“The most interesting place in New York” –Stephen Crane, 1891
No dainty kid-glove business, but electric force and muscle. –Walt Whitman, 1888
…one of the great American streets, as charged with historical significance
as Beale Street in Memphis or Basin Street in New Orleans –Luc Sante
The Bowery is the cradle of American entertainment. –Trav S.D., Vaudeville Historian
. . . no area of this city—indeed, of this country—is more directly and intimately connected to the saga of immigration, the development of popular culture and the rise of urban politics than the Bowery. –Peter Quinn
Bowery is NYC’s oldest thoroughfare! Originally a Native American foot path, it later linked New Amsterdam and the Dutch farms (called Bouwerij), including Peter Stuyvesant’s. Under the British, it became part of the Boston Post Road. Originally stretched 14 blocks — 1.25 miles — from Chatham Sq to Union Sq. Term Union Square refers to meeting point of Bowery & Broadway (It is not a Civil War reference) Bowery today goes from Chatham Square to Cooper Square (above 4th is Cooper Sq.). 1643-1660: Dutch West India Co. granted former slaves small farms along Bowery. First free African American settlement.
The Bowery was NYC’s first entertainment district. It was a working class mecca, but slumming upper-crusters came, too. Bowery Theatre (1826) was largest in U.S.: 3,000 seats. Junius Brutus Booth (father of Edwin & John Wilkes), Edwin Forrest, Charlotte Cushman, James O’Neill (father of Eugene), Lola Montez, Buffalo Bill & magician John Henry Anderson performed. Francisque Hutin scandalized America with its first glimpse of ballet in 1827. Master Juba introduced tap dance here. T.D. Rice popularized
Jump Jim Crow routine here. Term Jim Crow became namesake for segregation laws after Civil War. 1st minstrel troupe,Virginia Minstrels, performed Bowery Amphitheatre 37-39 Bowery. The all-black Callender’s Minstrels played Windsor Theatre. Billy Kersands, first great Black comedian gained national popularity. Early Chinese theater & opera performed at 19 Bowery, at nearby 5-7 Doyers, and later at 43-47, 46-48, 165, 199, and 235 Bowery. Illusionist Herrmann the Great, most important magician before Houdini, played Windsor & People’s Theatres.
Vaudeville born here at Tony Pastor’s Opera House (Father of vaudeville) Harrigan & Hart, fathers of musical comedy, appeared here. Miner’s Bowery Theater was birthplace of the Vaudeville hook! Performers included Eddie Cantor, W.C. Fields, Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, exotic dancer Saharet and Weber & Fields, vaudeville’s greatest comic duo. Yiddish Theater’s 1st American home. Boris Thomashevsky, Jacob Adler, Bertha Kalich performed. People’s Theatre, Thalia, etc… Hebrew Actors’ Union — 1st U.S. actor’s union — was formed 1899 by United Hebrew. Trades to support strike at People’s Theatre. Dime Museums featured freaks, circus, & theater acts, Sammy’s Bowery Follies (made famous by Weegee’s photos), Ada Isaacs Mencken appeared at Bowery Theatre & New Bowery Theatre, Bouwerie Lane Theatre, Amato Opera and Dixon Place.
Mme. Francisque Hutin scandalized America with its first glimpse of ballet in 1827.
Tap dance born in adjacent Five Points. Master Juba (William Henry Lane), father of tap, introduced it at Bowery Theatre. Early appearances of exotic dancer Saharet at Miner’s Bowery Theatre. Ping Chong, choreographer, Asian American Dance Theatre.
Songwriters: Stephen Foster
Oh, Susannah. Irving Berlin
God Bless America,
White Christmas. Woody Guthrie’s first weeks in NYC were spent playing the Bowery bars & it is where he began writing
This Land Is Your Land.
Sidewalks of New York was first sung in public by Lottie Gilson at London Theatre 235 Bowery. Composers Phillip Glass, Bela Bartok.
Daisy Bell – Bicycle Built for Two premiered at Atlantic Garden, 50 Bowery. Librettist: Lorenzo Da Ponte (Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; founder, Italian Opera House in NYC) first NYC job on Bowery. Music clubs: – The Five Spot jazz club featured Ornette Coleman, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane. A haunt of Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, and Norman Mailer. Debbie Harry & Blondie lived 266 Bowery. CBGBis the Birthplace of punk rock. Performers include The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads, Sting, Richard Hell, Sonic Youth, B-52s, Pearl Jam, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Green Day, Alan Jackson, Television, Guns ‘n Roses, AC/DC, Dead Boys, The Police. Many classical/operatic works had American premieres here, including Wagner’s Tannhauser @ Stadt Theatre 37-39 Bowery (1859)
Walt Whitman loved expressive Bowery slang, which he used in his poetry. Dreiser’s Sister Carrie climaxes on the Bowery. Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is set on Bowery. It is considered first work of American literary naturalism. Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl partially inspired by the Bowery. Diane DiPrima, Amiri Baraka, Hettie Jones, John Giorno, Bob Holman, Paul Pines, William Burroughs. The Bowery Poetry Club at 308 Bowery still rocks the boulevard with the music of words.
Ideas / Education
Cooper Union is America’s 1st free university. Its Great Hall is bastion of free speech welcomed Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, & Obama. Lincoln’s epochal anti-slavery speech made here. Abolitionist John Brown’s body prepared for burial & briefly displayed at 163 Bowery. Feminist Kate Millett lived at 295 Bowery.
Jacob Riis, Chuck Close, Nan Goldin, Berenice Abbott, Robert Mapplethorpe, Terry Richardson, David Godlis, Weegee, Jay Maisel, Erika Stone, Robert Frank, Charles Eisenmann, Stephanie Chernikowski, Bob Gruen, Roberta Bayley and Carin Drechsler-Marx..
Architects / Architecture / Engineering
Oldest brick building in Manhattan: 18 Bowery, The Edward Mooney House (circa 1785-1789) Stanford White designed Bowery Savings Bank (1895, McKim, Mead & White) Influenced Roman temple approach to bank design. James Ware, father of the dumbbell design for tenements. Citizen’s Savings Bank (1924), corner Bowery & Canal. Germania Fire Insurance Bldg (1870) E. Bowery near 4th Germania Bank Building 190 Bowery at Spring. Bowery Mission (1879), East Bowery between Staunton & Rivington, Metropolitan Savings Bank (1867) at 7th & Cooper Square, Cooper Union Foundation Building (1853-59) Oldest extant U.S. building framed with steel beams. Manhattan Bridge gateway arch patterned after Porte St. Denis in Paris; colonnade patterned after Bernini columns at the Vatican.
Architects: Maya Lin, Rick Scofidio. Bowery was one of America’s first streets that Edison electrified.
Painters / Sculptors / Designers
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Fernand Leger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Eva Hesse, Maya Lin, Sol LeWitt, Stan Subossek, Wynn Chamberlain, Elizabeth Murray, Max Gimblett, Woong Kim, Roy Lichtenstein, Chuck Close, J. Forrest Vey, Michael Goldberg, Patricia Field, June Leaf, James Rosensquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Kenneth Noland, Lynda Benglis, Mark Rothko.
Mae West tells Cary Grant to come up and see her sometime in She Done Him Wrong (1933), her homage to gay ‘90s Bowery. Two Raoul Walsh classics are set on the Bowery: Regeneration (1915) and The Bowery (1933). The Bowery Boys movies (1937-1958) were infused with Bowery slang. Robert Frank’s Pull My Daisy w/Jack Kerouac & Beat poetsOn the Bowery (1955) is a classic documentary. John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s film Fly is filmed at 184 Bowery. Martin Scorsese grew up a block from Bowery. His Gangs of New York recreates 1800s Bowery. Independent filmmakers Sara Driver and Jim Jarmusch. Many No Wave filmmakers of 70s/80s were Bowery based. The Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bowery Bugs, spoofs Steve Brodie’s legendary claim to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge. A Hare Grows In Manhattan establishes Bugs’ streetwise beginnings on the Bowery and Lower East Side.
Religion / Philanthropy
Huang Da Xian, Taoist Temple Primitive Methodists’ 1st place of worship was 193 Bowery. Confucius state at corner Division St. and the Bowery Mission (1879) has provides meals, shelter, job opportunities, and rehabilitation to millions.
Additional cultural and historical info
Bull’s Head Tavern 46-48 Bowery: Nov. 25, 1783 – Washington celebrated the British evacuation of NYC.
The Astor family established itself on Bowery. Heinrich Astor (1754-1833), successful butcher. Brother Johann Jacob Astor (1763-1848), successful fur trader; America’s first multi-millionaire. Astors became land barons on the Bowery & in NYC. Zoological Institute, one of first zoos in U.S., opened in 1833. Located at 37-39 Bowery; it stretched to Chrystie St. First American streetcars ran on Bowery from Prince to 14th Street (New York & Harlem Railroad). In 1848, Hammacher Schlemmer opened at 221 Bowery; relocated at 209 Bowery, 1857-1904. America’s longest-running catalogue. McSorley’s, just off Cooper Square, is city’s oldest continuously operating bar (est.1854). Tattoo legends Samuel O’Reilly & Charlie Wagner had their studio at 11 Bowery from 1890s through 1953. Steve Brodie became a folk hero after allegedly jumping off Brooklyn Bridge, July 23, 1886. Bookie/saloon keeper at 114 Bowery. In 1890s, there were a dozen bars that catered to gays and/or provided gay oriented entertainment. Ex: Paresis Hall at 392 Bowery. The 1800s nativist Bowery B’hoys gang headquartered at 40 Bowery. Their battle against the Irish Dead Rabbits started here. Cocky, flamboyant speech/dress style of Bowery b’hoys & g’hals influenced American idiom & fashion. “Big Tim” Sullivan was a Tammany Hall boss from 1880s to 1913. Based at 207 Bowery and Occidental Hotel at 146-148 Bowery Namesake for Sullivan Law, which requires licenses in order to carry a gun. His funeral on Bowery attracted 75,000. Bowery was Chinatown’s traditional eastern border. Since 1800s, Bowery missions and flophouses have sheltered millions. McGurk’s Suicide Hall (1895-1902), at 295 Bowery, was notorious suicide site for several prostitutes. Paul Kelly’s notorious Five Point Gang operated out of 338 Bowery in the early 1900s.
Liz Christy Gardens (1973), at Bowery & Houston, is city’s first community garden.
Bowery Alliance of Neighbors www.boweryalliance.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 631-901-5435 General: email@example.com