Upper Manhattan holds a host of fascinating, awe-inspiring sites of historical and cultural interest. After you listen to this episode, check out our article on the Bowery Boys website entitled Secret Places of Upper Manhattan: Twenty remarkable historic sites in Washington Heights and Inwood.
|Jun 28, 2019|
Sip-In At Julius': Gay New York In The 1960s
EPISODE 292: This month New York City (and the world) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a combative altercation between police and bar patrons at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village, an event that gave rise to the modern LGBT movement.
But in a way, the Stonewall Riots were simply the start of a new chapter for the gay rights movement. The road leading to Stonewall is often glossed over or forgotten.
By the 1960s, a lively gay scene that traced back to the 19th century -- drag balls! lesbian teahouses! -- had been effectively buried or concealed by decades of cultural and legal oppression.
A few brave individuals, however, were tired of living in the shadows.
In this episode, we’ll be zeroing in on the efforts of a handful of young New Yorkers who, in 1966, took a page from the civil rights movement to stage an unusual demonstration in a small bar in the West Village. This little event, called the Sip-In at Julius', was a tiny but significant step towards the fair treatment of gay and lesbians in the United States.
IN ADDITION: We'll be joined by Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer, to talk about the forgotten lives of LGBT people in the ever-changing borough of Brooklyn.
Visit our website for photographs and more details -- boweryboyshistory.com
This episode features an audio interview clip from the podcast Making Gay History, as well as a musical clip of 'I Hear A Symphony' by The Supremes (Motown).
Special thanks to our sponsor this week -- Flatiron School.
|Jun 13, 2019|
The Tombs: Five Points' Notorious House of Detention
EPISODE 291: Some might find it strange that the Manhattan Detention Complex -- one of New York City's municipal jails -- should be located next to the bustling neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy. Stranger still is its ominous nickname -- "The Tombs".
Near this very spot -- more than 180 years ago -- stood another imposing structure, a massive jail in the style of an Egyptian mausoleum, casting its dark shadow over a district that would become known as Five Points, the most notorious 19th-century neighborhood in New York City.
Both Five Points and the original Tombs (officially "New York City Halls of Justice and House of Detention") was built upon the spot of old Collect Pond, an old fresh-water pond that was never quite erased from the city's map when it was drained via a canal -- along today's Canal Street.
But the foreboding reputation of the Tombs comes from more than sinking foundations and cracked walls. For more than six decades, thousands of people were kept here -- murderers, pickpockets, vagrants, and many more who had committed no crimes at all.
And there would be a few unfortunates who would never leave the confines of this place. For the Tombs contained a gallows, where some of the worst criminals in the United States were executed.
Other jails would replace this building in the 20th century, but none would shake off the grim nickname.
|May 31, 2019|
#290 Bagels: A New York Story
EPISODE 290: The most iconic New York City foods -- bagels, pizza, hot dogs -- are portable, adaptable and closely associated with the city's history through its immigrant communities.
In the case of the bagel, that story takes us to the Polish immigrants who brought their religion, language and eating customs to the Lower East Side starting in the 1870s. During the late 19th century, millions of bagels were created in tiny bake shops along Hester and Rivington Streets, specifically for the neighborhood's Jewish community.
We start there and end up in the modern day with frozen supermarket bagels, pizza bagels, bagel breakfast sandwiches, bagel bites. BAGELS SLICED ST. LOUIS STYLE?! How did this simple food from 17th century Poland become a beloved American breakfast staples?
It starts with a bagel revolution! Poor conditions in the bakeries inspired a worker's movement and the formation of a union that standardized the ways in which bagels were made. By the mid 20th century, modern technology allowed for bagels to be made cheaply and shipped all over the world.
But the 'real' way to make a bagel is to hand roll it. In this episode, we speak to Melanie Frost of Ess-a-Bagel for some insight into the pleasures of the true New York City bagel.
|May 16, 2019|
Blood and Shakespeare: The Astor Place Riot of 1849
EPISODE 289: In old New York, one hundred and seventy years ago, a theatrical rivalry between two leading actors of the day sparked a terrible night of violence — one of the most horrible moments in New York City history.
England’s great thespian William Macready mounted the stage of the Astor Place Opera House on May 10, 1849, to perform Shakespeare’s Macbeth, just as he had done hundreds of times before. But this performance would become infamous in later years as the trigger for one of New York City’s most violent events — the Astor Place Riot.
Macready, known as one of the world’s greatest Shakespearean stars, was soon rivaled by American actor Edwin Forrest, whose brawny, ragged style of performance endeared the audiences of the Bowery. To many, these two actors embodied many of America’s deepest divides — rich vs. poor, British vs. American, Whig vs. Democrat.
On May 10th, these emotions overflowed into an evening of chaotic bloodshed as armed militia shot indiscriminately into an angry mob gathering outside the theater at Astor Place. By the next morning, over two dozen New Yorkers would be murdered, dozens more wounded, and the culture of the city irrevocably changed.
|May 02, 2019|
#288 The World of Tomorrow: The New York World's Fair of 1939
EPISODE 288: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the fourth largest park in New York City and the pride of northern Queens, has twice been the gateway to the future.
Two world's fairs have been held here, twenty-five years apart, both carefully guided by power broker Robert Moses. In this episode, we highlight the story of the first fair, held in 1939 and 1940, a visionary festival of patriotism and technological progress that earnestly sold a narrow view of American middle-class aspirations.
It was the World of Tomorrow! (Never mind the protests or the fact that many of the venues were incomplete.) A kitschy campus of themed zones and wacky architectural wonders, the fair provided visitors with speculative ideas of the future, governed by clean suburban landscapes, space-age appliances and flirtatious smoking robots.
The fair was a post-Depression excuse for corporations to rewrite the American lifestyle, introducing new inventions (television) and attractive new products (automobiles, refrigerators), all presented in dazzling venues along gleaming flag-lined avenues and courtyards.
But the year was 1939 and the world of tomorrow could not keep out the world of today. The Hall of Nations almost immediately bore evidence of the mounting war in Europe. Visitors who didn't fit the white middle-American profile being sold at the fair found themselves excluded from the "future" it was trying to sell.
And then, in July of 1940, there was a dreadful tragedy at the British Pavilion that proved the World of Tomorrow was still very much a part of the world of today.
|Apr 19, 2019|
Greenwich Village in the 1960s
EPISODE 287: This is the story of Greenwich Village as a character -- an eccentric character maybe, but one that changed American life -- and how the folky, activist spirit it fostered in arts, culture and the protest movement came back in the end to help itself.
This April we're marking the 50th anniversary of the Greenwich Village Historic District designation from 1969 -- preserving one of the most important and historic neighborhoods in New York -- and to mark the occasion we are celebrating the revolutionary scene (and the revolutionary moment) that gave birth to it -- the Greenwich Village of the 1960s.
The Village is the stuff of legends: a hotbed of musicians, artists, performers, intellectuals, activists. In the 1950s, people often defined Greenwich Village as a literal village with a small-town atmosphere.
Nobody was saying that about the Village in the 1960s. In just a few years, the neighborhood's community of artists and creators would help to define American culture. The Village was world famous.
This episode will present a little walk through Greenwich Village in the early '60s, giving you the flavor of the Village during the era -- and an ample sampling of its sights and sounds.
There's gonna be mandolins! And chess players. And avant garde theater. And art markets. And lots of coffeeshops. *snap* *snap*
But we're also talking preservation with Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, to learn how the Greenwich Village Historic District came to be.
|Apr 04, 2019|
Uncovering Hudson Yards
EPISODE 286: Hudson Yards is America's largest private real estate development, a gleaming collection of office towers and apartments overlooking a self-contained plaza with a shopping mall and a selfie-friendly, architectural curio known as The Vessel.
By design, Hudson Yards feels international, luxurious, non-specific. Are you in New York City, Berlin, Dubai or Tokyo? And yet the mega-development sits on a spot important to the transportation history of New York City. And, in the late 20th century, this very same spot would vex and frustrate some of the city's most influential developers.
The key is that which lies beneath -- a concealed train yard owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. (Only the eastern portion of Hudson Yards is completed today; the western portion of the Yards is still clearly on view from a portion of the High Line.)
Prepare for a story of early railroad travel, historic tunnels under the Hudson River, the changing fate of the Tenderloin neighborhood, and a list of spectacular and sometimes wacky proposals for the site -- from a new home for the New York Yankees to a key stadium for New York City's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.
PLUS: Trump Convention Center -- it almost happened!
|Mar 22, 2019|
#285 Boss Tweed's House of Corruption
EPISODE 285: The roots of modern American corruption traces themselves back to a handsome -- but not necessarily revolutionary -- historic structure sitting behind New York City Hall.
The Tweed Courthouse is more than a mere landmark. Once called the New York County Courthouse, the Courthouse better known for many traits that the concepts of law and order normally detest -- greed, bribery, kickbacks and graft.
But Tammany Hall, the oft-maligned Democratic political machine, served a unique purpose in New York City in the 1850s and 60s, tending to the needs of newly arrived Irish immigrants who were being ignored by inadequate city services. But they required certain favors like the support of political candidates.
And that is how William 'Boss' Tweed rose through the ranks of city politics to become the most powerful man in New York City. And it was Tweed, through various government organizations and his trusty Tweed Ring, who transformed this new courthouse project into a cash cow for the greediest of the Gilded Age.
How did the graft function during the construction of the Tweed Courthouse? What led to Tweed's downfall? And how did this literal temple to corruption become a beloved landmark in the 1980s?
|Mar 08, 2019|
Scott Joplin in New York: A Ragtime Mystery
EPISODE 284: Scott Joplin, the "King of Ragtime", moved to New York in 1907, at the height of his fame. And yet, he died a decade later, forgotten by the public. He remained nearly forgotten and buried in a communal grave in Queens, until a resurgence of interest in Ragtime in the 1970s. How did this happen?
In today's music-packed show, we travel to Missouri, stopping by Sedalia and St. Louis, and interview a range of Ragtime experts to help us understand the mystery of Joplin's forgotten years in New York City.
|Feb 23, 2019|
Walt Whitman in New York and Brooklyn
EPISODE 283: A very special episode of the Bowery Boys podcast, recorded live at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, celebrating the legacy of Walt Whitman, a writer with deep ties to New York City.
On May 31, 2019, the world will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Whitman, a journalist who revolutionized American literature with his long-crafted work “Leaves of Grass.” The 19th-century cities of New York and Brooklyn helped shape the man Whitman would become, from its bustling newspaper offices to bohemian haunts like Pfaff’s Beer Cellar.
To help us tell this story, Greg and Tom are joined by guests from the worlds of academia, literature and preservation:
Karen Karbiener, NYU professor and head of the Walt Whitman Initiative, an international collective bringing together all people interested in the life and work of Walt Whitman
Jason Koo, award-winning poet and founder and executive director of Brooklyn Poets, celebrating and cultivating the literary heritage of Brooklyn, the birthplace of American poetry
Brad Vogel, executive director at the New York Preservation Archive Project and board member of the Walt Whitman Initiative, leading the drive to protect New York City-based Whitman landmark.
Recorded as part of the Brooklyn Podcast Festival presented by Pandora.
|Feb 08, 2019|
Taxi Driver (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
EPISODE 282: Welcome to the Bowery Boys Movie Club, a new podcast exclusively for our Patreon supporters where Tom and Greg discuss classic New York City films from an historical perspective. As we are currently prepare the newest episode for our patrons, we thought we'd give our regular listeners a taste of the very first episode (which was released back in September).
In the Bowery Boys Movie Club, we'll be revisiting some true cinematic classics and sprinkling our recaps with trivia, local details and personal insight -- and lots of spoilers of course.
In this inaugural episode, the Bowery Boys take a trip to Times Square in the 1970s (not to mention Columbus Circle, the East Village and even Cadman Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn) in Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Taxi Driver.
How does the director use New York’s unique geography to tell his story and categorize his three main characters? What does this film have to say about New York City in the 1970s? And how much has the city changed since Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, and Jodie Foster starred in this grim, noir-ish thriller?
FEATURING: Diners, cafeterias, porn theaters and old elevated highways!
|Jan 31, 2019|
#281 The Treasures of Downtown Brooklyn
Downtown Brooklyn has a history that is often overlooked by New Yorkers. You'd be forgiven if you thought Brooklyn's civic center -- with a bustling shopping district and even an industrial tech campus -- seemed to lack significant remnants of Brooklyn's past; many areas have been radically altered and hundreds of old structures have been cleared over the decades.
But, in fact, Downtown Brooklyn is one of the few areas to still hold evidence of the borough's glorious past -- its days as an independent city and one of the largest urban centers in 19th century America.
Around Brooklyn City Hall (now Borough Hall) swirled all aspects of Brooklyn's Gilded Age society. With the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and a network of elevated railroad lines, Downtown Brooklyn became a major destination with premier department stores on Fulton Street, entertainment venues like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and exclusive restaurants like Gage & Tollners.
The 20th century brought a new designation for Brooklyn -- a borough of Greater New York -- and a series of major developments that attempted to modernize the district -- from the creation of Cadman Plaza to New York's very first "tech hub". In 2004 a major zoning change brought a new addition to the multi-purpose neighborhood -- high-end residential towers. What will the future hold for the original heart of the City of Brooklyn?
|Jan 25, 2019|
#280 House of Mystery: The Story of the Collyer Brothers
EPISODE 280: You'd better clean your room or you'll end up like the Collyer Brothers...
New York City, a city crammed of 8.6 million people, is filled with stories of people who just want to be left alone – recluses, hermits, cloistering themselves from the public eye, closing themselves off from scrutiny.
But none attempted to seal themselves off so completely in the way that Homer and Langley Collyer attempted in the 1930s and 1940s. Their story is infamous. In going several steps further to be left alone, they in effect drew attention to themselves and to their crumbling Fifth Avenue mansion – dubbed by the press ‘the Harlem house of mystery’.
They were the children of the Gilded Age, clinging to blue-blooded lineage and drawing-room social customs, in a neighborhood that was about to become the heart of African-American culture. But their unusual retreat inward -- off the grid, hidden from view -- suggested something more troubling than fear and isolation. And in the end, their house consumed them.
|Jan 10, 2019|
#279 A New Year in Old New York: From Times Square to Chinatown
The ultimate history of New Year's celebrations in New York City!
This is the story of the many ways in which New Yorkers have ushered in the coming year, a moment of rebirth, reconciliation, reverence and jubilation.
In a mix of the old and new, we present a history of world's most famous December 31st party, paired with a short history of New York's other transitional celebration -- Chinatown's traditional (and occasionally non-traditional) Chinese New Year parade.
Why did Times Square become the focal point for the world's reflection on a new calendar year? And how did Times Square's many changes in the 20th century influence those celebrations? Featuring Dick Clark, Guy Lombardo -- and Daisy Duke.
THEN: Greg brings you the story of the Chinese New Year which has been celebrated in Manhattan's Chinatown since before there was even a Times Square!
|Dec 27, 2018|
#278 Newark vs. LaGuardia: The Tale of Two Airports
Newark Liberty International Airport or LaGuardia Airport? Which do you prefer? (Or is the answer -- none of the above. Give me JFK!)
Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy history! In this episode, we present the origin stories of New York City's airports and airfields.
The skies over New York have been graced with aircraft for almost 110 years. In fact the first 'flying machine' was flown by no less than Wilbur Wright, the man who (with his brother Orville) invented the airplane.
Yet by the time the U.S. government began regulating the skies in the 1920s -- making way for commercial aviation -- the city had failed to develop an adequate airfield of its own.
Meanwhile the thriving city of Newark, New Jersey, had just opened a glistening new airport, and in 1929 it was awarded the government's coveted airmail contract. Brooklyn's new Floyd Bennett Field didn't stand a chance because of it.
This did not sit well with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who engineered a spectacular tarmac stunt in 1934, drawing attention to this deficiency. And then he began dreaming of a new airport in northern Queens, one poised to draw customers away from New Jersey.
And thus began a decades-long tug-of-war for supremacy over New York City skies.
CORRECTION: Near the end of this show, Greg says that 18 new gates have opened this month at LaGuardia Airport. It’s actually 11 gates in a concourse that will eventually have 18.
|Dec 14, 2018|
#277 The New York Comedy Scene: A Marvelous History
New York City has always cast a melodramatic profile in past Bowery Boys podcasts, but in this episode, we're walking on the funny side of the street to reveal the city's unique relationship with live comedy.
The award-winning show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel depicts the birth of modern stand-up comedy in the late 1950s, forged by revolutionary voices in the small coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. But New Yorkers had been laughing for decades by that point.
Most of the early American comedy greats got their starts on the New York vaudeville stage -- like the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges and Eddie Cantor. By the 1940s, comedy stars came from the New York supper clubs, cementing a particular style of broad, big-joke comedy. The first major stars of television came from a different pool of talent -- young Jewish entertainers, updating the vaudeville feel for TV broadcast.
But the counterculture movements in Greenwich Village would help comedians evolve more personal -- and more explicit -- acts as they performed along side beat poets and jazz musicians. In 1963, an enterprising club owner named Budd Friedman would change comedy forever in a tiny room in Hell's Kitchen.
The rise of the comedy club and opportunities like Saturday Night Live would create a specific brand of New York City comedy, and the local stages would help create major film and television stars during the 1980s. With Seinfeld, in 1989, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David would create the perfect fusion of stand-up and New York City attitude. But the following decade brought in new voices and a surprising new direction.
|Nov 30, 2018|
#276 Murder on Bond Street: Who Killed Dr. Burdell?
On January 31, 1857, a prominent dentist named Harvey Burdell was found brutally murdered -- strangled, then stabbed 15 times -- in his office and home and Bond Street, a once-trendy street between Broadway and the Bowery.
The suspects for this horrific crime populated the rooms of 31 Bond Street including Emma Cunningham, the former lover of Dr. Burdell and a woman with many secrets to hide; the boarder John Eckel who had a curious fondness for canaries; and the banjo-playing George Snodgrass, whose personal obsessions may have evolved in depraved ways.
The mechanics of solving crime were much different in the mid-19th century than they are today, and the mysterious particulars of this investigation seem strange and even unacceptable to us today. A suspect would stand trial for Dr. Burdell's death, yet the shocking events which followed -- including a sinister deception and a faked childbirth -- would prove that truth is stranger than fiction.
|Nov 16, 2018|
#275 Return to Tin Pan Alley: Saving American Music History
The beat goes on! In 2009 we recorded a podcast about the history of Tin Pan Alley, the cluster of buildings on West 28th Street where the American popular music industry was born. It was from these loud, bustling offices and parlors that some of the world's greatest songs were written and sold, launching and igniting the careers of songwriters like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
But nine years later, Tin Pan Alley finds itself in peril as the neighborhood surrounding it -- now called NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) -- rapidly develops into a boutique hotel district. Can these historic structures be saved?
We present to you our original 2009 podcast, followed by a brand-new segment for 2018 featuring an interview with George Calderaro of the Save Tin Pan Alley! preservation campaign.
Featuring even MORE music classics from the Tin Pan Alley era.
|Nov 01, 2018|
#274 Ghost Stories of Hell's Kitchen
The Manhattan neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen has a mysterious, troubling past. So what happens when you throw a few ghosts into the mix? Greg and Tom find out the hard way in this year's ghost stories podcast, featuring tales of mystery and mayhem situated in the townhouses, courtyards and taverns of this trendy area of Midtown West.
This years Ghost Stories of Old New York show features:
-- The troubling tale of a 1970s motion picture classic that may have left a sinister mark on West 54th Street
-- The haunted home of a popular film and TV actress, possessed with a very hungry ghost
-- An enchanting courtyard layered with several horrifying ghost stories
-- And the shenanigans at a 150 year old tavern where the beer and the spirits flow freely.
|Oct 19, 2018|
#273 Peter Stuyvesant and the Fall of New Amsterdam
There would be no New York City without Peter Stuyvesant, the stern, autocratic director-general of New Amsterdam, the Dutch port town that predates the Big Apple. The willpower of this complicated leader took an endangered ramshackle settlement and transformed it into a functioning city. But Mr. Stuyvesant was no angel.
In part two in the Bowery Boys' look into the history of New Amsterdam, we launch into the tale of Stuyvesant from the moment he steps foot (or peg leg, as it were) onto the shores of Manhattan in 1647.
Stuyvesant immediately set to work reforming the government, cleaning up New Amsterdam's filth and even planning new streets. He authorized the construction of a new market, a commercial canal and a defense wall -- on the spot of today's Wall Street. But Peter would act very un-Dutch-like in his intolerance of varied religious beliefs, and the institution of slavery would flourish in New Amsterdam under his direction.
And yet the story of New York City's Dutch roots does not end with the city's occupation by the English in 1664 -- or even in 1672 (when the city was briefly retaken by a Dutch fleet). The Dutch spirit remained alive in the New York countryside, becoming part of regional customs and dialect.
And yet the story of New Amsterdam might otherwise be ignored if not for a determined group of translators who began work on a critical project in the 1970s......
|Oct 05, 2018|
#272 Life in New Amsterdam
We are turning back the clock to the very beginning of New York City history with this special two-part episode, looking at the very beginnings of European settlement in the area and the first significant Dutch presence on the island known as Manhattan.
The Dutch were drawn to the New World not because of its beauty, but because of its beavers. Beaver pelts were all the rage in European fashion, and European explorers like Henry Hudson reported back that this unexplored land was filled with the animals and their beautiful coats.
Of course, people were already living here -- the tribes of the Lenape -- and the first settlers sent by the Dutch -- French-speaking Walloons -- encountered them in the mid 1620s. But relations were relatively good between the two parties at the beginning. Could the native Munsee-speaking people and the first Dutch settlers get along?
In this episode, we walk you through the first two decades of life in the settlement of New Amsterdam, confined to the southern tip of Manhattan. What was the island like back then? How did people live and work in a region so entirely unknown to its European inhabitants?
|Sep 20, 2018|
#271 Counter Culture: Diners, Automats, and Luncheonettes in New York
The classic diner is as American as the apple pie it serves, but the New York diner is a special experience all its own, an essential facet of everyday life in the big city. They range in all shapes and sizes -- from the epic, stand-alone Empire Diner to tiny luncheonettes and lunch counters, serving up fried eggs and corned beef.
In this episode, the Bowery Boys trace the history of the New York diner experience, a history of having lunch in an ever-changing metropolis.
There were no New York restaurants per se before Delmonico's in 1827, although workers on-the-go frequented oyster saloons and bought from street vendors and markets. Cellar establishments like Buttercake Dick's served rudimentary sustenance, and men often ate food provided by bars.
But once women entered the public sphere -- as workers and shoppers -- eating houses had to evolve to accommodate them. And thus was born the luncheonette, mini-lunch spaces in drug stores and candy shops. Soon prefabricated structures known as diners -- many made in New Jersey -- moved into vacant lots, streamlining the cheap eating experience.
Cafeterias appealed to New Yorkers looking for cleanliness, and those looking for an inexpensive, solitary meal turned to one unusual restaurant -- the automat. Horn & Hardarts' innovative eateries -- requiring a handful of nickels -- were regular features on the New York City streetscape.
How did all these different types of eating experiences culminate in the modern New York diner-counter experience? For that, you can thank the Greeks.
|Sep 07, 2018|
#270 Heaven on the Hudson: A History of Riverside Park
In peeling back the many layers to Riverside Park, upper Manhattan's premier ribbon park, running along the west side from the Upper West Side to Washington Heights, you will find a wealth of history that takes you back to Manhattan's most rugged days.
The windswept bluffs overlooking the Hudson River were home to only desolate mansions and farmhouses, its rock outcroppings appealing to tortured poets such as Edgar Allan Poe. But the railroad cleaved the peace when it laid its tracks along the waterfront in the 1840s.
To encourage development, the city planned Riverside Park as a respite with commanding views of the river and a swanky carriage way for afternoon excursions. But the original plan by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted only went so far -- right up to those pesky train tracks.
In the 20th century, residents along the newly chic Riverside Drive tired of the smoky mess. It would take the 'master builder' himself -- Robert Moses -- to finally conceal those tracks and create a new spot for recreational facilities. In doing so, he threaded his new park with a new noisemaker -- the Henry Hudson Parkway.
We give you the grand overview history of this extraordinary park THEN we visit the park itself to give you the full dynamic sound experience, reviewing Riverside's most spectacular attractions.
PLUS: The strange story of two great monuments at 125th Street, the final resting place for a great military leader and a five year old boy, whose tragic story has inspired generations of poets.
FEATURING: George and Ira Gershwin, Charles Schwab, Joan of Arc, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (in non political capacities!)
|Aug 23, 2018|
#269 Harry Houdini and the Golden Age of Magic in New York
Harry Houdini became one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century, a showman whose escape artistry added a new dimension to the tried-and-true craft of stage magic. In this show, we present not only a mini-biography on the daredevil wizard, but a survey of the environment which made him -- a city of magic, mediums and mystery.
New York during the late 19th century was a place of real, practical magic -- electric lights, elevated trains, telephones and other wonders that would have seemed impossible just a few decades before. Those that performed stage magic in a world of such unbelievable inventions would need to up their game.
The great names of European stage magic -- most notably Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin -- would give rise to spectacular performances on both vaudeville and legitimate stages. Performers like Howard Thurston would dazzle New York crowds with unbelievable demonstrations of levitation while Harry Kellar and his 'spirit cabinet' would seem to use sorcery from other worlds.
Houdini got his start in New York's dime museums, evolving from simple card tricks to elaborate routines of escape. He was a truly modern performer, borrowing from the magic masters and benefiting from an eager public, looking for a virtual superhero.
But stage magic had a surprising foe -- actual magic or, as practiced by hundreds of mediums and mystics, spiritualism. Suddenly, the craft of magical illusion seemed secondary to those who could practice those same arts via a connection with the afterlife. Houdini was drawn into the debate early in his career, and the conflict intensified with his unusual friendship with one of the greatest writers in the world -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
|Aug 09, 2018|
#268 The Astonishing Saga of the Atlantic Cable
New Yorkers threw a wild, exuberant celebration in the summer of 1858 in honor of 'the eighth wonder of the world', a technological achievement that linked North America and Europe by way of an underwater cable which sat on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
The transatlantic cable was set to link the telegraph systems of the United Kingdom with those in the United States and Canada, and New Yorkers were understandably excited. Peter Cooper, one of the city's wealthiest men, was attached to the ambitious project as a member of the 'Cable Cabinet', as was Samuel Morse, the brilliant inventor who helped to innovate the telegraph.
But it was an ambitious young New Yorker -- a successful paper manufacturer named Cyrus West Field -- who devised the endeavor from the comfort of his luxurious Gramercy Park townhouse.
New Yorkers had so much to celebrate; a link with Europe would bring the world closer together, enrich the financiers of Wall Street and raise the city's international profile. The city partied so relentlessly that New York City Hall was almost destroyed in a frenzy of fireworks.
But had everybody started celebrating too early? Was the Atlantic Cable -- fated to change the world -- actually a terrible failure?
PLUS: A visit to beautiful Newfoundland and the origin of the journalism slang "scoop"!
|Jul 26, 2018|
#267 Broadway: The Story of a Street
Today we're joined by Fran Leadon, the author of a new history of Broadway, called “Broadway: A History of New York in 13 Miles”.
We've discussed Broadway, the street, in just about every show we’ve done -- as so many of the city’s key events have taken place along Broadway or near it. And that’s also the point of Fran’s book -- by telling the story of a street, you’re actually telling the story of the entire city.
On today’s show, we’ll be discussing how Broadway moved north -- literally, how did it expand, overcoming natural obstacles and merging with… or avoiding... old, pre-existing roads, and how did it take such an unusual route?
And perhaps most surprisingly, how did Broadway survive the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 which imposed a rigid street grid on the city?
You’re in for a couple of surprises.
|Jul 13, 2018|
#266 New York City during the Revolutionary War (1776-1783)
What was life like in New York City from the summer of 1776 to the fall of 1783 -- the years of British occupation during the Revolutionary War?
New York plays a very intriguing role in the story of American independence. The city and the surrounding area were successfully taken by the British by the end of 1776 -- George Washington and the Continental Army forced to escape for the good of the cause -- and the port city became the central base for British operations during the conflict.
While British officers dined and enjoy a newly revitalized theater scene, Washington's spies on the streets of New York collected valuable intelligence. As thousands of soldiers and sympathizing Loyalists arrived in the city, hunger and overcrowding put the residents of the city in peril. When the sugar houses and churches became too filled with captured rebels, the British employed prison ships along the Brooklyn waterfront to hold their enemies.
This is a very, very special episode, a newly edited combination of two older shows from our back catalog. PLUS several minutes of new material, featuring stories that we overlooked the first time.
|Jun 29, 2018|
#265 Absolutely Flawless: A History of Drag in New York City
Television audiences are currently obsessed with shows like RuPaul's Drag Race and FX's Pose, presenting different angles on the profession and art of drag. New York City has been crucial to its current moment in pop culture and people have been performing and enjoy drag performers in this city for over 120 years.
In the beginning there were two styles of drag -- vaudeville and ballroom. As female impersonators filled Broadway theaters -- one theater is even named for a famed gender illusionist -- thrill seekers were heading to the balls of Greenwich Village and Harlem.
By the 1930s, the gay scene began retreating into the shadows, governed by mob control and harshly policed. By design, drag became political. It also became a huge counter-cultural influence in the late 1960s -- from the glamour of Andy Warhol's superstars to the jubilant schtick of Charles Busch.
But it was the 1980s that brought the most significant influences to our current pop cultural moment. Joining Greg on this show are two experts on two late 80s/early 90s scenes -- Felix Rodriguez, a videographer of the ballroom culture (made famous by the film Paris Is Burning) and Linda Simpson, one of the great queens of East Village drag.
FEATURING: Drag kings! Wigstock! And the famous drag queen who got struck by lightning.
|Jun 15, 2018|
#264 The Landmarks of Coney Island
The Coney Island Boardwalk -- officially the Riegelmann Boardwalk -- just became an official New York City scenic landmark, and to celebrate, the Bowery Boys are headed to Brooklyn's amusement capital to toast its most famous and long-lasting icons.
Recorded live on location, this week's show features the backstories of these Coney Island classics:
-- The Wonder Wheel, the graceful, eccentric Ferris wheel preparing to celebrate for its 100th year of operation;
-- The Spook-o-Rama, a dark ride full of old-school thrills;
-- The Cyclone, perhaps America's most famous roller-coaster with a history that harkens back to Coney Island's wild coaster craze;
-- Nathan's Famous, the king of hot dogs which has fed millions from the same corner for over a century;
-- Coney Island Terminal, a critical transportation hub that ushered in the amusement area's famous nickname -- the Nickel Empire
PLUS: An interview with Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island and founder of Coney Island USA, who recounts the origin of the Mermaid Parade and the Sideshow by the Seashore
EXTRA: Supporters of the Bowery Boys on Patreon will receive an extra bonus clip discussing two other Coney Island landmarks -- Childs Restaurant and the Parachute Jump.
|Jun 01, 2018|
#263 Ebbets Field and the Glory Days of the Brooklyn Dodgers
The Robins. The Bridegrooms. The Superbas. The Dizziness Boys. Dem Bums. The Boys of Summer. Whatever you call them, they will always be known in the hearts of New Yorkers as the Brooklyn Dodgers, the legendary baseball team that almost literally defined the spirit of Brooklyn in the early and mid 20th century.
Equally as heralded is their former home Ebbets Field, a tiny stadium east of Prospect Park that saw several spectacular moments in sports history. This tiny but mighty field was also witness to many heart-breaking events for the Dodgers' unique die-hard fans.
In this show, we review Dodgers history from the perspective of the team's fans and the surrounding neighborhood. This episode features recollections from Brooklynites who grew up around Ebbets Field, a sampling of stories from the Brooklyn Historical Society Oral History Collection.
What was it like to grow up just a couple blocks from Ebbets Field? What makes Dodgers fans particularly unique in the world of sports? And what were the unfortunate series of events that led to the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn forever?
FEATURING: Jackie Robinson, Robert Moses, Branch Rickey, Leo Durocher and a wild lady named Hilda Chester, armed with her vicious cowbell.
|May 18, 2018|
#262 Secrets of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
The Bowery Boys have finally made to one of the most enigmatic and miraculous houses of worship in America – the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This Episcopal cathedral has a story like no other and a collection of eccentric artifacts and allegorical sculpture – both ancient and contemporary – that continues to marvel and confound.
Located in Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan, St. John the Divine – named for the Apostle and author of the Book of Revelations -- is no ordinary cathedral (if such a thing exists). Every corner seems to vibrate on a different frequency from other Christian churches.
Many ideas have gone into creating St. John the Divine’s unique personality – a quirky mix of architectural styles, some outside-the-box ideas about community outreach, its embrace of the unconventional. But one particularly striking detail sets it apart from the rest: the Cathedral remains unfinished.
FEATURING: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Keith Haring, Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King Jr. and the high-wire antics of Philippe Petit.
ALSO: Tom and Greg explore the Cathedral -- from the crypt to the rooftop – with tour guide Bill Schneberger.
VISIT THE WEBSITE FOR SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE CATHEDRAL's 125TH BIRTHDAY PARTY -- FEATURING THE BOWERY BOYS
|May 04, 2018|
#261 The Huddled Masses: Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty
The words of the The New Colossus, written 135 years ago by Jewish writer Emma Lazarus in tribute to the Statue of Liberty, have never been more relevant -- or as hotly debated -- as they are today.
What do these words mean to you? "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore."
In this episode, Tom and Greg look at the backstory of these verses -- considered sacred by many -- and the woman who created them.
Emma Lazarus was an exceptional writer and a unique personality who embraced her Jewish heritage even while befriending some of the greatest writers of the 19th century. When the French decided to bestow the gift of Liberty Enlightening the World to the United States, many Americans were uninterested in donating money to its installation in New York Harbor. Lazarus was convinced to write a poem about the statue but she decided to infuse her own meaning into it.
This icon of republican government -- and friendship between France and America -- would soon come to mean safe harbor and welcome to millions of new immigrants coming to America. But are Lazarus' words still relevant in the 21st century?
|Apr 20, 2018|
#260 Journey to Grey Gardens: A Tale of Two Edies
In this episode of the Bowery Boys, Greg digs into the back story of one of the most famous documentaries ever made – Grey Gardens. The film, made by brother directing team Albert and David Maysles, looks at the lives of two former society women leading a life of seclusion in a rundown old mansion in the Hamptons.
Those of you who have seen the film – or the Broadway musical or the HBO film inspired by the documentary – know that it possesses a strange, timeless quality. Mrs Edith Bouvier Beale (aka Big Edie) and her daughter Miss Edith Bouvier Beale (aka Little Edie) live in a pocket universe, in deteriorating circumstances, but they themselves remain poised, witty, well read.
But if our histories truly make us who we are, then to understand these two extraordinary and eccentric women, we need to understand the historical moments that put them on this path.
And that is a story of New York City – of debutante balls, Fifth Avenue, Tin Pan Alley and the changing roles of women. And it’s a story of the Bouviers, who represent here the hundreds of wealthy, upwardly mobile families, trying to maintain their status in a fluctuating world of social registers and stock market crashes.
This is story about keeping up appearances and the consequences of following your heart.
FEATURING: A very special guest! The Marble Faun himself -- Jerry Torre, who swings by the show to share his recollection of these fascinating women.
|Apr 06, 2018|
#259 Crossing to Brooklyn: How the Williamsburg Bridge Changed New York
Sure, the Brooklyn Bridge gets all the praise, but New York City's second bridge over the East River has an exceptional story of its own.
In this episode, we'll answer some interesting questions, including:
-- Why is the bridge named for a 19th century industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn and why is it not, for instance, called the Manhattan Bridge (a name not in use yet in 1903) or the East River Bridge (which was its original name)?
-- Why did everybody think the bridge looked so unusually ugly and how did the city belatedly try and solve the problem?
-- Why did one population in the Lower East Side find the bridge more important than others?
-- Why was the bridge is such terrible shape in the 20th century? Did it really almost collapse into the river?
-- And where can you find the original name of the Brooklyn neighborhood -- Williamsburgh?
PLUS: How the fate of the two neighborhoods linked by the Williamsburg Bridge would change radically in 115 years
We'd like to thank WeWork for sponsoring the Bowery Boys as well as our additional sponsors Hulu (and the gripping new thriller The Looming Tower) and Audible. For a free 30-day trial (and a free audiobook) go to audible.com/bowery or text BOWERY to 500-500
|Mar 23, 2018|
#258 Tales from Tribeca History
TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) is a breathtaking neighborhood of astounding architectural richness. But how much do you know about this trendy destination and its patchwork of different histories?
You'll be surprised to learn about the many facets of this unusual place, including:
-- Lispenard's Meadow, tracing back to the property's first Dutch settlers;
-- St. John's Park, New York's first ritzy residential district;
-- Washington Market, the open-air marvel that fed New Yorkers for 150 years;
-- the Ghostbusters Fire House, a pop-culture landmark that witnessed an astonishing architectural shrinkage;
-- the AT & T Long Lines Building, an imposing monolith with mysterious secrets contained inside;
and the TriBeCa Film Center, bringing a new direction to the neighborhood thanks to its co-founder Robert De Niro
PLUS: What are codfish cheeks? Pert nurses? Weekend leathers?
|Mar 16, 2018|
#257 Frozen In Time: The Great Blizzard of 1888
This year marks the 130th anniversary of one of the worst storms to ever wreak havoc upon New York City, the now-legendary mix of wind and snow called the Great Blizzard of 1888.
The battering snow-hurricane of 1888, with its freezing temperatures and crazy drifts three stories high, was made worse by the condition of New York’s transportation and communication systems, all completely unprepared for 36 hours of continual snow.
The storm struck on Monday, March 11, 1888, but many thousands attempted to make their way to work anyway, not knowing how severe the storm would be. It would be the worst commute in New York City history. Fallen telephone and telegraph poles became a hidden threat under the quickly accumulating drifts.
Elevated trains were frozen in place, their passengers unable to get out for hours. Many died simply trying to make their way back home on foot, including Roscoe Conkling, a power broker of New York’s Republican Party.
But there were moments of amusement too. Saloons thrived, and actors trudged through to the snow in time for their performances, And for P.T. Barnum, the show must always go on!
This is a re-release of a show we recorded back in 2013. We think the comparisons to Hurricane Sandy that were made in that show feel even more relevant today.
|Mar 07, 2018|
#256 DUMBO: Life on Brooklyn's Waterfront
Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO) is, we think, a rather drab name for a historically significant place in Brooklyn where some of the daily habits of everyday Americans were invented.
This industrial area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges traces its story to the birth of Brooklyn itself, to the vital ferry service that linked the first residents to the marketplaces of New York. Two early (lesser) Founding Fathers even attempted to build a utopian society here called Olympia.
Instead the coastline's fate would turn to industrial and shipping concerns. Its waterfront was lined with brick warehouses, so impressive and uniform that Brooklyn received the nickname "the Walled City".
The industries based directly behind the warehouses were equally as important to the American economy. Most of their factories comprise the architecture of today's DUMBO, grand industrial fortresses of brick and concrete, towering above cobbled streets etched with railroad tracks.
The cardboard-box titan Robert Gair was so dominant in this region that his many buildings were collectively referred to as Gairville. But coffee and tea traditions also came here -- not just the manufacture, but the revolutionary ways in which people with buy and drink those beverages.
How did this early New York manufacturing district become a modern American tech hub, with luxury loft apartments and splendid coffee shops? This story of repurpose and gentrification is very different from those told in other neighborhoods.
PLUS: And, no, really, what is up with that name?
|Mar 02, 2018|
#255 The Rescue of Grand Central
The survival of New York City's greatest train station is no accident. The preservation of Grand Central Terminal helped create the protections for all of America's greatest landmarks.
By the 1950s, this glorious piece of architecture -- opened in 1913 as a sensational example of Beaux-Arts architecture -- was severely unloved and truly run down. It was also in danger. Long distance railroad travel was no longer fashionable and its real estate seemed better suited for a trendier skyscraper.
With the destruction of Penn Station in the mid-1960s, it seemed Grand Central was next. Let's make room for progress! So how did it manage to survive?
In this episode, we welcome our special guest Kent Barwick, the former executive director of the Municipal Art Society, who was there, in the middle of the fight to save Grand Central. He joins us to talk about the preservation battle and the importance of one particular ally -- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
It certainly took thousands of people -- idealists, activists and regular New Yorkers -- to save this iconic building. But how did this one woman of great renown and prominence bring her personal history into the building, all in earnest efforts to save it?
|Feb 23, 2018|
#254 The Destruction of Penn Station
The original Penn Station, constructed in 1910 and designed by New York's greatest Gilded Age architectural firm, was more than just a building. Since its destruction in the 1960s, the station has become something mythic, a sacrificial lamb to the cause of historic preservation.
Amplifying its loss is the condition of present Penn Station, a fairly unpleasant underground space that uses the original Pennsylvania Railroad's tracks and tunnels. As Vincent Scully once said, "Through Pennsylvania Station one entered the city like a god. Perhaps it was really too much. One scuttles in now like a rat."
In this show we rebuild the grand, original structure in our minds -- the fourth largest building in the world when it was constructed -- and marvel at an opulence now gone.
Why was Penn Station destroyed? If you answered "MONEY!", you're only partially right. This is the story of an architectural treasure endangered -- and a city unprepared to save it. Should something so immense be saved because of its beauty even if its function has diminished or even vanished? Does the public have a say in a privately owned property?
PLUS: We show you where you can still find remnants of old Penn Station by going on a walking tour with Untapped Cities tour guide Justin Rivers.
|Feb 16, 2018|
#253 Opening Day of the New York City Subway
What was it like to experience that epic symbol of New York City – the world famous New York City subway system – for the first time? In this episode, we imagine what opening day was like for the first New York straphangers.
We begin by recounting the subway system's construction and registering the excitement of New Yorkers in the days leading up to the opening on October 27, 1904. That fateful day was sheer pandemonium as thousands of people crammed into brand spanking new stations to push themselves into the system's new subway cars.
“For the first time in his life Father Knickerbocker went underground yesterday; went underground, he and his children, to the number of 150,000, amid the tooting of whistles and the firing of salutes, for a first ride in a subway which for years had been scoffed at as an impossibility.” [New York Times, October 28, 1904]
After listening to this show, we hope you gain a new appreciation for this modern engineering marvel. Hopefully it will make that next subway delay more bearable!
Special thanks to Kieran Gannon for helping with the editing of this show
|Feb 09, 2018|
#252 The Underground Railroad: Escape through New York
For thousands of African-American enslaved people -- escaping the bonds of slavery in the South -- the journey to freedom wound its way through New York via the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad was a loose, clandestine network of homes, businesses and churches, operated by freed black people and white abolitionists who put it upon themselves -- often at great risk -- to hide fugitives on the run.
New York and Brooklyn were vital hubs in this network but these cities were hardly safe havens. The streets swarmed with bounty hunters, and a growing number of New Yorkers, enriched by Southern businesses, were sympathetic to the institution of slavery. Not even freed black New Yorkers were safe from kidnapping and racist anti-abolitionist mobs.
In this podcast we present some of the stops in New York along the Underground Railroad -- from offices off Newspaper Row to the basement of New York's first African-American owned bookstore. You'll be familiar with some of this story's leading figures like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Henry Ward Beecher. But many of these courageous tales come from people who you may not know -- the indefatigable Louis Napoleon, the resolute Sydney Howard Gay, the defiant David Ruggles and James Hamlet, the first victim of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.
PLUS: A trip to Brooklyn Heights and the site of New York's most famous Underground Railroad site -- Plymouth Church.
|Feb 02, 2018|
#251 McGurk's Suicide Hall: The Bowery's Most Notorious Dive
The old saloons and dance halls of the Bowery are familiar to anyone with a love of New York City history, their debauched and surly reputations appealing in a prurient way, a reminder of a time of great abandon. The Bowery bars and lounges of today often try to emulate the past in demeanor and decor. (Although nobody was drinking expensive bespoke cocktails back in the day.)
But the dance hall at 295 Bowery, the loathsome establishment owned by John McGurk, was not a place to admire. It was the worst of the worst, a dive where criminal activity thrived alongside bawdy can-can dancers and endless pours of putrid booze.
In early March of 1899, a woman named Bess Levery climbed to one of the top floors of McGurk's -- floors given over to illegal behavior -- and killed herself by drinking carbolic acid. Within a week, two more women had ventured to McGurk's, attempting the same dire deed.
By the end of 1899, the dance hall had received a truly grim reputation, and its proprietor, capitalizing on its reputation, began calling his joint McGurk's Suicide Hall.
What happened to the Bowery, once the location of fashionable homes and theaters, that such a despicable place could thrive -- mere blocks from police headquarters? This is the history of a truly dark place and the forces of reform that managed to finally shut it down.
FEATURING: Theodore Roosevelt, Jacob Riis, Charles Parkhurst and some disreputable fellows by the names of Eat Em Up McManus and Short Change Charley.
This episode is sponsored by TNT’s new limited series The Alienist.
|Jan 18, 2018|
#250 The Empire State Building: Story of an Icon
Start spreading the news .... the Bowery Boys are finally going to the Empire State Building!
New York City's defining architectural icon is greatly misunderstood by many New Yorkers who consider its appeal relegated to tourists and real estate titans. But this powerful and impressive symbol to American construction has a great many secrets among its 102 (or is that 103?) floors.
The Empire State Building project was announced in 1929 by former New York governor Al Smith. The group of wealthy investors he fronted were clear in associating the building with his image (the Empire State itself), and Smith was even there at the demolition of the building it would replace -- the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
A few weeks after the announcement, however, the stock market crashed.
In this podcast, we look at how this magnificent skyscraper was built with incredible speed and efficiency, to tower over a city entering the Great Depression. It quickly became a beacon of hope for many -- a symbol of American skill and the embodiment of the New York City spirit.
Tourists would indeed flock to it, enamored of the extraordinary views it offered for the very first time. (Most of its early visitors had never been in an airplane.) It would eventually become an object of great value and the subject of tabloid headlines -- many featuring the current President of the United States -- but it would never, ever lose its luster.
In fact, that luster, over the years, would become very well lit.....
|Jan 12, 2018|
#249 Madam C.J. Walker: Harlem's Hair Care Millionaire
EPISODE 249 In 1867, Sarah Breedlove was born to parents who had once been enslaved on a Louisiana plantation. Less than fifty years later, Breedlove (as the hair care mogul Madam C.J. Walker) would be the richest African-American woman in the United States, a successful business owner and one of black America's great philanthropists. At her side was daughter Lelia (later A'lelia) Walker, guiding her mother's company to great success despite extraordinary obstacles.
The Walkers moved to Harlem in the mid 1910s during the neighborhood's transformation from a white immigrant outpost to a thriving mecca for African-American culture. The ground floor of their spacious West 136th Street home was a hair salon for black women, opened during a contentious period when irate white property owners attempted to stem the tide of black settlement in Harlem.
The Walkers were at the heart of significant strides on African-American life. Madam used her wealth to support organizations like the NAACP push back against violence and racism. A'lelia, meanwhile, used her influence to corral the great talents of the Harlem Renaissance. The two of them would positively influence the history of Harlem and black America forever.
FEATURING: The words of Langston Hughes, describing one of the most fabulous parties of the Jazz Age!
|Jan 04, 2018|
#248 Sitting Down with Roz Chast of the New Yorker
This week, we celebrate the end of the year by sitting down with Roz Chast, who has been contributing cartoons to the New Yorker Magazine since 1978. Chast is out with a new book, "Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York", which is a guidebook to living in -- and loving -- New York.
We discuss her childhood in Brooklyn, life on the Upper West Side in the '70s and '80s, her favorite diner (which is still open!), working at the New Yorker, and much more.
|Dec 22, 2017|
#247 Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Golden Age of Broadway
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II are two of the greatest entertainers in New York City history. They have entertained millions of people with their unique and influential take on the Broadway musical -- serious, sincere, graceful and poignant.
In this episode, we tell the story of this remarkable duo -- from their early years with other creators (Hammerstein with Jerome Kern, Rodgers with Lorenz Hart) to a run-down of all their shows. And almost all of it -- from the plains of Oklahoma to the exotic climates of South Pacific -- takes place on just two city blocks in Midtown Manhattan!
(Stay tuned to the end of the podcast for information on the music clips used in the show.)
|Dec 15, 2017|
#246 Tales from a Tenement: Three Families on the Lower East Side
In today’s show, we’ll continue to explore housing in New York, but move far from the mansions of Fifth Avenue to the tenements of the Lower East Side in the 20th Century. Specifically, we’ll be visiting one building, 103 Orchard Street, which is today part of the Tenement Museum.
When we step inside 103 Orchard, we’ll be meeting three families who lived there after World War II: the Epsteins, the Saez-Velez family, and the Wong family. We’ll be getting to know them by walking through their apartments, faithfully reconstructed, often with their very own furniture, to tell their stories.
The Epsteins were Holocaust survivors who moved into the building in the 1950s, the Saez-Velez family moved in during the 60s and were led by a mother who left Puerto Rico and worked as a seamstress here, and the Wong family, whose mother raised the family while working in Chinatown garment shops, moved in during the 1970s.
They’re included in an exciting new interactive exhibition at the Tenement Museum. This exhibit, which includes a tour of the apartments, is called “Under One Roof”, and opens to the public this month. We’re led through it on our show by Annie Polland, the museum’s curator of this exhibit.
|Dec 07, 2017|
#245 The Fall of the Fifth Avenue Mansions
In this episode, the symbols of the Gilded Age are dismantled.
During the late 19th century, New York's most esteemed families built extravagant mansions along Fifth Avenue, turning it into one of the most desired residential streets in the United States. The 'well-connected' families, along with the nouveau riche, planted their homes here, even as the realities of the city encroached around them.
By 1925 most of the mansions below 59th Street were gone, victims of changing tastes and alterations to the city landscape. Excellent hotels like the Plaza and the St. Regis, once considered as elegant as the mansions, soon threatened to distill the street's reputation by attracting outsiders. Clothing manufacturing plants swept through Greenwich Village, and such 'common' purposes threatened the identity of Fifth Avenue. And to the west, the dazzling delights of Times Square seemed certain to blot out any respectability that Midtown Manhattan might have held.
And yet, near Central Park, families of newer wealth filled Fifth Avenue with their own opulent homes -- Carnegies, Woolworths, Dukes, Fricks -- as though oblivious to the changes occurring down south.
Most of these habitats of old wealth are gone today. There's no place for a 100-room mansion on one of New York City's busiest streets. Yet a few of these mansions managed to survive by taking on very different identities -- from clothing boutiques to museums.
PLUS: The building that was bought for a necklace!
|Dec 01, 2017|
#244 The Rise of the Fifth Avenue Mansions
At the heart of New York’s Gilded Age – the late 19th century era of unprecedented American wealth and excess – were families with the names Vanderbilt, Belmont and Astor, alongside power players like A.T. Stewart, Jay Gould and William ‘Boss’ Tweed.
They would all make their homes – and in the case of the Vanderbilts, their great many homes – on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
The image of Fifth Avenue as a luxury retail destination today grew from the street’s aristocratic reputation in the 1800s. The rich were inextricably drawn to the avenue as early as the 1830s when rich merchants, anxious to be near the exquisite row houses of Washington Square Park, began turning it into an artery of expensive abodes.
In this podcast -- the first of two parts -- Tom and Greg present a world that’s somewhat hard to imagine – free-standing mansions in an exclusive corridor running right through the center of Manhattan. Why was Fifth Avenue fated to become the domain of the so-called ‘Upper Ten’? What were the rituals of daily life along such an unusual avenue? And what did these Beaux Arts palaces say about their ritzy occupants?
CO-STARRING: Mark Twain, Madame Restell, George Opdyke and “the Marrying Wilsons”
|Nov 24, 2017|
#243 New York In Neon: Signs of the City
A neon sign blazing on a rainy New York City street evokes the romance of another era, welcoming or mysterious -- depending on how many film noirs you've seen.
In 2017, a neon sign says more about a business than the message that its letters spell out. It’s an endangered form of craftsmanship although the production of neon is making a hopeful comeback.
In this show Greg briefly take a look at the classic signage in New York City, the kinds of signs you might have seen in New York d during the Gilded Age -- from a dizzying mass of posters to the first electric signs. Then he'll be joined by guest host Thomas Rinaldi, author of the New York Neon book and blog, to figure out what it is about neon that is so essentially New York. And finally because most neon is made by hand, they'll head out to Ridgewood, Queens, to visit one of New York City’s most acclaimed neon family businesses -- Artistic Neon.
From glowing crucifixes in Hell’s Kitchen to the sleaze of '70s Times Square, from the marquee of Radio City Music Hall to a thousand diners and liquor stores – this is the story of New York in Neon.
|Nov 17, 2017|
#242 New York and the Dawn of Photography
We’re taking you back to a world that seems especially foreign today – a world with no selfie sticks, no tens of billions of photographs taken every day from digital screens, a world where the photograph was a rare, special and beautiful thing.
New York City plays a very interesting role in the development of photography. While the medium was not invented here, many of its earliest American practitioners were trained here. In particular, the students of Samuel Morse (better known for the telegraph) became masters of the daguerreotype portrait in the early 1840s.
The first space photography was taken from the rooftop of New York University. Broadway was known across the country for its dozens of daguerreotypists and their lavishly appointed galleries.
But the greatest of them all was Mathew Brady who, from his famous Broadway studio, focused on capturing the images of the world's most famous people -- from Abraham Lincoln to Barnum favorite Tom Thumb. You may know Brady from his Civil War photography, bringing a dose of realism into the parlors of sheltered New Yorkers. One particular gallery show in 1862 called The Dead of Antietam would shake the city and set the stage for the invention of photojournalism.
|Nov 10, 2017|
#241 Edgar Allan Poe in New York
Edgar Allan Poe was a wanderer -- looking for work, for love, for meaning. That's why so many American cities can lay claim to a small aspect of his legacy. Baltimore, Boston, Richmond and Philadelphia all have their own stories to tell about the great writer. In this show, we spotlight the imprint Poe made upon New York City.
Poe was in New York both on the year of his birth (as the child of two stage actor) and the year of his death (fleeing his longtime home in Fordham). Throughout out his life he came back -- again and again -- discovering inspiration in the prosperous, growing city of the 1830s and 40s. He lived in Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side. And for a time, he also lived in the area of today's Upper West Side, in a farmhouse where he conjured to vivid life his most successful poem -- "The Raven".
The Poe Cottage in the Bronx is the only extant building where Poe (and his young wife Virginia) actually lived, a modest abode that's a rare example of surviving working-class housing from the mid-19th century. Through tragedy, Poe sought solitude in the surrounding mounts and fields of Westchester County. The majestic High Bridge would be of a particular strange comfort.
This is a story both of Poe himself and the fragments of buildings and homes left behind with his name attached to them. In many neighborhoods of New York, you can linger with the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe himself.
|Oct 26, 2017|
#240 The Ghosts of Greenwich Village
For this year's annual Bowery Boys Halloween ghost story podcast, we cautiously approach the dark secrets of Greenwich Village, best known for bohemians, shady and winding streets and a deep unexpected history. You will never look at its parks and townhouses again after this show!
The stories featured this year:
-- The hidden history of Washington Square Park with the oldest tree in New York -- nicknamed the Hangman's Elm -- and some truly grave secrets beneath its lovely walkways
-- The Brittany Residence Hall for New York University students has a very famous ghost, a child who experienced a horrible death and continued to haunt the halls of this former hotel, looking for friends to play with
-- Mayor Jimmy Walker once lived across from an old burial ground in the West Village. But when its ancient plots were replaced with a city park (to be named after the notorious mayor), the bodies and the tombstones were mostly paved over. To this day, a single grave marker sits astride the baseball field, a sole reminder of the area's macabre past.
-- And finally the ceiling of a old Bank Street townhouse reveals an unusual object. How did it get there? This is a tale that stretches from the mid 1920s to the early 1980s. And from the haunted streets of the West Village to a peaceful respite in Northern California!
|Oct 20, 2017|
#239 Murder at the Manhattan Well
There once was a well just north of Collect Pond (New York’s fetid source of drinking water in the late 18th century) in a marshy place called Lispenard’s Meadow, in the area of today’s SoHo.
One cold day in December – in the year 1799 -- a boy came across a lady’s article of clothing here matching that in the possession of a missing woman named Elma Sands. Upon looking into the old, boarded-up well, investigators discovered a horrifying sight – the lifeless body of Ms. Sands, which had been submerged in the well for several days.
Suspicion immediately shifted to the boarding house where she lived and worked, and the unusual tenants there all became suspects – including Levi Weeks, the brother of a prominent builder. Weeks was soon accused of her murder and thrown into jail.
This is the tale of the extraordinary trial that occurred in March of 1800 featuring two of the most prominent people in New York City – Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Years before their fateful duel in Weehawken, the two lawyers agreed to defend Weeks against charges of brutal murder.
But Hamilton and Burr were linked to the case in other ways. A banking institution borne from these early days still thrives today. And, believe it or not, the infamous Manhattan well still exists in the basement of a surprising place.
|Oct 13, 2017|
#238 Astoria and Long Island City
The borough of Queens has a history unlike any in the New York City region, but the story of its northwestern region -- comprising Astoria, Long Island City and about a half dozen other, smaller neighborhoods -- is particularly surprising. And there are basic aspects of these wonderful neighborhoods, fundamental to every day life here, that you may have never known.
How did Astoria get its name? John Jacob Astor is involved, but not in the way you think.
Was Long Island City an actual city? Well, technically, yes. In the 19th century, it was certainly corrupt like a modern city!
How important to Astoria history is the Steinway Piano Factory? So important that modern Astoria would not exist in its present form without it.
In 2017, why is Long Island City full of new developments and Astoria almost none? The secret is imbedded in its history, in decisions that were made 150 years ago.
And it all begins with a brutal murder -- in a little place called Hallet's Cove.
STARRING: Robert Moses, Tony Bennett, Isamu Noguchi and the casts of dozens of TV and movies. Not to mention the best selection of food in New York City!
|Sep 29, 2017|
#237 Columbus Circle: A Century of Controversy
Columbus Circle, a center of media and shopping at the entrance to Central Park, has a history that, well, runs against the grain. Counter-clockwise, if you will.
When the park was completed in the mid 19th century, a 'Grand Circle' was planned for a busy thoroughfare of horse-drawn carriages. A monument to the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus was placed at its center in 1892, bought and paid for by New York's new Italian community.
But the circle had awkwardly adjusted to modern development, and architecture which has graced its perimeter had been uniquely scorned -- from the 'confusing' Maine Monument to Robert Moses' New York Coliseum, a dated convention center which eliminated a street from the city's grid.
Join us for a look at this unusual section of New York City, a place of both music history and real estate headaches. And what should the city do about that Columbus statute, embroiled in a modern controversy?
STARRING: William Phelps Enos, Donald Trump, Sophie Tucker and a man with the extraordinary name of Teunis Somerindyke.
|Sep 15, 2017|
#236 Times Square in the '70s
Take a trip with us down the grittiest streets in Times Square -- the faded marquees of the grindhouses, the neon-lit prurient delights of Eighth Avenue at night.
Times Square in the 1970s was all about fantasy -- from the second-run theaters of 42nd Street to the pornographic pleasures of the adult bookstores next door. And yet our ideas of this place and time are also caught in a bit of fantastic nostalgia. In memory it becomes an erotic theme park, a quaint corner of New York City history. Sometimes its stark everyday reality is forgotten.
In this show we focus on a couple of Times Square's most notorious streets from the period -- 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue -- and provide historical context for the seediness they were known for in this era.
Those glowing marquees disguise a theatrical history that dates from the beginning of Times Square, once hosting productions by the likes of Florenz Ziegfeld and Oscar Hammerstein. And the sex industries themselves trace back to the early seedy days of the Tenderloin neighborhood. They coalesced around Port Authority Bus Terminal (aka "the cavern of squalor") to produce a gritty scene that was at once alluring, dangerous, and quintessentially New York.
|Sep 08, 2017|
The Crash of 1929: New York In Crisis
EPISODE 235 Something so giddy and wild as New York City in the Jazz Age would have to burn out at some point but nobody expected the double catastrophe of a paralyzing financial crash and a wide-ranging government corruption scandal.
Mayor Jimmy Walker, in a race for a second term against a rising congressman named Fiorello La Guardia, might have had a few cocktails at the Central Park Casino after hearing of the pandemonium on Wall Street in late October 1929. The irresponsible speculation fueling the stock market of the Roaring 20's suddenly fell apart, turning princes into paupers overnight. Rumors spread among gathering crowds in front of the New York Stock Exchange of distraught traders throwing themselves out windows.
And yet a more immediately crisis was awaiting the party mayor of New York -- the investigations of Judge Samuel Seabury, steering a crackdown authorized by governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rid New York City of its deep-ceded, Tammany Hall-fueled corruption.
With the American economy in free fall and hundreds of New York politicians, police officers and judges falling to corruption revelations, the world needed a drink! Counting down to the last days of Prohibition....
PLUS: The fate of the fabulous Texas Guinan, the movie star turned Prohibition hostess who hit the road with a bawdy new burlesque -- that led to a tragic end.
This is the final part of our three-part NEW YORK IN THE JAZZ AGE podcast series. Check out our two prior episode #233 The Roaring '20s: The King of the Jazz Age and #234 Queen of the Speakeasies: A Tale of Prohibition New York
|Sep 01, 2017|
Queen of the Speakeasies: A Tale of Prohibition New York
EPISODE 234 Texas Guinan was the queen of the speakeasy era, the charismatic and sassy hostess of New York's hottest nightclubs of the 1920s. Her magnetism, sharpened by years of work in Hollywood, would make her one of the great icons of the Prohibition era. She's our guide into the underworld of the Jazz Age as we explore the history of Prohibition and how it affected New York City.
The temperance movement united a very bizarre group of players -- progressives, nativists, churchgoers -- in their quest to eliminate the evil of alcohol from American society. Many saw liquor as a symbol of systemic social failure; others suspected it as the weakness of certain immigrant groups.
Guinan, a Catholic girl from Waco, Texas, was introduced to New York's illegal booze scene by way of the nightclub. Her associations with rumrunners and gangsters were certainly dangerous, but her unique skills and charms allowed her an unprecedented power on the edges of a world fueled by the ways of organized crime.
Come along as we visit her various nightclubs and follow the course of Prohibition in New York City from the loftiest heights to the lowliest dive.
|Aug 18, 2017|
#233 The Roaring '20s: King of the Jazz Age
The Bowery Boys are heading to the speakeasy and kicking back with some bathtub gin this month -- with a brand new series focusing on New York City during the Prohibition Era.
The 1920s were a transformational decade for New York, evolving from a Gilded Age capital to the ideal of the modern international city. Art Deco skyscrapers reinvented the skyline, reorienting the center of gravity from downtown to a newly invigorated Midtown Manhattan. Cultural influences, projected to the world via radio and the silent screen, helped create a new American style.
And the king of it all was Jimmy Walker, elected mayor of New York City just as its prospects were at their highest. The Tin Pan Alley songwriter-turned-Tammany Hall politician was always known more for his grace and style than his accomplishments. His wit and character embodied the spirit (and the spirits) of the Roaring '20s.
Join us for an after-midnight romp with the Night Mayor of New York as ascends to the most powerful seat in the city and spends his first term in the lap of luxury. What could possibly go wrong?
|Aug 04, 2017|
#232 The Story of SoHo
Picture the neighborhood of SoHo (that’s right, "South of Houston") in your head today, and you might get a headache. Crowded sidewalks on the weekend, filled with tourists, shoppers and vendors, could almost distract you from SoHo’s unique appeal as a place of extraordinary architecture and history. On this podcast we present the story of how a portion of “Hell’s Hundred Acres” became one of the most famously trendy places in the world. In the mid 19th century this area, centered along Broadway, became the heart of retail and entertainment, department stores and hotels setting up shop in grand palaces. (It also became New York’s most notorious brothel district). The streets between Houston and Canal became known as the Cast Iron District, thanks to an exciting construction innovation that transformed the Gilded Age. Today SoHo contains the world’s greatest surviving collection of cast-iron architecture. But these gorgeous iron tributes to New York industry were nearly destroyed – first by rampant fires, then by Robert Moses. Community activists saved these buildings, and just in time for artists to move into their spacious loft spaces in the 1960s and 70s. The artists are still there of course but these once-desolate cobblestone streets have almost unrecognizably changed, perhaps a victim of its own success.
|Jul 20, 2017|
The Bowery Boys Present: The First Broadway Musical
While Greg and Tom are away this week on life-changing adventures, please enjoy this very New York City-centric episode of the Bowery Boys spinoff podcast The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences -- The Black Crook is considered the first-ever Broadway musical, a dizzying, epic-length extravaganza of ballerinas, mechanical sets, lavish costumes and a storyline about the Devil straight out of a twisted hallucination. The show took New York by storm when it debuted on September 12, 1866. This is the story of how this completely weird, virtually unstageable production came to pass. Modern musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Hamilton wouldn’t quite be what they are today without this curious little relic. Featuring music by Adam Roberts and Libby Dees, courtesy the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. And the voice of Ben Rimalower reading the original reviews of the Black Crook. And our special thanks to Secret Summer NYC for sponsoring this episode. Please visit www.secretsummernyc.com for more information and to get tickets. boweryboyshistory.com
|Jul 06, 2017|
#231 The Stonewall Riots Revisited
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, undercover police officers attempting to raid the Stonewall Inn, a mob-controlled gay bar with darkened windows on Christopher Street, were met with something unexpected -- resistance. That 'altercation' was a messy affair indeed -- chaotic, violent, dangerous for all. Homeless youth fought against riot police along the twisting, crooked streets of the West Village. And yet, by the end, thousands from all walks of life met on those very same streets in the days and weeks to come in a new sense of empowerment. In May of 2008, we recorded a podcast on the Stonewall Riots, an event that galvanized the LGBTQ community, giving birth to political organizations and a sense of unity and pride. So much has changed within the LGBTQ community -- and so much was left out of our original show -- that's we've decided to do something unique. In the first half, we present to you our original 2008 history on the Stonewall Riots, warts and all. In the second half, we present newly recorded material, exploring the effects of Stonewall on the crises that faced the gay community in the 1980s and 90s. Now an official U.S. National Monument maintained by the National Park Service, the Stonewall National Monument preserves New York City's role in the birth of the international LGBT movement. And please forgive us in advance for being extra personal in this show near the end. boweryboyshistory.com This show is brought to you by Audible. Listen anytime, anywhere to an unmatched selection of audiobooks, original premium podcasts and more.
|Jun 22, 2017|
#230 Before Harlem: New York's Forgotten Black Communities
Today we sometimes define New York City's African-American culture by place – Harlem, of course, and also Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, neighborhoods that developed for groups of black residents in the 20th century. But by no means were these the first in New York City. Other centers of black and African-American life existed long before then. In many cases, they were obliterated by the growth of the city, sometimes built over without a single marker, without recognition. This is the story of a few of those places. From the 'land of the blacks' -- the home to New Amsterdam and British New York's early black population -- to Seneca Village, a haven for early African-American lives that was wiped away by a park. From Little Africa -- the Greenwich Village sector for the black working class in the late 19th century -- to Sandy Ground, a rural escape in Staten Island with deep roots in the neighborhood today. And then there's Weeksville, Brooklyn, the visionary village built to bond a community and to develop a political foothold. Greg welcomes Kamau Ware (of the Black Gotham Experience) and Tia Powell Harris of the Weeksville Heritage Center to the show! boweryboyshistory.com blackgotham.com weeksvillesociety.com
|Jun 08, 2017|
#229 Live in Brooklyn! The Bowery Boys: Ten Years of Podcasting
In early June of 2007, Tom Meyers and Greg Young sat around a laptop and a karaoke microphone, looked out over Canal Street in the Lower East Side and began recording the very first Bowery Boys: New York City History Podcast. For ten years the Bowery Boys podcast has brought the history of this extraordinary city to life -- the people, places and events which have helped shape our modern metropolis.
In celebration of this anniversary, join them for their very first podcast event in front of a live audience as a part of the 2017 NYC Podfest festival.
This show was recorded on April 9, 2017, at the Bell House, in Gowanus, Brooklyn. They talk about how they met, how they came up with the idea for their show and run through a list of their favorite and most notable podcasts. The Bowery Boys are joined by moderator Nat Towsen, host of the Nat Towsen Downtown Variety Hour every month at UCB Theater in the East Village.
And stay tuned until the end! An unexpected guest arrives to present the Bowery Boys with a special gift. FEATURING: Stories of Eartha Kitt, Boss Tweed, ABBA, Evelyn Nesbit, P. T. Barnum, Tallulah Bankhead, Donald Trump, Varla Jean Merman, the musical Rent and, of course, Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. boweryboyshistory.com
|May 25, 2017|
#228 The Pirate of Pearl Street: The New York Adventures of Captain Kidd
The area of Lower Manhattan below Wall Street is today filled with investment bankers, business people and tourists. But did you know, over 300 years ago, that the same streets were once crawling with pirates?
In the early decades of the British colony of New York, the city was quite an appealing destination for pirates and their ships filled with stolen treasure. After all, the port of New York was far away from the supervision of the crown, providing local merchants with ample temptations to do business with the high sea's most notorious criminals.
Captain William Kidd is a figure of legend, the most ruthless and bloodthirsty pirate on the planet. And yet, for many years, he was a respectable New York gentleman, with connected friends, a wealthy wife and a sumptuous home on Pearl Street near the original wall of Wall Street.
But Kidd sought adventure as a privateer and made a deal with prominent New Yorkers to scour British trading routes for pirates. This is the tale of how a dashing New York sea captain became branded (perhaps unfairly) as one of the most evil men of the ocean. PLUS: Captain Kidd startling connection to New York's Trinity Church! And where in New York City might one find some of Captain Kidd's fabled treasure today? boweryboyshistory.com CORRECTION: From the final section — it is Blackbeard the pirate, not Bluebeard the pirate, who is made an example of by the English in 1718.
|May 12, 2017|
#227 The Hindenburg Over New York
On the afternoon of May 6, 1937, New Yorkers looked overhead at an astonishing sight -- the arrival of the Hindenburg, the largest airship in the world, drifting calmly across the sky. New York City was already in the throes of "Zeppelin mania" by then. These rigid gas-filled airships, largely manufactured by Germany, were experiencing a Jazz Age rediscovery thanks in part to the Graf Zeppelin, a glamorous commercial airship which first crossed the ocean in 1928. Its commander and crew even received two ticker-tape parades through lower Manhattan. In size and prominence, the Hindenburg would prove to be the greatest airship of all. It was the Concorde of its day, providing luxurious transatlantic travel for the rich and famous. In Germany, the airship was used as a literal propaganda machine for the rising Nazi government of Adolf Hitler. But dreams of Zeppelin-filled skies were quickly vanquished in the early evening hours of May 6, 1937, over a landing field in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Its destruction would be one of the most widely seen disasters in the world, marking an end to this particular vision of the future. But a mark of the Zeppelin age still exists on the New York City skyline, atop the city's most famous building!
|Apr 27, 2017|
#226 The Beauty Bosses of Fifth Avenue
EPISODE 226 The Midtown Manhattan stretch of Fifth Avenue, once known for its ensemble of extravagant mansions owned by the Gilded Age's wealthiest families, went through an astonishing makeover one hundred years ago.
Many lavish abodes of the rich were turned into exclusive retail boutiques, catering to the very sorts of people who once lived here.
On the forefront of this transformation were two women from very different backgrounds. Elizabeth Arden was a Canadian entrepreneur, looking to establish her business in the growing city of New York. Helena Rubinstein, from Poland by way of Australia, already owned an established company and looked to Manhattan as a way to anchor her business in America. Their products -- beauty! Creams, lotions, ointments and cleansers. Then later: eye-liners, rouges, lipsticks, mascaras.
In this episode we observe the growing independence of American woman and the changing beauty standards which arose in the 1910s and 20s, bringing 'the painted face' into the mainstream. And it's in large part thanks to these two extraordinary businesswomen, crafting two parallel empires in a corporate framework usually reserved for men.
ALSO: Theda Bara, Estée Lauder, Max Factor and a whole lot of sheep and horses!
Visit boweryboyshistory.com for images described in this show as well as other articles relating to New York City history.
|Apr 13, 2017|
#225 P. T. Barnum and the Greatest Show on Earth
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages -- the Bowery Boys present to you the tale of P. T. Barnum and his "Greatest Show on Earth," the world's most famous circus! You can't even bring up the discussion of circuses without mentioning the name of Barnum. But in fact, he only entered the circus business in his later years, after decades of success with bizarre museums, traveling curiosities, touring opera divas and all manner of fabricated 'humbugs'. In the late 19th century, in order for circuses to survive, innovators like Barnum needed to come up with startling new ways to get the attentions of audiences. Although his circus -- which would eventually merge with that of James Bailey and, later, the Ringling Brothers -- was a sensation which toured across the United States, it always began each season in New York, specifically situated on the northeast corner of Madison Square. Tune in to find out how New York institutions owned by Barnum became imprinted on the basic structure of the classic American circus. And join us as we visit the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT, to gather some insight on Barnum's unique genius. CO-STARRING: Jumbo the Elephant, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, the Cardiff Giant and Tom Thumb!
|Mar 31, 2017|
#224 The Arrival of the Irish: An Immigrant Story
You don't have a New York City without the Irish. In fact, you don't have a United States of America as we know it today. This diverse and misunderstood immigrant group began coming over in significant numbers starting in the Colonial era, mostly as indentured servants. In the early 19th century, these Irish arrivals, both Protestants and Catholics, were already consolidating -- via organizations like the Ancient Order of the Hibernians and in places like St. Patrick's Cathedral. But starting in the 1830s, with a terrible blight wiping out Ireland's potato crops, a mass wave of Irish immigration would dwarf all that came before, hundreds of thousands of weary, sometimes desperate newcomers who entered New York to live in its most squalid neighborhoods. The Irish were among the laborers who built the Croton Aqueduct, the New York grid plan and Central Park. Irish women comprised most of the hired domestic help by the mid 19th century. The arrival of the Irish and their assimilation into American life is a story repeated in many cities. Here in New York City, it is essential in our understanding of the importance of modern immigrant communities to the life of the Big Apple. PLUS: The origins of New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade! www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Mar 16, 2017|
The Algonquin Round Table
EPISODE 223 One June afternoon in the spring of 1919, a group of writers and theatrical folk got together at the Algonquin Hotel to roast the inimitable Alexander Woollcott, the trenchant theater critic for the New York Times who had just returned from World War I, brimming with dramatically overbaked stories.
The affair was so rollicking, so engaging, that somebody suggested -- "Why don't we do this every day?" And so they did. The Algonquin Round Table is the stuff of legends, a regular lunch date for the cream of New York's cultural elite.
In this show, we present you with some notable members of the guest list -- including the wonderful droll Dorothy Parker, the glibly observant Franklin Pierce Adams and the charming Robert Benchley, to name but a few.
But you can't celebrate the Round Table from a recording studio so we head to the Algonquin to soak in the ambience and interview author Kevin C. Fitzpatrick about the Jazz Age's most famous networking circle.
Are you ready for a good time? “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” -- Dorothy Parker
|Mar 03, 2017|
#222 Who Killed Helen Jewett? A Mystery By Gaslight
In the spring of 1836, a young woman named Helen Jewett was brutally murdered with a hatchet in a townhouse on Thomas Street, just a few blocks northwest from City Hall.
This was not a normal crime. Helen was a prostitute of great beauty and considerable intelligence, making her living in a rapidly transforming city.
Among her client list were presentable gentlemen and rowdy young men alike -- their kind fueling the rise of illicit pleasures throughout New York City in the 1830s.
This was the era of the sporting man. Young single men with a little change in their pocket hit the streets of New York after dark, looking for a good time. For some single young women struggling to survive, the sex industry -- from the 'high end' brothels to the grimy upper tiers of the theater -- allowed them to live comfortable, if secretive, lives.
But it placed many in great danger. The prime suspect for Helen's murder was a young Connecticut man who worked at a respectable New York firm. His trial would captivate New Yorkers and even interest newspaper readers around the country. But would justice be served?
ALSO: Find out how this incident helped shape the nature of American journalism itself. PLUS: Meet more than one person named Ogden!
|Feb 16, 2017|
#221 New York: Capital City of the United States
During a handful of months in 1789 and 1790, representatives of the new nation of the United States came together in New York City to make decisions which would forever affect the lives of Americans. In this second part of our two-part show on New York as the first federal capital of the United States, we roll up our sleeves and get down to business. (In the first part, he moved the capital to lower Manhattan and inaugurated ourselves a new president George Washington!) The men of the first Continental Congress -- which first met in the Spring of 1789 -- had a lofty job in front of them that year. They needed to not only construct the tools and offices of a brand new government, they were also tasked with defining the basic rights of American citizens via a set of amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- the Bill of Rights. Now imagine doing this in your post-Colonial era garments during a hot summer, all crammed into a few rooms at Federal Hall, the former City Hall building on Wall Street. It was here that the Bill of Rights was introduced, debated and voted upon. But those weren't the only monumental decisions being made in the city. When nobody could come to an agreement on two major issues -- the assumption of state debt and the location of the permanent federal capital -- it was up to Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to craft a deal, made during a legendary dinner party on Maiden Lane. We live today with the critical decisions made by these three men on that night over food and wine. ALSO: The tale of James Hemings, an enslaved man who became an accomplished French chef and most likely the cook for that very dinner, witness to the events in "the room where it happened." boweryboyshistory.com
|Feb 02, 2017|
#220 George Washington's New York Inauguration
The story of New York City's role in the birth of American government is sometimes forgotten. Most of the buildings important to the first U.S. Congress, which met here from the spring of 1789 to the late summer of 1790, have long been demolished. There's little to remind us that our modern form of government was, in part, invented here on these city streets. Riding high on the victories of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers organized a makeshift Congress under the Articles of Confederation. After an unfortunate crisis in Philadelphia, that early group of politicians from the 13 states eventually drifted up to New York (specifically to New York's City Hall, to be called Federal Hall) to meet. But they were an organization without much power or respect. The fate of the young nation lay on the shoulders of George Washington who arrived in New York in the spring of 1789 to be inaugurated as the first president of the United States. His swearing-in would finally unite Americans around their government and would imbue the port city of New York with a new urgency. This is Part One of a two part celebration of these years, featuring cantankerous vice presidents, festive cannonades, and burning plumage! (Part Two arrives in two weeks.) FEATURING Washington, Adams, Madison, Livingston and, of course, HAMILTON! www.boweryboyshistory.com NOTE: In the show we accidentally say 'Yorkville' once when we meant 'Yorktown'. Blame it on our New York-centrism; Yorkville is a neighborhood in the Upper East Side!
|Jan 20, 2017|
#219 Newsies on Strike!
We're in the mood for a good old-fashioned Gilded Age story so we're replaying one of our favorite Bowery Boys episodes ever -- Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst vs. the newsies! It was pandemonium in the streets. One hot summer in July 1899, thousands of corner newsboys (and girls) went on strike against the New York Journal and the New York World. Throngs filled the streets of downtown Manhattan for two weeks and prevented the two largest papers in the country from getting distributed. In this episode, we look at the development of the sensationalist New York press -- the birth of yellow journalism -- from its very earliest days, and how sensationalism's two famous purveyors were held at ransom by the poorest, scrappiest residents of the city. The conflict put a light to the child labor crisis and became a dramatic example of the need for reform. Crazy Arborn, Kid Blink, Racetrack Higgins and Barney Peanuts invite you to the listen in to this tale of their finest moment, straight from the street corners of Gilded Age New York. PLUS: Bonus material featuring a closer look at the Brooklyn Newsboys Strike and a moment with the newsies during the holidays.
|Dec 23, 2016|
#218 Lincoln Center and West Side Story
Warm up the orchestra, lace up your dance slippers, and bring the diva to the stage! For our latest show we’re telling the origin story of Lincoln Center, the fine arts campus which assembles some of the city’s finest music and theatrical institutions to create the classiest 16.3 acres in New York City. Lincoln Center was created out of an urgent necessity, bringing together the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Juilliard School of Music and other august fine-arts companies as a way of providing a permanent home for American culture. However this tale of Robert Moses’ urban renewal philosophies and the survival of storied institutions has a tragic twist. The campus sits on the site of a former neighborhood named San Juan Hill, home to thousands of African American and Puerto Rican families in the mid 20th century. No trace of this neighborhood exists today. Or, should we say, ALMOST no trace. San Juan Hill exists, at least briefly, with a part of classic American cinema. The Oscar-winning film West Side Story, based on the celebrated musical, was partially filmed here. The movie reflects many realities of the neighborhood and involves talents who would be, ahem, instrumental in Lincoln Center’s continued successes. FEATURING – Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, James Earl Jones, Imelda Marcos, David Geffen and, naturally, the Nutcracker! www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Dec 09, 2016|
#217: Truman Capote's Black And White Ball
Truman Capote is a true New York character, a Southern boy who wielded his immense writing talents to secure a place within Manhattan high society. Elegant, witty, compact, gay -- Capote was a fixture of swanky nightclubs and arm candy to wealthy, well-connected women. One project would entirely change his life -- the completion of the classic In Cold Blood, a 'non-fiction novel' about a brutal mass murder in Kansas. Retreating from his many years of research, Truman decided to throw a party. But this wasn't ANY party. This soiree -- a masquerade ball at the Plaza Hotel -- would have the greatest assemblage of famous folks ever gathered for something so entirely frivolous. An invite to the ball was the true golden ticket, coveted by every celebrity and social climber in America. Come with us as we give you a tour of the planning of the Black and White Ball and a few glamorous details from that strange, glorious evening. FEATURING: Harper Lee, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Halston, Katherine Graham and a cast of thousands (well, or just 540) www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Nov 24, 2016|
#216: Edwin Booth and the Players Club
Edwin Booth was the greatest actor of the Gilded Age, a superstar of the theater who entertained millions over his long career. In this podcast, we present his extraordinary career, the tragedies that shaped his life (on stage and off), and the legacy of his cherished Players Club, the fabulous Stanford White-designed Gramercy Park social club for actors, artists and their admirers. The Booths were a precursor to the Barrymores, an acting family who were as famous for their personal lives as they were for their dramatic roles. Younger brother John Wilkes Booth would horrify the nation in 1865, and Edwin would briefly retire from the stage. But an outpouring of love would bring him back to the spotlight and the greasepaint. Edwin Booth would give back to the theatrical community for the formation of the Players Club in 1888. In this show, we’ll take you on a tour of this exclusive destination for film and theatrical icons, including a look at the upstairs bedroom where Booth died, still preserved exactly as it looked on that fateful day in 1893. Boweryboyshistory.com
|Nov 11, 2016|
01 The Wheel: Ferris' Big Idea ('The First' Podcast Special Preview)
01: The first Ferris Wheel was invented to become America’s Eiffel Tower, making its grand debut at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The wheel’s inventor George Washington Gale Ferris was a clever and optimistic soul; he did everything in his power to ensure that his glorious mechanical ride would forever change the world. That it did, but unfortunately, its inventor paid a horrible price. FEATURING a visit to one of the most famous wheels in the world and a trip to one of Chicago’s newest marvels. This is a special preview for the new Bowery Boys spin-off podcast series The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences, brought to you by Bowery Boys host Greg Young.
|Oct 28, 2016|
#215 Ghosts of the Gilded Age
For this year's 10th annual Bowery Boys Halloween special, we're highlighting haunted tales from the period just after the Civil War when New York City became one of the richest cities in the world -- rich in wealth and in ghosts! We go to four boroughs in this one (sorry Brooklyn!): -- In the Bronx we highlight a bizarre house that once stood in the area of Hunts Point, a mansion of malevolent and disturbing mysteries -- Then we turn to Manhattan to a rambunctious poltergeist on fashionable East 27th Street -- Over in Queens, a lonely farmhouse in the area of today's Calvary Cemetery is witness to not one, but two unsettling and confounding deaths -- Finally, in Staten Island, we take a visit to the glorious Vanderbilt Mausoleum, a historic landmark and a location with a few strange secrets of its own PLUS: Stay tuned until the end to hear the trailer for the new Bowery Boys podcast series -- The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Oct 14, 2016|
#214 Bronx Trilogy (Part Three) The Bronx Was Burning
The Bronx was burning. The Bronx is now rising. In the third and final part of our Bronx history series, we tackle the most difficult period in the life of this borough -- the late 20th century and the days and nights of urban blight. The focus of this show is the South Bronx, once the tranquil farmlands of the Morris family and the location of the first commuter towns, situated along the new railroad. By the 1950s, however, a great number of socio-economic forces and physical changes were conspiring to make life in this area very, very challenging. Construction projects like the Cross Bronx Expressway and shifts in living arrangements (from new public housing to the promise of Co-Op City) had isolated those who still lived in the old tenements of the South Bronx. Poverty and high crime rendered the neighborhood so undesirable that buildings were abandoned and even burned. Mainstream attention (from notable television broadcasts to visits by the President of the United States) did not seem to immediately change things here. It would be up to local neighborhood activists and wide-ranging city and state programs -- not to mention the purveyors of an energetic new musical force -- to begin to improve the fortunes of this seemingly doomed borough. FEATURING an interview with Inside Out Tours founder and chief tour guide Stacey Toussaint about the new Bronx renaissance. ALSO: Appearances by Howard Cosell, Sonia Sotomayor, Robert Moses, Grand Wizzard Theodore, and Jimmy Carter! www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Sep 29, 2016|
#213 Bronx Trilogy (Part Two) The Bronx is Building
In the second part of the Bowery Boys' Bronx Trilogy -- recounting the entire history of New York City's northernmost borough -- we focus on the years between 1875 and 1945, a time of great evolution and growth for the former pastoral areas of Westchester County.
New York considered the newly annexed region to be of great service to the over-crowded city in Manhattan, a blank canvas for visionary urban planners. Soon great parks and mass transit transformed these northern areas of New York into a sibling (or, perhaps more accurately, a step-child) of the densely packed city to the south.
The Grand Concourse embodied the promise of a new life for thousands of new residents -- mostly first and second-generation immigrants, many of them Jewish newcomers. But the first time that many outside New York became aware of the Bronx may have been the arrival in 1923 of New York's most victorious baseball team, arriving via a spectacular new stadium where sports history would frequently be made.
By the 1930s Parks Commissioner Robert Moses began looking at the borough as a major factor in his grand urban development plans. In some cases, this involved the creation of vital public recreations (like Orchard Beach). Other decisions would mark the beginning of new troubles for the Bronx.
|Sep 16, 2016|
#212 Bronx Trilogy (Part One) The Bronx Is Born
The story of the Bronx is so large, so spectacular, that we had to spread it out over three separate podcasts! In Part One -- The Bronx Is Born -- we look at the land that is today's borough, back when it was a part of Westchester County, a natural expanse of heights, rivers and forests occasionally interrupted by farm-estates and modest villages.
Settlers during the Dutch era faced grave turmoil. Those that came afterwards managed to tame the land with varying results. Speculators were everyone; City Island was born from the promise of a relationship with the city down south. During the Revolutionary War, prominent families were faced with a dire choice -- stay with the English or side with George Washington's Continental Army?
One prominent family would help shape the fate of the young nation and leave their name forever attached to one of the Bronx's oldest neighborhoods. Sadly that family's legacy is under-appreciated today. By the 1840s, Westchester County was at last connected to New York via a new railroad line. It was a prosperous decade with the development of the area's first college, a row of elegant homes and some of its very first 'depot towns'.
Two decades later, the future borough would even cater to the dead -- both the forgotten (at Hart Island) and the wealthy (Woodlawn Cemetery). The year 1874 would mark a new chapter for a few quiet towns and begin the process of turning this area into the borough known as the Bronx.
FEATURING: Many places in the Bronx that you can visit today and experience this early history up close, including Wave Hill, Pelham Bay Park, Woodlawn Cemetery, City Island and more.
NOTE: Thanks to Angel Hernandez from the Bronx Historical Society
www.boweryboyshistory.com Our book Adventures In Old New York is now in bookstores and online, wherever books are sold!
|Sep 01, 2016|
#211 The Notorious Madame Restell: The Abortionist of Fifth Avenue
Ann Lohman, aka Madame Restell, was one of the most vilified women of the 19th century, an abortion practitioner that dodged the law to become one of the wealthiest self-made women in the Gilded Age. But is her reputation justified?
Thoughts on abortion and birth control were quite different in the 1830s, the era in which Madame Restell got her start. It was society and marital morality -- not science and religion -- that played a substantial role in New Yorkers' views on the termination of pregnancy.
Restell and countless imitators offers a wide range of potions, pills and powders to customers, provided in veiled wording in newspaper advertisements.
By the 1860s Restell was insulated from serious interrogation and flaunted her unique position in society by planting her Fifth Avenue mansion in a very controversial place. But she soon became a target of New York's most dogged reformer, a man who considered her pure evil and the source of society's most illicit sins. www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Aug 18, 2016|
#210 Digital City: New York and the World of Video Games
New York has an interesting, complex and downright weird relationship with video games, from the digital sewers below Manhattan to the neon-lit arcades of Times Square. In this grab bag episode – filled with nostalgia and nerdyness -- we capture all sides of the relation. First -- the relationship between the city and the arcade itself, once filled with shooting galleries, skee ball and pinball machines which, in the 1930s. became public enemy number one for one of New York’s most powerful mayors. The era of Space Invaders, Pac Man and Donkey Kong descends in New York during its grittiest period – the late 70s/early 80s – and arrives, like an alien presence, into many neighborhood arcades including one of the most famous in Chinatown – an arcade that is still open and the subject of a new documentary 'The Lost Arcade'. While the video game industry is not something New York City is particularly associated with, the city does in fact set the stage for this revolution of blips and joysticks at the start of the 20th century. Then it's on to Queens when you can find one of America's great tributes to the video game, in the arcade collection at the Museum of the Moving Image. At the end Greg goes into the games themselves to explore New York as a digital landscape that continues to be of fascination to game developers and players alike. So are you ready Player One? Grab your quarters and log in to this New York adventure through the world of video games. boweryboyshistory.com Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
|Aug 04, 2016|
#209 The Waldorf-Astoria's Complicated History
You might think you know this tale, but do we have surprises for you. The Waldorf-Astoria -- or the Waldorf=Astoria or even the Waldorf Astoria -- has been a premier name in hotel accommodations since the opening of the very first edition on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue (the location of today's Empire State Building). But the history of the current incarnation on Park Avenue contains the twists and turns of world events, from World War II to recent diplomatic dramas. In essence, the Waldorf Astoria has become the world's convention center. Step past the extraordinary Art Deco trappings, and you'll find rooms which have hosted a plethora of important gatherings, not to mention the frequent homes to Hollywood movie stars. But its those very trappings -- some of it well over a century old -- that finds itself in danger today as recent changes threaten to wipe away its glamorous interiors entirely. boweryboyshistory.com Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
|Jul 21, 2016|
#208 Great Hoaxes of Old New York
New Yorkers can be tough to crack, maneuvering through a rapidly changing, fast-paced city. But they can, at times, also be easily fooled.
In this episode, we explore two of the wackiest stories in early New York City history, two instances of tall tales that got quite out of hand.
While both of these stories are almost two centuries old, they both have certain parallels to modern-day hucksterism.
In the 1820s, the Erie Canal would completely change the fortunes of the young United States, turning the port city of New York into one of the most important in the world. But an even greater engineering challenge was necessary to prevent the entire southern part of Manhattan from sinking into the harbor. You read that right -- New York was sinking! That is, if you believed a certain charlatan hanging out at the market.....
One decade later, the burgeoning penny press would give birth to another tremendous fabrication and kick off an uneasy association between the media and the truth. In the summer of 1835 the New York Sun reported on startling discoveries from one of the world's most famous astronomers. Life on the moon! Indeed, vivid moon forests populated with a menagerie of bizarre creatures and winged men with behaviors similar to that of men on Earth.
Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and on line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
|Jul 07, 2016|
#207 The First Subway: Beach's Pneumatic Marvel
The first subway in New York -- the first in the United States! – travelled only a single block and failed to influence the future of transportation. And yet Alfred Ely Beach's marvelous pneumatic transit system provides us today with one of the most enchanting stories of New York during the Gilded Age. With the growing metropolis still very much confined to below 14th Street by 1850, New Yorkers frantically looked for more efficient ways to transport people out of congested neighborhoods. Elevated railroads? Moving sidewalks? Massive stone viaducts? Inventor Beach, publisher of the magazine Scientific American, believed he had the answer, using pneumatic power -- i.e. the power of pressurized air! But the state charter only gave him permission to build a pneumatic tube to deliver mail, not people. That didn't stop Beach, who began construction of his extraordinary device literally within sight of City Hall. How did Beach build such an ambitious project under secretive circumstances? What was it like to ride a pneumatic passenger car? And why don't we have pneumatic power operating our subways today? FEATURING: Boss Tweed at his most bossiness, piano tunes under Broadway and something called a centrifugal bowling alley!
|Jun 24, 2016|
#206 The Lenape: The Real Native New Yorkers
Before New York, before New Amsterdam – there was Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape, the original inhabitants of the places we call Manhattan, Westchester, northern New Jersey and western Long Island. This is the story of their first contact with European explorers and settlers and their gradual banishment from their ancestral land. Fur trading changed the lifestyles of the Lenape well before any permanent European settlers stepped foot in this region. Early explorers had a series of mostly positive experiences with early native people. With the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the Lenape entered into various land deals, ‘selling’ the land of Manhattan at a location in the area of today’s Inwood Hill Park. But relations between New Amsterdam and the surrounding native population worsened with the arrival of Director-General William Kieft, leading to bloody attacks and vicious reprisals, killing hundreds of Lenape and colonists alike. Peter Stuyvesant arrives to salvage the situation, but further attacks threatened any treaties of peace. But the time of English occupation, the Lenape were decimated and without their land. And yet, descendants of the Lenape live on today in various parts of the United States and Canada. All that and more in this tragic but important tale of New York City history. (My apologies for messing up the pronunciation of the word Wickquasgeck. And I was doing so well too! -- Greg) www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Jun 10, 2016|
#205 The Disappearance of Dorothy Arnold
The young socialite Dorothy Arnold seemingly led a charmed and privileged life. The niece of a Supreme Court justice, Dorothy was the belle of 1900s New York, an attractive and vibrant young woman living on the Upper East Side with her family. She hoped to become a published magazine writer and perhaps someday live by herself in Greenwich Village.
But on December 12, 1910, while running errands in the neighborhood of Madison Square Park, Dorothy Arnold -- simply vanished. In this investigative new podcast, we look at the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, from the mysterious clues left in her fireplace to the suspicious behavior exhibited by her family.
This mystery captivated New Yorkers for decades as revelations and twists to the story continued to emerge. As one newspaper described it: "There is general agreement among police officials that the case is in a class by itself."
ALSO: What secrets lurk in the infamous Pennsylvania "House of Mystery"? And could a sacred object found in Texas hold the key to solving the crime?
|May 26, 2016|
#204 The Cotton Club: The Aristocrat of Harlem
The Cotton Club, Harlem's most prominent nightclub during the Prohibiton era, delivered some of the greatest music legends of the Jazz Age -- Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Ethel Waters, the Nicolas Brothers.
Some of the most iconic songs in the American songbook made their debut at the Cotton Club or were popularized in performances here. But the story of gangster Owney Madden's notorious supper club is hardly one to be celebrated. That the Cotton Club was owned by Prohibition's most ruthless mob boss was just the beginning.
The club enshrined the segregationist policies of the day, placing black talent on the stage for the pleasure of white patrons alone. Even the club's flamboyant décor -- by Ziegfeld's scenic designer, no less -- made sure to remind people of these ugly admission practices. This is the tale of Harlem late night -- of hot jazz and illegal booze, of great music and very bad mobsters.
Featuring some of the greatest tunes of the day by Ellington, Calloway, Waters, King Oliver and more.
THIS PODCAST FEATURED MUSICAL SNIPPETS FROM THE FOLLOWING SONGS: Black and Tan Fantasy - Duke Ellington Drop Me Off In Harlem - Duke Ellington Speak Easy Blues - King Oliver Jazz Band Charleston - Paul Whiteman Mood Indigo - Duke Ellington Swing Session - Duke Ellington If You Were In My Place - Duke Ellington Minnie the Moocher - Cab Calloway I've Got The World On A String - Duke Ellington Stormy Weather - Ethel Waters On The Sunny Side of the Street - Duke Ellington
NOTES ON THIS SHOW:
-- A couple amusing flubs in this show 1) Duke Ellington's nickname is probably inspired by the Duke of Wellington, not (obviously) the Duke of Ellington, 2) the name of the movie with Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers is obviously named Stormy Weather, not Stormy Weathers (which must be the name of a drag queen somewhere)
|May 13, 2016|
#203 Nikola Tesla in New York
The Serbian immigrant Nikola Tesla was among the Gilded Age's
|Apr 28, 2016|
#202 The Lower East Side: A Culinary History
Join us as we experience the tastes of another era by visiting some of the oldest culinary institutions of the Lower East Side. From McSorley's to Katz's, Russ & Daughters and Economy Candy -- when did these shops open, who did they serve, and how, in the world are they still with us today? We explore the topic with author Sarah Lohman of the Four Pounds Flour blog. Join us as we taste our way through the history of the Lower East Side! www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Apr 15, 2016|
#201 GOWANUS! Brooklyn's Troubled Waters
This is the dirtiest Bowery Boys podcast ever. Literally.
|Apr 01, 2016|
#200 Jane Jacobs: Saving the Village
Washington Square Park torn in two. The West Village erased and re-written. Soho, Little Italy and the Lower East Side ripped asunder by an elevated highway. This is what would have happened in New York City in the 1950s and 60s if not for enraged residents and community activists, lead and inspired by a woman from Scranton.
Jane Jacobs is one of the most important urban thinkers of the 20th century. As a young woman, she fell in love with Greenwich Village (and met her husband there) which contained a unique alchemy of life and culture that one could only find in an urban area. As an adroit and intuitive architectural writer, she formed ideas about urban development that flew in the face of mainstream city planning.
As a community activist, she fought for her own neighborhood and set an example for other embattled districts in New York City. Her legacy is fascinating, often radical and not always positive for cities in 2016. But she is an extraordinary New Yorker, and for our 200th episode, we had to celebrate this remarkable woman on the 100th anniversary of her birth.
PLUS: ROOOOBERT MOOOOSES! www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Mar 18, 2016|
#199.5: Bowery Boys - Behind the Scenes
As we prepare for our #200th episode -- and the release of the first-ever Bowery Boys book -- we've decided to take a look back at our last 100 shows, at some of the highlights of the past six or so years. What were some of our favorite episodes? The most controversial episode?But we start by officially introducing you to "The Adventures In Old New York", our new book coming out in May. We give you a little insight into its development and what history you can expect to find in it.www.boweryboyshistory.com
|Mar 08, 2016|
#199 Battle For The Skyline: How High Can It Go?
This year is the one hundred anniversary of one of the most important laws ever passed in New York City -- the 1916 Zoning Law which dictated the rules for building big and tall in the city. So we thought we'd take this opportunity to ponder on the many changes to New York's beautiful skyline via the unique technical changes to construction rules.
|Feb 19, 2016|
#198 Greenpoint, Brooklyn: An Industrial-Strength History
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has a surprising history of bucolic green pastures and rancid oil patches. Before the 19th century this corner of Brooklyn was owned by only a few families with farms (and slaves tending them). But with the future borough of Brooklyn expanding at a great rate, Greenpoint (or Green Point, as they used to call it) could no longer remain private.
|Feb 05, 2016|
#197 Danger In The Harbor: The Black Tom Explosion of 1916
On July 30, 1916, at just after 2 in the morning, a massive explosion ripped apart the island of Black Tom on the shoreline near Jersey City, sending a shockwave through the region and thousands of pounds of wartime shrapnel into the neighboring Ellis Island and Bedloe's Island (home to the Statue of Liberty).
|Jan 22, 2016|
#196 Ready to Wear: A History of the Garment District
The Garment District in Midtown Manhattan has been the center for all things American fashion for almost one hundred years. The lofts and office buildings here still buzz with industry of making clothing -- from design to distribution. New York's long history with the ready-to-wear apparel industry has an ugly beginning -- the manufacture of clothing for Southern slaves. Garment production thrived here by the middle of the 19th century thanks to thousands of arriving immigrants, skilled in the production of making clothes.By 1900, most of the clothes in the United States were made below 14th Street, in the tenement neighborhoods of New York. The disaster at the Triangle Factory Fire in 1911 brought attention to the terrible conditions found in New York's new loft-style factories Fears of the clothing industry encroaching upon Fifth Avenue provoked some New York businesses to stop working with garment sector unless they moved to particular area of the city. And so, by the mid 20th century, hardly a stitch was sold in the United States without it coming through the blocks between 34th Street and 42nd Street west of Sixth Avenue.Listen in as we describe the Garment District's chaotic rush of activity -- from the fabulous showrooms of the world's greatest designers to the nitty-gritty bustle of the crowded streets.FEATURING: Ed Koch, Lauren Bacall, George Opdyke and Brooks Brothers WARNING: This show is bursting at the seams with clothing puns!
|Jan 08, 2016|
#195 Midnight in Times Square: New Year's Eve in New York City
In this episode, we look back on the one day of the year that New Yorkers look forward. New Years Eve is the one night that millions of people around the world focus their attentions on New York City -- or more specifically, on the wedge shaped building in Times Square wearing a bright, illuminated ball on its rooftop.
|Dec 10, 2015|
#194 Nellie Bly: Undercover in the Madhouse
Nellie Bly was a determined and fearless journalist ahead of her time, known for the spectacular lengths she would go to get a good story. Her reputation was built on the events of late September-early October 1887 -- the ten days she spent in an insane asylum.Since the 1830s Blackwell's Island had been the destination for New York's public institutions of an undesirable nature -- hospitals for grave diseases, a penitentiary, an almshouse, even a quarantine for smallpox. There was also a mental institution -- an insane or lunatic asylum -- rumored to treat its patients most cruelly.The ambitious young reporter decided to see for herself -- by acting like a woman who had lost her mind. Her ten days in this particular madhouse -- the basis of her newspaper articles and a book -- would expose the world to the sinister treatment of the mentally ill and the loathsome conditions of New York institutions meant to care for the most needy.But would the process of getting this important story lead Nellie herself to go a little mad? And once she got inside the asylum, how would she get out?ALSO: Not only is a vestige of the asylum still around today, you can live in it!
|Nov 13, 2015|
#193 St. Mark's Place: Party in the East Village!
St. Mark's Place may be named for a saint but it's been a street full of sinners for much of its history.
|Oct 30, 2015|
#192 Haunted Landmarks of New York
Don't be frightened! It's the ninth annual Bowery Boys ghost stories podcast. We're here to guide you through the back alleys ... OF TERROR!