Bowery

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Looking north from Houston Street up Bowery, with the Empire State Building in the background.
The Bowery, looking north, around 1910

The Bowery (pronounced /ˈbaʊ.əri/, Template:IPA-en) is the name of a street and a small neighborhood in the southern portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan. The neighborhood's boundaries are East 4th Street and the East Village to the north, Canal Street and Chinatown to the South, Allen Street and the Lower East Side to the east and Bowery (the street) and Little Italy to the west.[1]

Bowery is an anglicisation of the Dutch bouwerij, derived from an antiquated Dutch word for "farm." In the 17th century the road branched off Broadway north of Fort Amsterdam at the tip of Manhattan to the homestead of Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General of New Netherland. As a street, the Bowery was known as Bowery Lane prior to 1807.[2] Today it runs from Chatham Square in the south to Cooper Square in the north. Its further extension, angling across the grid plan of Manhattan to Union Square, has long been renamed 4th Avenue. Major streets that intersect the Bowery include Canal Street, Delancey Street, Houston Street, and Bleecker Street. A New York City Subway station named Bowery on the BMT Nassau Street Line (J, M, and Z services) is located at the Bowery's intersection with Delancey Street.

Contents

Colonial and federal period

The Bowery is the oldest thoroughfare on Manhattan Island, preceding European intervention as a Lenape footpath, which spanned roughly the entire length of the island, from north to south.[3] When the Dutch settled Manhattan island, they named the path Bouwerij road—bouwerij being an old Dutch word for farm—[4] because it connected farmlands and estates on the outskirts to the heart of the city in today's Wall Street/Battery Park area.

In 1654, the Bowery’s first residents settled in the area of Chatham Square; ten freed slaves and their wives set up cabins and a cattle farm.

Petrus Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam before the English took control, retired to his Bowery farm in 1667. After his death in 1672, he was buried in his private chapel. His mansion burned down in 1778 and his great-grandson sold the remaining chapel and graveyard, now the site of the Episcopal church of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery.[5]

By 1766, when John Montresor made his detailed plan of New York,[6] "Bowry Lane",[7] which took a more north-tending track at the rope walk, was lined for the first few streets with buildings that formed a solid frontage, with market gardens behind them; when Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist for Mozart's Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and Cosi Fan Tutte, emigrated to New York City in 1806, he briefly ran one of the shops along the Bowery, a fruit and vegetable store. In 1766, straight lanes led away at right angles to gentlemen's seats, mostly well back from the dusty "Road to Albany and Boston", as it was labeled on Montresor's map; Nicholas Bayard's was planted as an avenue of trees. James Delancey's grand house, flanked by matching outbuildings, stood behind a forecourt facing Bowery Lane; behind it was his parterre garden, ending in an exedra, clearly delineated on the map.

File:Bowery Theatre, New York City.jpg
Cigarette trading card featuring the Bowery Theatre; a few 3½ storey structures of the 1830s (like the building at right) remain on the Bowery today

The Bull's Head Tavern was noted for George Washington having stopped there for refreshment before riding down to the waterfront to witness the departure of British troops in 1783. Leading to the Post Road, The Bowery rivalled Broadway as a thoroughfare; as late as 1869, when it had gained the "reputation of cheap trade, without being disreputable" it was still "the second principal street of the city".[8]

Slide from respectability

When Lafayette Street was opened parallel to The Bowery in the 1820s, the Bowery Theatre was founded by rich families on the site of the Red Bull Tavern, which had been purchased by John Jacob Astor; it opened in 1826. Across the way the Bowery Amphitheatre was erected in 1833, specializing in the more populist entertainments of equestrian shows and circuses. From stylish beginnings, the tone of the Bowery Theatre's offerings matched the slide in the social scale of the Bowery itself. By the time of the Civil War, the mansions and shops had given way to low-brow concert halls, brothels, German beer gardens, pawn shops, and flophouses, like the one at No.15 in which the composer Stephen Foster lived in 1864[9] Theodore Dreiser closed his tragedy Sister Carrie, set in the 1890s, with the suicide of one of the main characters in a Bowery flophouse. The Bowery, which marked the eastern border of the slum of "Five Points", had also become the turf of one of America's earliest street gangs, the nativist Bowery Boys. In the spirit of social reform, the first YMCA opened on the Bowery in 1873;[10] another notable religious and social welfare institution established during this period was Bowery Mission, which was founded in 1880 at 36 Bowery by Reverend Albert Gleason Ruliffson. The mission has relocated along the Bowery throughout its lifetime. From 1909 to the present, the mission has remained at 227-229 Bowery.

By the 1890s, The Bowery was a magnet for sporting men as a center for prostitution that rivaled the Tenderloin, and for bars catering to gay men and some lesbians at various social levels, from The Slide at 157 Bleecker Street, New York's "worst dive",[11] to Columbia Hall at 5th Street, called Paresis Hall. One investigator in 1899 found six saloons and dance halls, the resorts of "degenerates" and "fairies", on The Bowery alone.[12] Gay subculture was more highly visible there and more integrated into working-class male culture than it was to become in the following generations, according to the historian of gay New York, George Chauncey.

From 1919 to the early 1960s the Third Avenue El ran above the Bowery, further darkening its streets, populated largely by men. "It is filled with employment agencies, cheap clothing and knickknack stores, cheap moving-picture shows, cheap lodging-houses, cheap eating-houses, cheap saloons", writers in The Century Magazine found it in 1919. "Here, too, by the thousands come sailors on shore leave,—notice the 'studios' of the tattoo artists,—and here most in evidence are the 'down and outs'".[13] Prohibition eliminated The Bowery's numerous saloons: One Mile House, the "stately old tavern... replaced by a cheap saloon"[14] at the southeast corner of Rivington Street, named for the battered milestone across the way,[15] where the politicians of the East Side had made informal arrangements for the city's governance,[16] was renovated for retail space in 1921, "obliterating all vestiges of its former appearance", The New York Times reported with satisfaction, but the assertion that "The Bowery has turned over a new leaf" was premature:[17]

Luxury lofts and soup kitchens jockey for space as the neighborhood's rapid gentrification continues.

Home of many music halls in the 19th century, the Bowery later became notable for its economic depression. Though pressure for a new name pre-World War I came to naught,[18] in the 1920s and 1930s, it was regarded as an impoverished area. The "Dead End Kids" (a.k.a. "The Bowery Boys") of film were from the Bowery. In the 1940s through the 1970s, the Bowery was New York City's "Skid Row," notable for "Bowery Bums" (disafiliated alcoholics and homeless persons).[19]

Revival

However, since the 1990s the entire Lower East Side has been reviving. As of July 2005, gentrification is contributing to ongoing change along the Bowery. In particular, the number of high-rise condominiums is growing. In 2006, AvalonBay Communities opened its first luxury apartment complex on the Bowery, which included an upscale Whole Foods Market. Avalon Bowery Place was quickly followed with the development of Avalon Bowery Place II in 2007. That same year, the SANAA-designed facility for the New Museum of Contemporary Art opened at the corner of Prince Street.

File:AvalonBoweryPlace.jpg
Avalon Bowery Place, one of several new luxury developments on the Bowery.

The new development has not come without a social cost. Michael Dominic's documentary Sunshine Hotel followed the lives of residents of one of the few remaining flophouses.

The Bowery from Houston to Delancey Streets serves as New York's principal market for restaurant equipment, and from Delancey to Grand for lamps.

Notable establishments

East Village Visitors Center/Bowery Cultural Center

At 308 Bowery, inside the Bowery Poetry Club. the Bowery Cultural Center is dedicated to researching, documenting and preserving the history of the Bowery, the center offers Bowery exhibits, films, events, and tours.

Bank buildings

The Bowery Savings Bank was chartered in May 1834, when the Bowery was an upscale residential street, and grew with the rising prosperity of the city. Its 1893 headquarters building remains a Bowery landmark, as does the 1920s domed Citizens Savings Bank.[20]

Amato Opera

This company, which was founded in 1948 by Tony Amato and his wife, Sally, found a permanent home at 319 Bowery next to the former CBGB, and it afforded many young singers the opportunity to hone their craft in full-length productions with a cut-down orchestration. The curtain fell on this well-established opera forum in NYC on May 31, 2009, when Tony Amato retired.

CBGB

CBGB, a club initially opened to play country, bluegrass & blues (as the name CBGB stands for), began to book Television, Patti Smith, and the Ramones as house bands in the mid-1970s. This spawned a full-blown scene of new bands (Talking Heads, Blondie, edgy R&B-influenced Mink DeVille, rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon, and others) performing mostly original material in a mostly raw and often loud and fast attack. The label of punk rock was applied to the scene even if not all the bands that made their early reputations at the club were punk rockers, strictly speaking, but CBGB became known as the American cradle of punk rock. CBGB closed on October 31, 2006, after a long battle by club owner Hilly Kristal to extend its lease.

Bowery Ballroom

The Bowery Ballroom is a music venue. The structure, at 6 Delancey Street, was built just before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It stood vacant until the end of World War II, when it became a high-end retail store. The neighborhood subsequently went into decline again, and so did the caliber of businesses occupying the space.[citation needed] In 1997 it was converted into a music venue.

Right in front of the venue's entrance is the BMT Bowery Station of the New York City Subway.

The club serves as the namesake of at least one recording: Joan Baez's Bowery Songs album, recorded live at a concert at the Bowery Ballroom in November 2004.

Bowery Poetry Club

Bowery Poetry Club
The Bowery Poetry Club is a New York City poetry performance space. Located at Bowery and Bleecker Street in Lower Manhattan, the BPC provides a home base for established and upcoming artists. It was founded by Bob Holman, owner of the building and former Nuyorican Poets Café Poetry Slam MC (1988–1996). The BPC features regular shows by Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman, Jim Carroll, along with open mic, gay poets, a weekly poetry slam, and an Emily Dickinson Marathon, amongst other events.

Famous residents

Among other famous residents, Quentin Crisp lived on Second Avenue, near the Bowery, for the last two decades of his life. Béla Bartók lived in 350 Bowery at the corner of Great Jones Street during the 1940s.

The writer William S. Burroughs kept an apartment at the former YMCA building at 222 Bowery, known as the Bunker, from 1974 until his death in 1997.[21]

The artist Cy Twombly lived on the 3rd floor of 356 Bowery during the 1960s.

The founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived in the Bowery when the movement began in America in 1966.

The professional wrestler Raven is also introduced as a resident of the Bowery, though in reality, he was born in New Jersey and resides in Georgia.

Punk singer Joey Ramone resided around here, and in 2003 a part of Second Street at the intersection Bowery and Bleecker Street was renamed Joey Ramone Place.[22][23]

In popular culture

Literature

  • William S. Burroughs alluded to the area in a story that complained of bums waiting to "waylay one in the Bowery."
  • New York School poet Ted Berrigan mentions the Bowery several times in his seminal work "The Sonnets".
  • The Bowery is also the setting for Stephen Crane's first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (published in 1893), about a poor family living in the neighborhood, and of Siri Hustvedt's novel, What I Loved (2003), about the friendship and lives of an artist and an art historian.
  • Brenda Coultas writes about the Bowery in her book A Handmade Museum, in a long poem entitled "The Bowery Project."

Film and TV

Music

  • Mentioned in the Bob Dylan song "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", from the album Bringing It All Back Home (1965) -- "I walked by a Guernsey cow/Who directed me down/To the Bowery slums/Where people carried signs around/Saying, 'Ban the bums.'"
  • Mentioned in the Jim Croce song "Don't Mess Around With Jim" (1972): "Uptown's got its hustlers/The Bowery's got its bums/42nd Street got big Jim Walker."
  • Mentioned in the opening line of the Regina Spektor song "Ne me quitte pas" from her album Songs.
  • The Libertines recorded some acoustic sessions at the Chelsea Hotel, with one of the tracks being called "That Bowery Song".
  • Mentioned in the Dire Straits song "Your Latest Trick" (1985): "And we're standing outside of this wonderland/Looking so bereaved and so bereft/Like a Bowery bum when he finally understands/The bottle's empty and there's nothing left."
  • English pop band Saint Etienne makes a reference to The Bowery in their song "Erica America" on their 1998 album Good Humor: "Hang around by the stadium/Drinking wine like a Bowery bum."
  • The Vancouver Twee pop band cub mentions The Bowery in their song "New York City", popularly covered by They Might Be Giants.
  • Mentioned in the Sonic Youth song "Trilogy" from the album Daydream Nation: "From Bowery to Broome to Greene, I'm a walking lizard...."
  • Mentioned in the Two Gallants song "Steady Rollin'": "Out waltzin' with the Holy Ghost from the Bowery to the Barbary Coast."
  • Mentioned in the Steve Earle song "Down Here Below": "Now Hell's Kitchen's Clinton and the Bowery's Nolita"--referring to the gentrification of the area in recent years.
  • Mentioned in the Beastie Boys song "Johnny Ryall": "Washing windows on the Bowery at a quarter to four; cause he ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more..."
  • Mentioned in Paul McDermott's song "Stripped" on the abc series "The Sideshow": "She said I'm stained like a girl from the bowery"
  • Mentioned in Billy Joel's song "Why Should I Worry", featured in the film "Oliver & Company"
  • Mentioned in Tom Waits's song "Better Off Without A Wife", "here's to the bachelors/and the bowery bums/and those who feel that/ they're the ones/who are better off without a wife."
  • Mentioned in The Clash song "Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)" from their album Sandinista!: "That looks good, this ain't got seeds/Cheaper than booze down in the Bowery".
  • Mentioned in the Ramones song "Bad Brain" from the album Road To Ruin: "Now I'm on the Bowery/ I can't remember my name."
  • Brooklyn band Bowery Electric obviously derive their name from the Bowery.
  • Mentioned in the Bill Callahan song "Bowery" from his 2010 live album "Rough Travel For A Rare Thing"
  • Mentioned in the Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social Scene's song "Burning the Bowery" from their 2010 album "Love It to Life".

Other

  • Professional Wrestler Scott Levy, who wrestles under the name Raven, is announced as being from The Bowery during his ring entrance.
  • The Bowery is a type of jean cut produced by RUEHL
  • The Bowery is a noted source of inspiration for the New York-based clothing label Barking Irons

See also

Sources

References

  1. (citidex.com 2006) (Fodor's 1991)
  2. (Brown, 1922)
  3. Eric W. Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New york City, 2009, p. 107, illus. "Lenape sites and trails", and Ch. 4 "The Lenape", passim.
  4. In modern Dutch, boerderij.
  5. (Fodor's 2004)
  6. The relevant section is illustrated in Sanderson 2009, p. 41, bottom.
  7. Unlike newcomers, proper New Yorkers still pronounce Bowery in two syllables.
  8. Matthew Hale Smith, Sunshine and Shadow in New York, 1869, p.214.
  9. Henry Moscow, The Street Book: an encyclopedia of Manhattan's street names and their origins; a highly-colored and disapproving panorama of the dissolute and lively Bowery on a Sunday is offered by Smith 1869, pp 214-18.
  10. David Levinson, ed. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Homelessness, s.v. "Bowery, The".
  11. George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940: ch. 1 "The Bowery as haven and spectacle", (1994:32-45) p.37.
  12. Chauncey 1994:33.
  13. Mary Frank and John Foster Carr, "Exploring a neighborhood", The Century Magazine 98 (July 1919:378).
  14. Frank and Carr 1919:378; the old tavern had been the scene of at least one violent murder, in 1862 ("The Murder in the Bowery", New York Times, 4 November 1862 accessed 14 March 2010.
  15. The stone marked a mile from City hall; it was still in evidence in 1909 (Frank Bergen Kelly, Historical Guide to the City of New York (City History Club of New York), 1909:97.
  16. "Bowery Landmark in $170,000 lease", The New York Times, 1 April 1921 accessed 14 March 2010. One Mile House by Glenn O. Coleman, 1928 (Whitney Museum of American Art) epitomizes the scene. A ghostly painted sign on the side of the building still advertises One Mile House.
  17. "Business changes along The Bowery", New York Times, 11 December 1921] accessed 14 March 2010.
  18. New York Times, 11 December 1921. Today, the gentrified designation "Cooper Square" extends down The Bowery as far as 4th Street.
  19. Benedict Giamo, On the Bowery: confronting homelessness in American Society (University of Iowa Press) 1989.
  20. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D02E2DB1039E133A25751C0A9619C946395D6CF at Canal Street
  21. See http://www.thing.net/~lina/architect.html.
  22. "He Had the Beat -- and Now Has a Street", The Washington Post, December 7, 2003. Accessed August 2, 2007. "Now there is Joey Ramone Place.... The sign bearing Ramone's name recently went up on the corner of East Second Street and the Bowery, near CBGB, the group's musical home."
  23. Gamboa, Glenn. "The Fold: Battle over punk birthplace: Rock & rent", Newsday, August 10, 2005. Accessed August 2, 2007. "Reminders of the bands who have passed through CBGB remain all around the club, from the corner of the Bowery and 2nd Street - now renamed Joey Ramone Place - to the countless band names scrawled on the bathroom walls."
  24. Bowery Bugs (1949)

External links

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Coordinates: 40°43′11.62″N 73°59′38.86″W / 40.7198944°N 73.9941278°W / 40.7198944; -73.9941278ca:Bowery de:Bowery es:Bowery (Manhattan) fr:Bowery it:Bowery ka:ბოვერი nl:Bowery ja:バワリー ru:Бауэри sk:Bowery

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