New York City history is America’s history. It’s the hometown of the world, and most people know the city’s familiar landmarks, buildings and streets. Why not look a little closer and have fun while doing it?
Here's the Latest Episode from The Bowery Boys: New York City History:
EPISODE 336 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.
EPISODE 335 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.
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.
EPISODE 334: 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.
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.
EPISODE 333 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
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.
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.
EPISODE 331 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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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?
What is that indefinable connection that people make with the city? Why do so many people feel a city as large as New York speaks to them personally?
We asked our listeners to tell us about feeling “at home in New York," about that feeling of familiarity and nostalgia that one can feel here. Thanks to the presence of New York City in so many films, books and television shows, it's an emotion that can be felt even by those who live elsewhere.
Well the listeners delivered -- in a wonderful abundance of voicemails and emails. In this episode we hear from three groups of New York City lovers: the native New Yorkers, the commuters and the frequent visitors. (In part two, we'll hear the tales of the transplants, those who, in the words of E.B. White, "came to New York in quest of something.")
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!
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The victim was named Carrie Brown. But people along the waterfront knew her by her nickname Shakespeare (or Old Shakespeare).
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?
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.
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.)
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
— Peg Breen, President, New York Landmarks Conservancy
— Anthony C. Wood, Board Member, New York Preservation Archive Project and author of Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmark
This show was recorded live at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, as part of the Brooklyn Podcast Festival
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?
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Housedocent 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 theFoundation 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.
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).
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.
TheBrooklyn 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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!
EPISODE 281: 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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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......
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?
EPISODE 271 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.
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!)
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.
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"!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
What was it like to experience thatepic 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
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.
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.
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.....
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!
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.
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.)
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.
EPISODE 245: 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!
EPISODE 244: 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”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
EPISODE 233 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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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
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!
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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, not (as per our slip of the tongue in an older version of this show) the Brooklyn Historical Society. www.boweryboyshistory.com Our book Adventures In Old New York is now in bookstores and online, wherever books are sold!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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? www.boweryboyshistory.com
EPISODE 204 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)
-- Jack Johnson's story is so much more complex and I wish I had more time to talk about him. For more information, check out the incredible documentary (and the book it's based on by Geoffrey C Ward) called Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.
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 New York 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
ARRIVING IN JUNE 2016: The Bowery Boys Adventures In Old New
York, a time-traveling journey into a past that lives
simultaneously besides the modern city.
Pre-order now at Barnes and Noble, Amazon or at your local
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
This is the dirtiest Bowery Boys podcast ever. Literally.
Brooklyn's Gowanus -- both the creek and the canal -- is one of the most mysterious and historically important waterways in New York City. By coincidence, it also happens to be among its most polluted, shrouded in frightening tales of dead animals (and a few unfortunate humans) floating along its canal shores. Its toxic mix is the stuff of urban legends (most of which are actually true).
But this was once the land of delicious oysters. This was the site of an important Revolutionary War battle. This was part of the property of the man who later developed Park Slope.
But, in current times, it ALSO happens to be one of New York City's hottest neighborhoods for real estate development. How does a neighborhood go from a canal of deadly constitution to a Whole Foods, condos and shuffleboard courts?
With so many personalities (and with Tom gone this week) I needed a special guide for this fraught and twisted journey -- writer and historian Joseph Alexiou, author of 'Gowanus: Brooklyn's Curious Canal', bringing his expertise to help me wade through the most toxic portion of the show.
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
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
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.
Why are areas of lower Manhattan darkened canyons, and why are there huge public plazas inside buildings in Midtown? Why do older buildings have graceful and elegant set-backs but newer structures feel like monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey? This is a layman's history of building tall -- our apologizes to architects for simplifying such sophisticated concepts -- and the important laws that changed the face of NYC forever.
PLUS: This is our craziest podcast yet! We've decided -- as our 199th episode -- to hit the road! This entire show is recorded outside in front of the very spots that have most affected the city's decision. From downtown Manhattan and the Equitable Building to a surprising corner of Hell's Kitchen.
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.
Industries like ship-building and petroleum completely changed the character of Greenpoint's waterfront, while its unique, alphabetically-named grid of streets held an extraordinary collection of townhouses. By the late 19th century, Polish immigrants would move on the major avenues, developing a 'Little Poland' that still characterizes the neighborhood.
But big changes are coming to Greenpoint thanks to new housing developments. How will these new arrivals fare next to the notoriously toxic Newtown Creek, a body of water heavily abused by industry?
ALSO: The world that young Patricia Mae Andrzejewski may have experienced in her childhood days before becoming a major rock star.
And coming in May 2016 -- The Adventures In Old New York, the first-ever Bowery Boys book!
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).
Thousands of windows were shattered in the region, and millions woke up wondering what horrible thing had just happened.
The terrifying disaster was no accident; this was the sabotage of German agents, bent on eliminating tons of munitions that were being sent to the Allied powers during World War I. Although America had not yet entered the war, the United States was considered an enemy combatant thanks to weapons manufactures in the New York region and around the country.
But the surprising epicenter of German spy activity was in a simple townhouse in the neighborhood of Chelsea.
ALSO: New Yorkers still feel the ramifications of the Black Tom Explosion today at one of America's top tourist attractions.
Arriving in May 2016: The first-ever Bowery Boys book - Adventures in Old New York!
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!
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.
In the 19th century, the ringing-in of the New Year was celebrated with gatherings near Trinity Church and a pleasant New Years Day custom of visiting young women in their parlors. But when the New York Times decided to celebrate the opening of their new offices -- in the plaza that would take the name Times Square -- a new tradition was born.
Tens of millions have visited Times Square over the years, gazing up to watch the electric ball drop, a time-telling mechanism taken from the maritime tradition. The event has been affected by world events -- from Prohibition to World War II -- and changed by the introduction of radio and television broadcasts.
ALSO: What happened to the celebration which it reached the gritty 1970s and a Times Square with a surly reputation?
PLUS: A few tips for those of you heading to the New Years Eve celebration this year!
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!
St. Mark's Place may be named for a saint but it's been a street full of sinners for much of its history.
One of the most fascinating streets in the city, St. Mark's traces its story back to Peter Stuyvesant, meets up with the wife of Alexander Hamilton in the 1830s, experiences the incredible influx of German and Polish immigrants, then veers into the heart of counter-culture -- from the political activism of Abbie Hoffman to the glamorously detached parties of Andy Warhol.
And that's when the party gets started! St. Mark's is known for music, fashion, rebellion and pandemonium. Let it be known -- this is one of the wildest, most creative, most exciting streets in New York City history.
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!
In this installment, we take a look at the spectral lore behind some of New York City's most famous landmarks, buildings with great reputations as iconic architectural marvels and locations for great creativity.
But they're also filled with ghost stories:
Who are the mysterious sisters in colorful outerwear skating on the icy pond in Central Park? And why are there so many uninvited guests at the Dakota Apartments, one of the first and finest buildings on the Upper West Side?
Meanwhile, at the Chelsea Hotel, all the intense creativity that is associated with this great and important location seems to have left an imprint of the afterworld upon its hallways.
Over at Grand Central Terminal, the Campbell Apartment serves up some cocktails -- and a few unnatural encounters with Jazz Age spirits.
Finally, on the Brooklyn Bridge, a tragedy during its construction has left its shadow upon the modern tourist attraction. Who's that up ahead on the pedestrian pathway?
A little spooky fun -- mixed with a lot of interesting history -- and a few cheesy sound effects!
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?To understand that damning speculation, we unfurl the events that lead up to that moment – from the first outrages against the British by American colonists to the first sparks of the Revolutionary War. Why did New York get caught up so early in the war and what were the circumstances that led to the city falling into British hands?Underneath this expansive story is another, smaller story – 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 September 21, 1776.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. www.boweryboyshistory.com This episode is brought to you by Trunk Club, taking the hassle out of shopping by shipping you a trunk of clothes that fit perfectly and make you look like a million bucks. To take advantage of this unique styling service and to support the Bowery Boys, go to trunkclub.com/BOWERY for a trunk full of clothes that you’ll love wearing
The gripping and startling 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?
Mary Mallon -- is she a victim or an enemy? One of the weirdest and divisive tales of the early 1900s. What side are you on?
In this episode, we recount 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 more sophisticated 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’? Boweryboyshistory.com
On the evening of June 25, 1906, during a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, the architect Stanford White was brutally murdered by Harry Kendall Thaw. The renown of White's professional career -- he was one of New York’s leading social figures -- and the public nature of the assassination led newspapers to call it the Crime of the Century. But many of the most shocking details would only be revealed in a courtroom, exposing the sexual perversities of some of the city’s wealthiest citizens.White, as a member of the prestigious firm McKim, Mead and White, was responsible for some of New York's most iconic structures including Pennsylvania Station, the Washington Square Arch and Madison Square Garden, where he was slain. But his gracious public persona disguised a personal taste for young chorus girls, often seduced at his 24th Street studio, famed for its "red velvet swing".Eveyln Nesbit was only a teenager when she became a popular artist's model and a cast member in Broadway's hottest musical comedy. White wooed her with the trappings of luxury and subsequently took advantage of her. The wealthy playboy Harry Thaw also fell for Nesbit -- and grew insanely jealous of White. Soon his hatred would envelop him, leading to the unfortunate events of that tragic summer night.www.boweryboyshistory.com
In the 1890s a newspaper rivalry between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer 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; most of them were 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.
WITH a special chat with comics historian Peter Sanderson about the unique New York City connections of Marvel Comics' most famous characters.
FEATURING: The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, Batman, Doctor Strange and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
ALSO: What iconic movie maker once co-owned New York's very first comic book store?
Check out www.boweryboyshistory.com for images relating to this program.
Hell’s Kitchen, on the far west side of Midtown Manhattan, is a neighborhood of many secrets. The unique history of this working class district veers into many tales of New York's criminal underworld and violent riots which have shaken the streets for over 150 years.This sprawling tenement area was home to some of the most notorious slums in the city, and sinister streets like Battle Row were frequent sites of vice and unrest. The streets were ruled by such gangs as the Gophers and the Westies, leaving their bloody fingerprints in subtle ways today in gentrified building which at one time contained the most infamous speakeasies and taverns.We break down this breathtaking history and try to get to the real reason for its unusual name. And we have a devil of a good time uncovering it! www.boweryboyshistory.comWe are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans. If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.
We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!
What can you find on Governors Island? Almost 400 years of action-packed history! This island in New York Harbor has been at the heart of the city's defense since the days of the Revolutionary War, and its story takes us back to the very beginnings of European occupation in America.Its two fortifications -- Castle Williams and Fort Jay -- still stand there today, evidence of a time when New York was constantly under threat of attack and invasion. During the Civil War, these structures served as prisons for Confederate soldiers.The rest of the island was a base for the U.S. Army for almost 150 years before ceding to the Coast Guard in the 1960s. Their community transformed the island into a charming small town; quite the contrast with the city across the water! Today Governors Island has become an exciting park ground and events area, hosting art, music festivals and Jazz Age picnics. But its history remains virtually untouched around these new activities. In this show, we head out to Governors Island for an exploration of its magnificent history firsthand .www.boweryboyshistory.com
We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.
Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans. If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!
For our 8th anniversary episode, we're revisiting one of New York City's great treasures and a true architectural oddity -- the Flatiron Building.
When they built this structure at the corner of Madison Square Park (and completed in 1902), did they realize it would be an architectural icon AND one of the most photographed buildings in New York City?
The Fuller Construction Company, one of the most powerful firms in Chicago, decided to put their new New York office building in a flashy place -- a neighborhood with no skyscrapers, on a plot of land that was thin and triangular in shape. They brought in one of America's greatest architects to create a one-of-a-kind, three-sided marvel, presenting a romantic silhouette and a myriad of optical illusions.
The Flatiron Building was also known for the turbulent winds which sometimes blew out its windows and tossed up the skirts of women strolling to Ladies Mile. It's a subject of great art and a symbol of the glamorous side of Manhattan. We bring you all the sides of this structure's incredible story.
We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.
Please visit our page on Patreon (patreeon.com/boweryboys) and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans. If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a patron.
We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!
The Lower East Side is one of the most important neighborhoods in America, with a rich history as dense as its former living quarters. Thousands of immigrants experienced American life on these many crowded streets. In this podcast, we look at this extraordinary cultural phenomenon through the lens of one of those -- Orchard Street. Its name traces itself to a literal orchard, owned by a wealthy landowner and Loyalist during the Revolutionary War. By the 1840s the former orchard and farm was divided up into lots, and a brand new form of housing -- the tenement -- served new Irish and German communities who had just arrived in the United States.A few decades later those residents were replaced by Russian and Eastern European newcomers, brought to the neighborhood due to its affordability and its established Jewish character.Living conditions were poor and most tenement apartment doubled as workspaces. Meanwhile, in the streets, tight conditions required a unique retail solution -- the push cart, a form of independent enterprise that has given us some businesses that still thrive on Orchard Street today.You can see this century-old life along Orchard Street today, if you know where to look. Luckily that's what we're here for! With some help from Adam Steinberg at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where the best place to interact with a preserved view of the old days.www.boweryboyshistory.comWe are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.
Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans. If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a patron.
We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!
EPISODE 182 Mae West (star of I'm No Angel and She Done Him Wrong) would come to revolutionize the idea of American sexuality, challenging and lampooning ideas of femininity while wielding a suggestive and vicious wit.
But before she was America's diamond girl, she was the pride of Brooklyn! In this podcast, we bring you the origin story of this icon and the wacky events of 1927 that brought her brand of swagger to the attention of the world.The Brooklyn girl started on the vaudeville stage early, following the influences of performers like Evelyn Nesbitt and Eva Tanguay.
She soon proved too smart for the small stuff and set her aim towards Broadway -- but on her terms.West's play Sex introduced her devastating allure in the service of a shocking tale of prostitution.
It immediately found an audience in 1926 even if the critics were less than enamored. But it's when she devised an even more shocking play -- The Drag -- that city leaders became morally outraged and vowed to shut her down forever.
From Bushwick to Midtown, from the boards of Broadway to the workhouse of Welfare Island -- this is the story of New York's ultimate Sex scandal.
Park Slope – or simply the park slope, as they used to say – is best known for its spectacular Victorian-era mansions and brownstones, one of the most romantic neighborhoods in all of Brooklyn. It’s also a leading example of the gentrifying forces that are currently changing the make-up of the borough of Brooklyn to this day.
During the 18th century this sloping land was subject to one of the most demoralizing battles of the Revolutionary War, embodied today by the Old Stone House, an anchor of this changing neighborhood. In the 1850s, the railroad baron Edwin Clark Litchfield brought the first real estate development to this area in the form of his fabulous villa on the hill. By the 1890s the blocks were stacked with charming house, mostly for wealthy single families.Circumstances during the Great Depression and World War II reconfigured most of these old (and old fashioned) homes into boarding houses and working-class housing. Then a funny things happens, something of a surprising development in the 1960s – the arrival of the brownstoners, self-proclaimed ‘pioneers’ who refurbished deteriorating homes.The revitalization of Park Slope has been a mixed blessing as later waves of gentrification and rising prices threaten to push out both older residents and original gentrifiers alike.
PLUS: The terrifying details of one of the worst plane crashes in American history, a disaster that almost took out one of the oldest corners of the neighborhood.
And special thanks to Kim Maier from the Old Stone House; Julie Golia, Director of Public History, Brooklyn Historical Society; and John Casson and Michael Cairl, both of Park Slope Civic Council.Please help support the Bowery Boys by making a small donation at our site -- https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys
The Chelsea Piers were once New York City’s portal to the world, a series of long docks along the west side of Manhattan that accommodated some of the most luxurious ocean liners of the early 20th century. Passenger ocean travel became feasible in the mid 19th century due to innovations in steam transportation, allowing for both recreational voyages for the wealthy and a steep rise in immigration to the United States. The Chelsea Piers were the finest along Manhattan’s busy waterfront, built by one of New York’s greatest architectural firm as a way to modernize the west side. Both the tragic tales of the Titanic and the Lusitania are also tied to the original Chelsea Piers. But changes in ocean travel and the financial fortunes of New York left the piers without a purpose by the late 20th century. How did this important site for transatlantic travel transform into one of New York’s leading modern sports complexes? ALSO: The death of Thirteenth Avenue, an avenue you probably never knew New York City ever had! www.BoweryBoysHistory.com
In our last show, we left the space that would become Bryant Park as a disaster area; its former inhabitant, the old Crystal Palace, had tragically burned to the ground in 1858. The area was called Reservoir Square for its proximity to the Murray Hill Reservoir, the imposing Egyptian-like structure to its east, but it wouldn't keep that name for long.
William Cullen Bryant was a key proponent to the creation of Central Park, but it would be on this spot that the poet and editor of the New York Evening Post would receive a belated honor in 1884 with the re-naming of old Reservoir Park to Bryant Park.
With the glorious addition of the New York Public Library in 1911, the park received some substantial upgrades, including its well-known fountain. Over twenty years later, it took on another curious present -- a replica of Federal Hall as a tribute to George Washington.
By the 1970s Bryant Park was well known as a destination for drug dealers and most people shied away from its shady paths, even during the day. It would take a unique plan to bring the park back to life and a little help from Hollywood and the fashion world to turn it into New York City's most elegant park.
New York's Crystal Palace seems like something out of a dream, a shimmering and spectacular glass-and-steel structure -- a gigantic greenhouse -- which sat in the area of today's Bryant Park. In 1853 this was the home to the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, a dizzying presentation of items, great and small, meant to exemplify mankind's industrial might.
We take you on a breathtaking tour of the Palce and its legendary exhibition, including the Latting Observatory (the tallest building in New York!)
Whatever happened to the Crystal Palace? And what inventions contained within do we still benefit from today?
Little Italy is the pocket-neighborhood reminder of the great wave of Italian immigration which came through New York City starting in the late 1870s. This was the home of a densely packed, lively neighborhood of pushcarts, cheese shops, barber shops and organ grinders, populated by thousands of new immigrants in dilapidated old tenements.
The area has some of New York's oldest still-operating shops, from Ferrara Bakery to Di Palo's. But there's also a dark side to this neighborhood, memories of extortion plots by the Black Hand and a perpetual presence of organized crime.
The present-day Little Italy is completely charming but constantly shrinking. How long can the neighborhood survive in the face of a growing Chinatown and the threats of gentrification?
PLUS: Our love/hate relationship with Nolita -- REVEALED!
Grab your fedora and take a trip with the Bowery Boys into the heart of New York City's jazz scene -- late nights, smoky bars, neon signs -- through the eyes of one of the greatest American vocalists who ever lived here -- Billie Holiday.
This a tour of the three great jazz centers of the early and mid 20th century -- 133rd Street in Harlem, 52nd Street (aka Swing Street) in Midtown, and Greenwich Village.
Featuring snippets of some of Holiday's greatest vocal performances.
Please note our new website address: www.boweryboyshistory.com
When historians look back at the year 2014, what events or cultural changes within New York City will historians consider significant? In this special episode, the Bowery Boys look back at some of the biggest historical headlines of the year -- the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the troubling trend of mega-condominiums along 57th Street and the continuing gentrification of several New York City neighborhoods.
We also answer some questions from listeners and present some resolutions and thought on how you can help protect and preserve the historical landscape of New York City -- whether you live here or not.
And a big cheers and our hopes for great things in 2015!
NOTE: We recorded this episode on December 17, and so were unable to make note of events from the recent few days including the tragic shooting of two NYPD officers on December 20, 2014.
The Radio City Rockettes are perhaps America's best known dance troupe -- and a staple of the holiday season -- but you may not know the origin of this most iconic of New York City symbols. For one, they're not even from the Big Apple!
Formerly the Missouri Rockets, the dancers and their famed choreographer Russell Markert were noticed by theater impresario Samuel Rothafel, who installed them first as his theater The Roxy, then at one of the largest theaters in the world -- Radio City Music Hall.
The life of a Rockettes dancer was glamorous, but grueling; for many decades dancing not in isolated shows, but before the screenings of movies, several times a day, a different program each week. There was a very, very specific look to the Rockettes, a look that changed -- and that was forced to change by cultural shifts -- over the decades.
This show is dedicated to the many thousands of women who have shuffled and kicked with the Rockettes over their many decades of entertainment, on the stage, the picket line or the hallways of Grand Central.
The ruins of the New York State Pavilion, highlight of the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, have become a kind of unofficial Statue of Liberty of Queens, greeting people as they head to and from LaGuardia and JFK airports. Its abandoned saucer-like observation decks and steel arena have inspired generations of New Yorkers who have grown up with this oddity on the horizon.
The Pavilion holds a great many surprises, and its best days may be yet to come. Designed by modernist icon Philip Johnson, the Pavilion was saved from the fate of many of the venues in the World's Fair. But it's only been used sporadically over the past 50 or so years, and the fear of further deterioration is always present.
For the first part of this very special episode of the Bowery Boys, I take you through the pavilion's presence in the World's Fair, a kaleidoscopic attraction that extolled the greatness of the state of New York. In its first year, however, a battle over controversial artwork was waged, pitting Robert Moses and Nelson Rockefeller against the hottest artist of the day -- Andy Warhol. Other controversies at the Fair threatened to derail the message behind its slogan 'Peace Through Understanding'.
In the show's second half, I head out to record at the Queens Theater -- the only part of the New York State Pavilion that's been rehabilitated -- to explore the venue's 'lonely years' with filmmaker Matthew Silva, a co-founder of People For The Pavilion, an organization that's successfully bringing attention to this weird little treasure. Matthew gives us the scoop of the pavilion's later years, culled from some of his interviews in the film Modern Ruin: A World's Fair Pavilion.
This is crucial time in the history of this spectacular relic. With public attention at an all time high, we may now be at the right time to re-purpose the Pavilion into a new destination for New Yorkers. What do you think should be done with the New York State Pavilion?
Brooklyn is the setting for this quartet of classic ghost stories, all set before the independent city was an official borough of New York City. This is a Brooklyn of old stately mansions and farms, with railroad tracks laid through forests and large tracks of land carved up, awaiting development. These stories also have another curious resemblance -- they all come from local newspapers of the day, reporting on ghost stories with amusement and more than a little skepticism.
-- The Coney Island and Sea Beach Railroad took passengers to and from Brooklyn's amusement district. But nobody was particularly amused one evening to be stopped by a horrific gangly ghost upon the tracks near the neighborhood of Mapleton.
-- In Clinton Hill, a plantation-style house built in the early years of the Brooklyn Navy Yard has survived hundreds of unusual tenants over the years, but certainly the scariest days in this historic home occurred in 1878 with a relentless, invisible hand that would not stop knocking.
-- The Oceanic Hotel was one of Coney Island's first great hotels, an accommodation for almost 500 near the increasingly popular beaches of Brighton Beach. But in 1894, the hotel was virtually emptied out and reportedly haunted. Did it have something to do with the murder upstairs in Room 30?
-- And finally, the area of Bushwick nearest the Queens border are populated with various burial grounds like the Evergreens Cemetery, borne of the rural cemetery movement which transplanted thousands of previously buried bodies from Manhattan to Brooklyn. In 1894, with Bushwick prepared for a spate of new development, the sudden appearance of an oddly dressed spirit threatens to disrupt the entire neighborhood. During one evening, a drunken party of 300 ghost hunters, brandishing swords and revolvers, come across one terror that proved to be very real indeed.
ALSO: Secrets of The Sentinel, a 1977 horror film set in an old house along the Brooklyn Promenade.
Gramercy Park is Manhattan's only private park, a prohibited place for most New Yorkers. However we have your keys to the history of this significant and rather unusual place, full of the city's greatest inventors, civic leaders and entertainers!
Literally pulled up from swampy land, Gramercy Park naturally appealed to the city's elite, a pocket neighborhood with classic old brownstones so vital to the city's early growth that two streets sprang from its creation -- Irving Place and Lexington Avenue.
In this show, we give you an overview of its history -- a birds eye's view, if you will -- then follow it up with a virtual walking tour that you can use to guide yourself through the area, on foot or in your mind. In this tour, we'll give you the insights on an early stop on the Underground Railroad, the house of a controversial New York mayor, a fabulous club of thespians, and a hotel that has hosted both the Rolling Stones and John F Kennedy (though not at the same time).
ALSO: How DO you get inside Gramercy Park? I mean, really?
EPISODE 170 Rudolph Valentino was an star from the early years of Hollywood, but his elegant, randy years in New York City should not be forgotten. They helped make him a premier dancer and a glamorous actor.
And on August 23, 1926, this is where the silent film icon died.
Valentino arrived in Ellis Island in 1913, one of millions of Italians heading to America to begin a new life. In his case, he was escaping a restless life in Italy and a set of mounting debts! But he quickly distinguished himself in New York thanks to his job as a taxi dancer at the glamorous club Maxim's, where he mingled with wealthy society women.
He headed to Hollywood and became a huge film star in 1921, thanks to the film The Sheik, which set his reputation as the connsumate Latin Lover. Throughout his career, he returned to New York to make features (in particular, those as his Astoria movie studio), and he once even judged a very curious beauty pageant here.
In 1926, he headed here not only to promote a sequel to The Sheik, but to display his masculinity after a scathing article blamed him for the effeminacy of the American male!
Sadly, however, he tragically and suddenly (and, some would say, mysteriously) died at a Midtown hospital. People were so shocked by his demise that the funeral chapel (in the area of today's Lincoln Center) was mobbed for almost a week, its windows smashed and the streets paralyzed by mourners -- or where those people paid by the film studio?
ALSO: We are proud to introduce to you -- POLA!
One World Trade Center was declared last year the tallest building in America, but it's a very different structure from the other skyscrapers who have once held that title. In New York, owning the tallest building has often been like possessing a valuable trophy, a symbol of commercial and social superiority. In a city driven by commerce, size matters.
In this special show, I give you a rundown of the history of being tall in New York City, short profiles of the 12 structures (11 skyscrapers and one church!) that have held this title. In several cases, these weren't just the tallest buildings in the city; they were the tallest in the world.
Skyscrapers were not always well received. New York's tallest building in 1899 was derisively referred to as a "horned monster." Lower Manhattan became defined by this particular kind of structure, creating a canyon of claustrophobic, darkened streets. But a new destination for these sorts of spectacular towers beckoned in the 1920s -- 42nd Street.
You'll be familiar with a great number of these -- the Woolworth, the Chrysler, the Empire State. But in the early days of skyscrapers, an odd assortment of buildings took the crown as New York's tallest, from the vanity project of a newspaper publisher to a turtle-like tower made for a sewing machine company.
At stake in the race for the tallest is dominance in the New York City skyline. With brand new towers popping up now all over the five boroughs, should be worried that they'll overshadow the classics? Or should the skyline always be in a constant state of flux?
ALSO: New York's very first tall buildings and the ominous purpose they were used for during the Revolutionary War!
PICTURES, SOURCES and RECOMMENDED READING will be available at boweryboyspodcast.com
CORRECTION: Ack, I keep saying Crystal Palace Exposition when it's actually Crystal Palace Exhibition! I mean, they basically mean the same thing, almost, right?
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Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met at a clearing in Weehawken, NJ, in the early morning on July 11, 1804, to mount the most famous duel in American history. But why?
This is the story of two New York lawyers -- and two Founding Fathers -- that so detested each other that their vitriolic words (well, mostly Hamilton's) led to these two grown men shooting each other out of honor and dignity, while robbing America of their brilliance, leadership and talent.
You may know the story of this duel from history class, but this podcast focuses on its proximity to New York City, to their homes Richmond Hill and Hamilton Grange and to the places they conducted their legal practices and political machinations.
Which side are you on?
ALSO: Find out the fates of sites that are associated with the duel, including the place Hamilton died and the rather disrespectful journey of the dueling grounds in Weehawken.
CORRECTION: Alexander Hamilton had his fateful dinner as the house of Judge James Kent, not John Kent, as I state here.
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 Hill.
The weathered but elegant monolith was created thousands of years ago by the pharaoh Thutmose III. Thanks to the great interest in Egyptian objects in the 19th century -- sometimes called Egyptomania -- major cities soon wanted obelisks for their own, acquired as though they were trophies of world conquest. France and England scooped up a couple but -- at least in the case of the ill-fated vessel headed to London -- not without great cost.
One group was especially fascinated in the Alexandrian obelisks. The Freemasons have been a mysterious and controversial fraternity who have been involved in several critical moments in American history (including the inauguration of fellow Freemason George Washington.)
A Freemason engineer and adventurer named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe discovered an incredible secret on the remaining Alexandria obelisk, a secret that might link the secretive organization to the beginnings of human civilization. But how do you get a 240 ton object, the length of a 7-story building, across the Atlantic Ocean and propped up in New York's premier park which had just opened a few years before? We let you in on Gorringe's technique and the curious Freemasons ceremony that accompanied the debut of the obelisk's cornerstone.
PLUS: We have a secret or two to reveal ourselves in this episode. This is a must-listen podcast!
On June 15, 1904, hundreds of residents of the Lower East Side's thriving German community boarded the General Slocum excursion steamer to enjoy a day trip outside the city. Most of them would never return home.
The General Slocum disaster is, simply put, one of the greatest tragedies in American history. Before September 11, 2001, it was the largest loss of life of any event that has ever taken place here.
This is a harrowing story, brutal and tragic. The fire that engulfed the ship near the violent waters of the Hell Gate gave the passengers a horrible choice -- die by fire or by drowning. In the end, over one thousand people would lose their lives over an horrific event that could have been easily prevented.
But in this tale are some surprising and even shocking stories of human survival, real stories of bravery and heroism.
Ladies' Mile -- the most famous New York shopping district in the 19th century and the "heart of the Gilded Age," a district of spectacular commercial palaces of cast-iron. They are some of the city's greatest buildings, designed by premier architects. Unlike so many stories about New York City, this is a tale of survival, how behemoths of retail went out of business, but their structures remained to house new stores. This is truly a rare tale of history, where so many of the buildings in question are still around, still active in the purpose in which they were built. We start this story near City Hall, with the original retail mecca of A.T. Stewart -- the Marble Palace and later his cast-iron masterpiece in Astor Place. Stewart set a standard that many held dear, even as his competitors traveled uptown to the blocks between Union Square and Madison Square. Join us on this glamorous journey through the city's retail history, including a walking tour circa 1890 (with some roleplay involved!) of some of the district's best known buildings. PLUS: Why is Chelsea's Bed Bath and Beyond so particularly special in this episode? www.boweryboyshistory.com
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.
The theater, being America's prime form of public entertainment in the early 19th century, was often home to great disturbances and riots. It was still seen as a British import and often suffered the anti-British sentiments that often vexed early New Yorkers.
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 stark, horrifying violence as armed militia shot indiscriminately into an angry mob gathering outside the Astor Place theater. By the end of this story, over two dozen New Yorkers would be murdered, dozens more wounded, and the culture of the city irrevocably changed.
The glory of early New York City came from its role as one of the world's great ports. Today the South Street Seaport is a lasting tribute to that seafaring heritage, a historical district beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that contains some of the city's oldest buildings.
But there are many secrets here along the cobblestone streets. Schermerhorn Row, the grand avenue of counting houses more than two centuries old, is built atop of landfill. Historic Water Street once held a seedy concentration of brothels and saloons. Not to mention a very vibrant rat pit! And the Fulton Fish Market, the neighborhood's oldest customer tradition, once fell into the river.
The modern South Street Seaport, a preservation construct of concerned citizens, become popular with tourists during the 1980s but saw severe damage during Hurricane Sandy. It's now the subject of some potentially dramatic changes. How much of an adherence to the traditions of the past will determine the Seaport's future?
ALSO: The FDR Drive -- How it almost went below the Seaport!
The George Washington Bridge is surprisingly graceful, but politically scandalous. And we're not talking about the current crisis being faced by current New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Figuring out a way to cross over the Hudson River (not using a boat or ferry) between New York City and New Jersey has been a challenge engineers and builders have tried to solve for over two hundred years. With the formation of the Port Authority in 1921, there was finally an administrative body with the ability to bring a Hudson River bridge to life.
At the core of this story is a professional disagreement (or betrayal, depending on how you see it) between Gustav Lindenthal, the dreamer of a monumental crossing twice the size of the Brooklyn Bridge, and his protégée Othmar Ammann, who envisioned a simpler crossing in a less populated part of town.
The eventual bridge was built thanks to a few strategic, political moves by the New Jersey governor, but some of its original ornamentation was left off during the Great Depression. Still, even today, it's considered one of the most beautiful bridges of the Hudson River. Here's the story of an under-appreciated masterpiece that two states are proud to share.
ALSO: The story of the little red lighthouse and the great big flag!
The New York Fire Department protects the five boroughs from a host of disasters and mishaps -- five-alarm blazes, a kitchen fire run amok, and even those dastardly midtown elevators, always getting stuck! But today's tightly organized team is a far cry from the chaos and machismo that defined New York's fire apparatus many decades ago.
New York's early firefighters -- Peter Stuyvesant's original ratel-watch -- were all-purpose guardians, from police work to town timepieces. Volunteer forces assembled in the 18th century just as innovative new engines arrived from London. By the 19th century, the fire department was the ultimate boys club, gangs of rival firefighters, with their own volunteer 'runners', racing to fires as though in a competition. Fisticuffs regularly erupted. From this tradition came Boss Tweed, whose corrupt political ways would forever change New York's fire services -- for better and for worse.
Volunteers were replaced by an official paid division by 1870. Now using horse power and new technologies, the department fought against the extraordinary challenges of skyscraper and factory fires. There were internal battles as well, as the department struggled to become more inclusive within its ranks.
But the greatest test lay in the modern era -- from a deteriorating infrastructure in the 1970s that left many areas of New York unguarded, and then, the new menace of modern terrorism that continues to test the skill of the NYFD. From burning chimneys in New Amsterdam to the tragedy of 9/11, this is the story of how they earned the nickname New York's Bravest.
Central Park has frequently been called 'the people's park," but we think Tompkins Square Park may have a better claim to that title. From its inception, this East Village recreational spot -- named for Vice President Daniel D Tompkins -- has catered to those who might not have felt welcome in other New York parks.
Carved from the marshy area of Peter Stuyvesant's old farm, Tompkins Square immediately reflected the personality of German immigrants who moved here, calling it Der Weisse Garten. With large immgratns groups came rallies and demands for improved working conditions, leading to more than a number of altercations with the police in the 19th century.
Progressives introduced playgrounds here, and Robert Moses changed the very shape of Tompkins Square. But the most radical transformation here took place starting in the late 1950s, with the introduction of 'hippie' culture and infusion of youth and music. By the 1980s, the park became known not only for embodying the spirit of the East Village through punk music and drag shows, but also as a haven for the homeless. Clashes with police echoed the altercation that happened here one century before. The park still maintains a curfew left over from the strife of the late 1980s.
FEATURING: Lillian Wald, the Grateful Dead, Charlie Parker, Lady Bunny ... and Chevy Chase?
The Broadway Musical is one of New York City's greatest inventions, 150 years in the making! It's one of the truly American art forms, fueling one of the city's most vibrant entertainment businesses and defining its most popular tourist attraction -- Times Square.
But why Broadway, exactly? Why not the Bowery or Fifth Avenue? And how did our fair city go from simple vaudeville and minstrel shows to 'Shuffle Along', 'Irene' and 'Show Boat', surely the beginning of the truly modern American musical?
This podcast is an epic and wild musical adventure in itself, full of musical interludes, zipping through the evolution of musical entertainment in New York City, as it races up the 'main seam' of Manhattan -- the avenue of Broadway. We are proud to present a tour up Broadway, past some of the greatest theaters and shows that have ever won acclaim here, from the wacky (and highly copied) imports of Gilbert & Sullivan to the dancing girls and singing sensations of the Jazz Age.
STARRING: Well, some of the biggest names in songwriting, composing and singing. And even a dog who talks in German!
And featuring our new sponsor Squarespace!
The Hotel Theresa is considered a genuine (if under-appreciated) Harlem treasure, 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 mostly those who identified as black. 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, I give 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.
This is the Bowery Boys 7th annual Halloween podcast, with four new scary stories to chill your bones and keep you up at night, generally doused with strange and fascinating facts about New York City.
For this episode, we've decided to go truly old-school, reaching back to old legends and tales from the years of the Revolutionary War and early 19th century. These ghosts have two things in common -- George Washington (directly or indirectly) and ghosts! Although no ghosts of George Washington.
We venture to the haunted woods of Van Cortlandt Park for the tale of an Indian massacre and a forlorn servant girl, looking for her master's silver. From there, we head to the early days of Greenwich Village and a tormented vice president waiting for his daughter's return. Meanwhile, over in Brooklyn, the ruins of an old Revolutionary War fort provide the setting for a horrific tale of a late-night booze run gone wrong. And, finally, no Bowery Boys Halloween podcast would be complete without the ghost of a dramatic actor -- in this case, one without his head!
As New York City enters the final stages of this year's mayoral election, let's look back on a decidedly more unusual contest 100 years ago, pitting Tammany Hall and their estranged ally (Mayor William Jay Gaynor) up against a baby-faced newcomer, the (second) youngest man to eventually become the mayor of New York City.
John Purroy Mitchel, the Bronx-born grandson of an Irish revolutionary, was a rising star in New York, aggressively sweeping away incompetence and snipping away at government excess. Under his watch, two of New York's borough presidents were fired, just for being ineffectual! Mitchel made an ideal candidate for mayor in an era where Tammany Hall cronyism still dominated the nature of the five boroughs.
Nobody could predict the strange events which befell the city during the election of 1913, unfortunate and even bizarre incidents which catapulted this young man to City Hall and gave him the nickname the Boy Mayor of New York.
But things did not turn out as planned. He won his election with the greatest victory margin in New York City history. He left office four years later with an equally large margin of defeat. Tune in to our tale of this oft-ignored figure in New York City history, an example of good intentions gone wrong and -- due to his tragic end -- the only mayor honored with a memorial in Central Park.
In the third part of the Bowery Boys Summer TV Mini-Series, we give you a grand tour of the New York City television production world from the 1970s to today, from the debut of Sesame Street in the Upper West Side to the flourishing 1990s, where the city was represented by a few iconic shows, including Sex And The City and Seinfeld.
Along the way, hear about the debuts of public access, HBO, MTV, the Cosby Show, NY1 and, of course, the TV show that employed thousands of New Yorkers during its two-decade run -- Law and Order. Bong-bonggg!
It's the second part of the Bowery Boys TV Mini-Series, covering the years of New York City television production from the late 1940s to the 1960s.
This podcast is arranged a little bit like a leisurely Midtown walking tour, taking you past four of the greatest locations in NYC televison history. And we guide you through the stories of the greatest shows in TV history -- from Howdy Doody to the Ed Sullivan Show!
It's the beginning of The Bowery Boys Summer TV Mini-Series, three podcasts devoted to New York City's illustrious history with broadcast television -- from Sarnoff to Seinfeld!
In our first show, we go back to the start of the invention of the television and the city's role in both the creation of the complicated technology and the early formation of programming. We begin with the Electro Importing Co. and the imagination of one of the greatest names in science fiction.
Then head into scientific realities -- the failures of mechnical televisions and the brutal patent wars between RCA's David Sarnoff and one of the great inventors of television, Philo Farnsworth.
In victory, Sarnoff claimed the mantel of 'father of television' at the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. It's but one of many great New York City's beloved landmarks with ties to television's early history, from the heights of the Empire State Building to even a floor at Wanamaker's Department Store. And we even go drinking at McSorley's Old Ale House!
ALSO: Why is Greg singing Cole Porter?
Bellevue Hospital, you might have heard, once had a very notorious psychiatric ward. But those horror stories have only distracted from the rather breathtaking -- and heart-breaking -- history of this historic institution, a lifeline not only for the sick, but for the poor, the incarcerated, the abandoned -- even the dead!
The hospital traces its origins to a six-bed almshouse that once sat near the location of New York City Hall today. Despite its humble and (to the modern eye) confusing original purposes, the almshouse was miles better than the barbaric medical procedures of early New York, courtesy the ominous sounding 'barber-surgeons'. A series of yellow fever epidemics moved care for the sick to a former mansion called Belle Vue near Murray Hill -- and, in fact, with a strong connection to Murray himself!
Soon the institution fulfilled a variety of roles and in rather ghastly conditions, from 'pest house' to execution ground, from a Pathological Museum to New York's first city morgue. A great many medical advances came from Bellevue, not least of which the origins of the modern ambulance.
But some of that progress has been obscured by the reputation of the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital which opened in 1931 and 'hosted' a variety of famous people with disturbing issues. And in the 1980s, Bellevue would take on another grim role -- during the most distressing years of the AIDS crisis.
If you had told 1840s religious leader William Muhlenberg that his innovative new Church of the Holy Communion, designed by renown architect Richard Upjohn, would become the glittering seat of drugs and debauchery 150 years later, he might have burned it down then and there. But thankfully, this lovely building is still with us, proving to be one of the most flexible examples of building use in New York City history.
This unusual tale begins with the captivating relationship between Muhlenberg (the grandson of America's first Speaker of the House) and Anna Ayres, the First Sister in charge of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion. The two of them helped create one of New York's great hospital centers. But was something else going on between them? The Church of the Holy Communion survives the elevated railroad and the fashionable stores of Ladies Mile, and it weathers the various fortunes of the neighborhood.
When it is finally sold and deconsecrated, it briefly houses an intellectual collective and a drug rehabilitation center before being bought by Canadian club impresario Peter Gatien, who turns it into an iconic and sacrilegious symbol of New York nightlife. And today, it makes for a truly bizarre retail experience. Warning: This episode might give you whiplash.
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. www.boweryboyshistory.com
A long, long time ago in New York -- in the 1730s, back when the city was a holding of the British, with a little over 10,000 inhabitants -- a German printer named John Peter Zenger decided to print a four-page newspaper called the New York Weekly Journal.
This is pretty remarkable in itself, as there was only one other newspaper in town called the New York Gazette, an organ of the British crown and the governor of the colony. (Equally remarkable: Benjamin Franklin almost worked there!) But Zenger's paper would call to question the actions of that governor, a virtual despot named William Cosby, and in so doing, set in motion an historic trial that marked a triumph for liberty and modern democratic rights, including freedom of the press and the power of jury nullification.
This entire story takes place in lower Manhattan, and most of it on a couple floors of old New York City Hall at Wall Street and Nassau Street. Many years later, this spot would see the first American government and the inauguration of George Washington. But many could argue that the trial that occurs here on August 4, 1735, is equally important to the causes of democracy and a free press.
And somehow, we manage to fit Kim Kardashian into this.
This year is the 125th anniversary of one of the worst storms to ever wreck havoc upon New York City, the now-legendary mix of wind and snow called the Great Blizzard of 1888. Its memory was again conjured up a few months ago as people struggled to compare Hurricane Sandy with some devastating event in New York's past.
And indeed, the Blizzard and Sandy have several disturbing similarities. But the battering snow-hurricane of 1888, with freezing temperatures and drifts three stories high, was made worse by the condition of New York's transportation and communication systems, all unprepared for 36 hours of continual snow and wind.
The storm struck in the early hours of Monday, and so thousands were attempting to make their way to work. 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!
The Armory Show of 1913 was the mainstream debut of modernist art -- both European and American -- to New York City audiences. Galleries had previously devoted themselves to the great European masters, antiquity and American landscapes as a way to influence the taste of a growing city. But even though vanguards like Alfred Stieglitz debuted artists like Picasso and Cezanne into his Fifth Avenue gallery, those names were still barely known to the average New Yorker.
The Armory Show, located at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, changed all that, but not without controversy. When the exhibition debuted on February 17, 1913, writers and art critics exploded in shock and outrage.
This is the story of an important moment in American art history, but also a moment in New York City pop culture, an event that shook society and challenged its beliefs about taste and beauty -- not a small thing in the waning years of the Gilded Age.
Welcome to the secret history of Herald Square, New York City's second favorite intersection -- after Times Square, of course, just a few blocks north. But we think you may find this intersection at 34th Street, Sixth Avenue and Broadway perhaps even more interesting.
This is a tale of the Tenderloin, an entertainment and vice district which dominated the west side of midtown Manhattan in the late 19th century, and how it abutted the great cultural institutions that soon became attracted to Herald Square, from cheap aquariums to New York's greatest opera house.
By the 1890s, newspapers arrived to the area, including the one that gives Herald Square its name. A remnant of the New York Herald Building still sits in Herald Square and is the cause of some serious conspiracy. (Especially if you're afraid of owls!) But the Herald wasn't the only publication that got its start here; in fact, one of America's most famous magazines began in a curious office-slash-bachelor apartment facility just close by.
The department stores came at the start of the 20th century, and we bring you the tales of Macys, Saks and Gimbels, not to mention their later incarnations, the Herald Center and the Manhattan Mall.
ALSO: Where on 32nd Street were crazy parties featuring a who's who of New York's greatest freak show performers? Where did a silent fim stunt man meet his end? And where in New York can you get the best in Korean pop music?
The bicycle has always seemed like a slightly awkward form of transportation in big cities, but in fact, it's reliable, convenient, clean and -- believe it or not -- popular in New York City for almost 200 years.
The original two-wheeled conveyance was the velocipede or dandy horse which debuted in New York in 1819. After the Civil War, an improved velocipede dazzled the likes of Henry Ward Beecher and became a frequent companion of carriages and streetcars on the streets of New York. Sporting men, meanwhile, took to the expensive high-wheeler.
But it was during the 1890s when New Yorkers really pined for the bicycle. It liberated women, inspired music and questioned Victorian morality. Casual riders made Central Park and Riverside Drive their home, while professionals took to the velodrome of Madison Square Garden. And in Brooklyn, riders delighted in New York's first bike path.
ALSO: What did Robert Moses think of the bicycle?
A brief snapshot into what's happening in the city as of Friday afternoon, November 2, reviewing some of the events associated with Hurricane Sandy, the catastrophic storm which hit the Northeast this week. Featuring some of the historical context for the storm. This is just a summary of what's occurred as of now, so much of this information is sure to have changed after recording date. Please check your local news for up-to-date information.
Our sixth annual ghost story podcast takes a little twist this time around. Oh sure, we have two of New York's most FAMOUS horror stories in our first part, beginning with a spirited sailor named Mickey who haunted a classic structure on the Lower West Side. Today's it's the Ear Inn, where you better watch your drink. Then we switch to a Colonial-era tale of obsession and entrapment in old Flatbush, the tale of Melrose Hall with its secret passages, stairwells and dungeons.
But in the second half, we observe New York's spiritualism craze of the early 20th century through two frightening faceoffs. In the first, its the madame of the Ouija board, Pearl Curran, and her ghostly companion Patience Worth vs. one of New York's original ghostbusters, the adventurer and conjurer Joseph Rinn. And in the final tale, Tom explores the secrets of Harry Houdini and what happens when a close confidante -- in this case, the noted author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- believes his powers are of a supernatural variety.
Featuring our annual ghost-story dramatics, a few sound effects, and the surprising haunted history of Carnegie Hall.
One of the great challenges faced by a growing, 19th-century New York City was the need for a viable, clean water supply. Before the 1830s, citizens relied on cisterns to collect rainwater, a series of city wells drilling down to underground springs, and the infamously polluted Collect Pond.
The solution lay miles north of the city in the Croton River. New York engineers embarked on one of the most ambitious projects in the city's history -- to tame the Croton, funnelling through an aqueduct down to the city, where water would be stored in grand, Egyptian-style reservoirs to serve the city's needs.
This is the story of both the old and new Croton Aqueducts, and of the many landmarks that are still with us -- from New York's oldest surviving bridge to a former Bronx racetrack that was turned into a gigantic reservoir.
ALSO: A entire town moved on logs, a famous writer's strange musings on Irish laborers, and guest appearances by DeWitt Clinton and Gouverneur Morris (but not the ones you think).
They once called it the University of the City of New York, an innovative, nondenominational school located in a intellectual castle on the northeast corner of the Washington military parade ground. Today its better known as New York University, one of America's largest private schools of higher education, inhabiting dozens of buildings throughout the city.
Find out more about its spectactular and sometimes strange history, from the inventors among its early faculty to some of the more curious customs of its 19th century student body.
Featuring: the prisoners of Sing Sing Prison, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, and the controversial plans of Robert Moses.
New York City's thriving craft brewing industry today hearkens to a time over a century ago when the city was one of America's great beer-making capitols, the home to a robust industry of breweries and beer halls. In the 19th century, German immigrants introduced the lager to thirsty crowds, manufacturing thousands of barrels per year from breweries in Manhattan and Brooklyn's 'Eastern District' (primarily Bushwick and Williamsburg).
Following World War I and Prohibition, New York lost its hold over beer manufacturing to more saavy Midwestern beer makers. But a few local brands weathered the century with unusual marketing ploys -- from sports sponsorships to the Miss Rheingold beauty pageant.
By the late 1970s, significant brewing had vanished from New York entirely. But somewhere in SoHo in the 1980s, a renaissance was about to begin.....
Featuring special guest host, photographer and filmmaker Scott Nyerges
The Rockaways are a world unto its own, a former resort destination with miles of beach facing into the Atlantic Ocean, a collection of diverse neighborhoods and a truly quirky history. Retaining a variant of its original Lenape name, the peninsula remained relatively peaceful in the early years of New York history, the holding of the ancestral family of a famous upstate New York university.
The Marine Pavilion, a luxury spa-like resort which arrived in 1833 featuring 'sea bathing', opened up vast opportunities for recreation, and soon Rockaway Beach was dotted with dozens of hotels, thousands of daytrippers and a even a famous amusement park. Not even the fiasco known as the Rockaway Beach Hotel could drive away those seeking recreation here, including a huge population of Irish immigrants who helped define the unique spirit of the Rockaways.
The 20th century brought Robert Moses and his usual brand of reinvention, setting up the Rockaways for an uncertain century of decreased tourism, urban blight and uncommon solutions to preserve its unique heritage.
ALSO: Pirate attacks, the inferno in Irishtown, the Cabaret de la Morte, the Ramones and the legend of New York's very own Atlantis!
One of New York's oldest cultural institutions, the Brooklyn Academy of Music has an unusual history that spans over 150 years and two locations. We trace the story from the earliest roots of a Manhattan-Brooklyn rivalry and a discussion over high-class taste to the greatest stars of the arts, including a couple tragic tales and a bizarre event involving the mother of modern dance!
St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery is one of Manhattan's most interesting and mysterious links to early New York history. This East Village church was built in 1799 atop the location of the original chapel of Peter Stuyvesant, New Amsterdam's peg-legged director-general.
His descendants -- with the help of Alexander Hamilton and the architect of City Hall -- built this new chapel with the intention of serving the local farming community of Bowery Village. But in many ways, the more thrilling tales occur among the honeycomb of burial vaults underneath the church, the final resting place of vice presidents, mayors, and even Peter himself.
St. Mark's reflected the changes that swept through Greenwich Village during the 20th century, with experimental and sometimes scandalous church activities, from hypnotism, modern dance and even a trippy foray into psychedelic Christian rock.
ALSO: Find out why you can never EVER go down into the vault of the Peter Stuyvesant. And why is the church IN the Bowery, not ON the Bowery?
EPISODE 137 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 newsmaking 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.
The second half of our show features the creation of the great radio networks and many local New York stations that are still around today. 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!
Radio clips featured in this show can be found at http://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio
Welcome to the unofficial High Line audio walking tour! In our last podcast, we gave you a history of the High Line, the one-mile linear park situated atop a stretch of abandoned elevated railroad tracks along the West Side. This time, I'll take you on a tour along the High Line itself. This will incorportate some history of the elevated line itself, but it's geared towards describing the history of the surrounding neighborhoods.
This is intended to be listened to as you walk along the High Line, beginning at the park's southern entrance at Washington Street and Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District. We'll end at 30th Street.
This tour will last a little over an hour or so -- depending on what speed you choose to enjoy the High Line. But take your time! Along the way, I'll share tales from almost 200 years of history, from the early days of Fort Gansevoort during the War of 1812 to the underground club life of the 1990s.
Featuring New York stories of the Titanic, the Lusitania and the Manhattan Project. And starring a wild array of people who have influenced these neighborhoods, including Abraham Lincoln, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Drew Barrymore, REVS, Cass Gilbert, a feisty lady named Tillie Hart, and a whole lotta people dressed like Stevie Nicks.
Also: you might want a handful of Oreos after you're done.
CORRECTION: I meant to say that the Morgan Processing and Distribution Center was 2.2 MILLION square feet, not 2.2 square feet. That's a sizeable difference!
The High Line, which snakes up New York's west side, is an ambitious park project refitting abandoned elevated train lines into a breathtaking contemporary park. This is the remnant of a raised freight-delivery track system that supported New York's thriving meat, produce and refrigeration industries that have defined the city's western edges.
You can trace the footprints of this area back almost 200 years, to the introduction of the Hudson River Railroad and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who transformed the streets along the Hudson River into 'the lifeline of New York', filled with warehouses, marketplaces and abattoirs. And, of course, lots of traffic, turning 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue into 'death avenues', requiring New York's first 'urban cowboys'.
The West Side Elevated Freight Railroad was meant to relieve some of trauma on the street. That's not exactly how it worked out. We'll tell you about its downfall, its transformation during the 70s as a haven for counter-culture, and its reinterpretation as an innovative urban playground.
One of America's most famous churches and a graceful icon upon the landscape of midtown Manhattan, St. Patrick's Cathedral was also one of New York's most arduous building projects, taking decades to build. An overflow of worshippers at downtown's old St Patrick's demanded a vast new place of worship, even as most Catholic New Yorkers were having an uneasy time due to religious prejudice by angry 'nativists'.
Enter 'Dagger' John Hughes, the relentless first Archbishop of New York, who hammered the city for equal treatment for Catholics and managed to construct several New York institutions still in existence. Many scoffed at his idea of building a gigantic cathedral so far north of town.
We explore the early years of this once-quiet piece of mid-Manhattan property and some of the notable events that have taken place at St. Patrick's since its opening.
ALSO: The tale of the revered Haitian hairdresser in the crypt!
CORRECTION: Near the end of the podcast, I say that 'Godfather III' was filmed at St. Patricks. It was, but it's the OLD downtown St Pat's, not the Midtown. Sorry for the error!
Check out our blog www.boweryboypodcast.com
Red Hook, Brooklyn, the neighborhood called by the Dutch 'Roode Hoek' for its red soil, became a key port during the 19th century, a stopping point for vessels carry a vast array of raw goods from the interior of the United States along the Erie Canal. In particular, two manmade harbors were among the greatest developments in Brooklyn history, stepping in when Manhattan's own decaying wharves became too overcrowded.
With these basins came a mix of ethnicities to Brooklyn, and along with new styles of row houses came the usual mix of vices -- saloons and brothels along Hamilton Avenue. This fostered the development of crime along the docks, and Red Hook soon witnessed firsthand the opening salvos of 20th Century organized crime.
How did the history-rich, nautical neighborhood go from a booming center of employment to one of the worst neighborhoods in the United States by the 1990s? And can some surprising twists of fate from the last twenty years help Red Hook return to its glory days?
Featuring: Revolutionary War forts, shantytowns, Vaseline factories, famous gangsters, the gateway to Hell, and cheap Swedish furniture!
The streets of New York have been lit in various ways through the decades, from the wisps of whale-oil flame to the modern comfort of gas lighting. With the discovery of electricity, it seemed possible to illuminate the world with a more dependable, potentially inexhaustible energy source.
First came arc light and 'sun towers' with their brilliant beams of white-hot light casting shadows down among the holiday shoppers of Ladies Mile in 1880. But the genius of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison, envisioned an entire city grid wired for electricity. From Edison's Pearl Street station, the inventor turned a handful of blocks north of Wall Street into America's first area entirely lit with the newly invented incandescent bulbs.
ALSO: The War of Currents, the enigmatic Nicola Tesla and the world's first electric Christmas lights
Well, we're movin' on up....to the first New York apartment building ever constructed. New Yorkers of the emerging middle classes needed a place to live situated between the townhouse and the tenement, and the solution came from overseas -- a daring style of communal and affordable living called the 'apartment' or 'French flat'.
The city's first was financed by Rutherford Stuyvesant, an old-money heir with an unusual story to his name. He hired one of the upper class's hottest architects to create an apartment house, called the Stuyvesant Apartments, with many features that would have been shocking to more than a few New Yorkers of the day.
The building's first tenants were sometimes well-known, often artists and publishers, and almost all of them with a fascinating story to tell. Listen in to hear about the vanguard first renters of this classic, long-gone building.
What mischievous phantoms and malevolent spirits haunt the streets of New York City today? In our fifth annual podcast of local ghost stories, we bring you the histories of four very haunted places from three boroughs and a small island in the harbor.
The legend of Captain Kidd's buried treasure -- alleged to be buried in the New York region -- inspires our first ghost tale of two ambitious soldiers on a quest during a full moon. Meanwhile, out in Brooklyn, a congregation gathers at a new Catholic church, but maybe they shouldn't have built it over a graveyard. Do the spirits of dead clergy haunt the halls today?
The Palace Theatre in Manhattan has hosted the greatest names in entertainment -- and continues to play host to the undead. And finally, we hesitate to bring you the malevolent events at the Kreischer Mansion in Staten Island. What is it about this house that has inspired stories for over a hundred years, and did ghosts from a century ago have something to do with a horrifying and gory crime that took place here just a few years ago?
Manhattan's Chinatown is unique among New York neighborhoods as its origins and its provocative history can still be traced in many of the buildings and streets still in existence. Two hundred years ago, the sight of a Chinese person would have astonished New Yorkers, and the first to arrive in the city were either sailors or the subjects of tacky exhibition.
But with the first Chinese men setting on Mott Street, a new community was born, with thriving variety shops, cigar businesses and gambling dens alongside establishments of a more sensuous nature -- opium dens and brothels. This mini-economy produced social clubs and secret societies (the legendary ‘tongs’), and rival gangs soon spilled blood along the neighborhood's quirkiest lane.
And still today, modern Chinatown hides a few dark, startling secrets of its own.
ALSO: We give you a rundown of addresses along Mott Street and other places nearby. You can use this podcast as your official walking tour of Chinatown!
We're officially subtitling this 'Strange Tales of 1864', a series of odd, fascinating stories from one pivotal year in New York City history. With the city both fatigued by the length of the Civil War and energized by Union victories, New Yorkers were often at their best -- and their worst. The city unites around an unusual parade -- the first regiment of African-American troops -- even as it elects a pacifist mayor sympathetic to the Southern cause. A grand and flamboyant fair, uniting the community, offers up a surprising New York tradition -- the theme restaurant. Meanwhile, a local newspaper editor devises an elaborate hoax to get rich quick off the gold market.
But with the November re-election of Abraham Lincoln also comes a deadly threat -- a Confederate conspiracy aimed at New York's luxury hotels. Tune in as we recount the botched plot to destroy New York in an conflagration of 'Greek fire'.
The week of July 13, 1863, was indeed among the most dangerous weeks to be a New Yorker. The announcement of conscription to replenish Union troops -- and the inclusion of that incendiary $300 exemption fee -- fell upon jaded ears, and as the draft lottery neared, some New Yorkers planned to rebel.
We take you through all four hellish days of deplorable violence and appalling attacks on black New Yorkers, abolitionists, Republicans, wealthy citizens, and anybody standing in the way of blind anger. Mobs filled the streets, destroying businesses (from corner stores to Brooks Brothers) and threatening to throw the city into permanent chaos. Listen in as we tell you how the this violence changed the city forever.
Fernando Wood, New York’s mayor at the dawning of the Civil War, was the South’s best friend. Famous during his first term for inciting a police riot, Wood drummed up pro-slavery support amongst his Irish and German constituents and even suggested New York secede from the Union itself! But once the war began and public support for the conflict swelled, the nefarious Fernando tried to have it both ways, both leading the Union cry and undermining it.
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.
Come fly with us through a history of New York City's largest airport, once known as Idlewild (for a former golf course) and called John F. Kennedy International Airport since 1964. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia wanted a new and improved facility to relieve the pressure from that other Queens airport (you know, the one with his name on it), but a greater challenge faced developers of the Jamaica Bay project -- the coming of the jet age and the growth of commercial travel.
The solution for Idlewild was truly unique -- a series of vastly different and striking-looking terminals assigned to individual airlines. This arrangement certainly had its critics, but it has provided New York with some of the most inventive architecture found within its borders.
From stained glass to zodiac sculptures, from the out-of-this-world dramatics of the Pan Am WorldPort to the strangely lifting concrete masterpiece by Eero Saarinen, we take you on a tour of the original '60s terminals and the airport’s peculiar history.
With guest appearances by Robert Moses, Martin Scorsese, the Beatles and a pretty awesome dog named Brandy.
Donald Trump - financial wizard, reality star, or political distraction? The secret in figuring him out may be contained in the roots of his wealth -- a saga that stretches back to the 1880s and begins with a 16-year-old boy named Drumpf who made his living in a barber shop. From there, the story unfolds during the early days of Queens, a borough once sparsely populated and ready for development.
Donald's father Fred built thousands of middle-class homes throughout Queens and Brooklyn and embroiled himself in some controversy regarding the remains of TWO Coney Island theme parks. The Donald built upon the reputation of his father to become a successful Manhattan developer and a flamboyant celebrity with seemingly bottomless levels of lucre. But of course everyone has their limit.
Featuring trivia about Trump Tower, Riverside South and other Trump-labeled properties, this is the brief history of the family behind the New York's glitziest name brand.
CORRECTION TO THE PODCAST: I say the GM Building when I meant the Gulf Western Building
How did Manhattan get its orderly rows of numbered streets and avenues? In the early 18th century, New York was growing rapidly, but the new development was confined on an island, giving city planners a rare opportunity to mold a modern city that was orderly, sophisticated and even (they thought at the time) healthy. With the Commissioners Plan of 1811, uniform blocks were created without regards to hills and streams or even to the owners of the property!
Join us as we recount this monumental event in New York's history -- how land above Houston Street was radically transformed and also how the city revolted in many places. What about those avenues A, B, C and D? Why doesn't the West Village snap to the grid? And why on earth did the early planners not arrange for any major parks?!
ALSO: A podcast within a podcast as we focus on the biography of one of those commissioners. Give it up for Gouverneur Morris, the casanova with Constitutional connections, a Bronx estate and a wooden pegleg.
Fraunces Tavern is one of America's most important historical sites of the Revolutionary War and a reminder of the great importance of tavern culture on the New York way of life during the Colonial era. This revered building at the corner of Pearl and Broad streets was the location of George Washington's emotional farewell speech to his Continental Army officers and some of the very first government offices of the young United States of America.
As with places this famous -- where fact and legend intermingle -- many mysteries still remain, and we attempt to find some answers. Was the tavern owner Samuel Fraunces one of America's first great black patriots? Did Sam 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 Washington? And is it possible that the basement of Fraunces Tavern 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 over 200 years later!
New York City inspires cinema, but it has also consistently manufactured it. And long before anybody had heard of Hollywood, New York and the surrounding region was a movie capital too, the home to the earliest American film studios and 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.
We also take a look at the medium's first superstar director D.W. Griffith and how he helped hasten the move out west. But even as studios fled for sunny California weather, movie making never left New York. Find out where you can still find some relics of New York's pre-Hollywood movie career.
NOTE: As this is of course a New York podcast, we are very NYC-centric here. Our apologies to Georges Melies and to Fort Lee, NJ!
The longest suspension bridge in the United States, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was one of Robert Moses' most ambitious projects, a commanding structure that would finally link Staten Island with Brooklyn. Today it soars above New York Harbor as one of the finest examples of architecture from the 1960s. But it didn't get built without some serious community outcry, from a neighborhood that would be partially destroyed in its wake -- Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
This is the tale of a 16th century explorer, a 20th century builder and a timeless marvel of the harbor, with a design that takes the curvature of the earth -- and one very, very large boat -- into consideration.
ALSO: The bridge's shining moment from a classic 1970s film.
Times Square is the centerpiece of New York for most visitors and a place that sharply divides city residents. Nothing about it sits still. Even its oldest buildings are severely transformed and slathered with electronic imagery.
In 1900, the neighborhood surrounding the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue was Longacre Square, the heart of the horse and carriage industry, and few dared put a legitimate theater or restaurant so far north. But with the construction of the subway came big changes, and when the new headquarters for the New York Times arrived, so did a new name.
Listen along as we travel through the decades, through Times Square's glory days of lobster palaces and celebrities, the introduction of electric advertisements, its gritty slide and eventual rebound. Is the new Times Square an extraordinary transformation? Or a travesty?
You hear the name Mark Twain and think of his classic characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, his locales along the Mississippi River and his folksy wit. But he was equal parts New York as well, and the city helped shape his sharp, flamboyant character. Follow his course, from his first visit as an opinionated young man in 1853, to his later years in 1906 as a Fifth Avenue tenant, decked out with a cigar and signature white suit.
His tale offers a glimpse into the glamorous life of turn-of-the-century New York, from the smoke-filled billiard room at the Players Club to late nights at New York's dining palace Delmonico's. Tune in and find out which parts of Mark Twain's city are still around and which of his old homes you can still visit today.
With co-stars Ulysses S. Grant, Helen Keller, Artemus Ward, and the frog that helped make Samuel Clemens famous.
A slight correction: I mentioned in the show that Mark Twain only worked on one play in his lifetime, called 'Is He Dead?'. That might have been his only solo attempt, but he did try many years earlier to pen one in collaboration with Bret Harte. The play, called "Ah Sin: The Heathen Chinee", opened and closed in 1877. It was an unmitigated flop and a total creative failure. He worked on another collaborative play called "Cap'n Wheeler" the next year.
Millions of years of space rocks, fossils, artifacts and specimens are housed in New York's world famous natural history complex on the Upper West Side. But few know the whole story about the museum itself.
Residents of New York tried a few times to establish a legitimate natural history venue in the city, including an aborted plan for a Central Park dinosaur pavilion. With the American Museum of Natural History, the city had a premier institution that 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. And find out the tragic tale of Minik the Eskimo, a boy subject by museum directors to bizarre and cruel lie.
During the construction of a downtown federal administration building, an extraordinary find was discovered -- the remnants of a burial ground used by African slaves during the 18th Century.
In the earliest days of New Amsterdam, the first Africans were brought against their will to help build the new Dutch port, slaves for a city that would be built upon their backs. Later, forced to repress the cultural expressions of their forefathers, the early black population of British New York did preserve their heritage in the form of burial rites, in a small 'Negro Burial Ground' to the south of Collect Pond (and just a couple short blocks to today's City Hall).
How did this small plot of land -- and its astounding contents -- become preserved in the middle of the most bustling area of the most bustling city in the world? And why is it considered one of the most spectacular archaelogical finds in New York City history?
It's our fourth annual 'haunted' podcast, and we've got four bloodcurdling stories for the season. The first three are spooky ghost tales -- a haunted boardinghouse on 14th street with violent, vain spirits; a short history of New York's seance craze and a man tormented with the spirit of a dead painter; and a glamorous pair of lovers whose angry spats in their midtown Manhattan penthouse during the Jazz Age kepts up the neighbors, even beyond the grave.
And finally, a tale with no ghosts at all, but a story with truly spine-tingling facts, featuring the eeriest island in New York, the final resting place for over 850,000 souls. Welcome to Hart Island.
It's the 1820s and welcome to the era of the pleasure garden, an outdoor entertainment complex delighting wealthy New Yorkers in the years before public parks. Niblo's Garden, at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street, was the greatest of them all, with an exhibit room for panoramas and one of the first proto-restaurants. But it was Niblo's Theatre that set the stage for its reputation in the 19th Century. And in 1866, a production debuted there that would change everything -- the gaudy, much-too-long spectacle The Black Crook, known as the very first Broadway musical.
Music in the episode by Elgar
Gracie Mansion today serves as the city's official mayoral residence. But who was Archibald Gracie, and why did the city take over his country house?
EPISODE 111 Art. Vandalism. Blight. Freedom. Crime. Creativity. Graffiti has divided New Yorkers since it first appeared on walls, signs and lampposts in the late 1960s. Its ascent paralleled the city's sunken financial fortunes, allowing simple markings to evolve into elaborate pieces of art. The only problem? The best examples were on the sides of subway cars which the city promptly attempted to eradicate, their attempts thwarted by clever, creative artists and a downtown culture that was slowly embracing graffiti as New York City's defining art form.
This is a history of the battle between graffiti and City Hall. And a look at the aftermath which spawned today's tough city laws and a warehouse space in Queens called 5Pointz, where graffiti masterpieces thrive in abundance today.
The amazing New York City subway system travels hundreds of miles under the earth and elevated through the boroughs. In this episode, we let you in on how it went from one long tunnel in 1904 to the busiest subway on earth.
This is our last episode in our series BOWERY BOYS ON THE GO, and we end it on the expansion of the New York City subway. Find out how some as innocuous sounding as the 'Dual Contracts' actually become one of the most important events in the city's history, creating new underground rounds into Brooklyn, the Bronx and (wondrously!) and finally into Queens.
Then we'll talk about the city's IND line, which completes our modern track lines and gives the subway its modern sheen. After listening to this show, you won't look at the Herald Square subway station the same way again.
ALSO: Bernard Goetz and the future history of the Second Avenue Subway!
In the fourth part of our transportation series BOWERY BOYS ON THE GO, we finally take a look at the birth of the New York City subway. After decades of outright avoiding underground transit as a legitimate option, the city got back on track with the help of August Belmont and the newly formed Interborough Rapid Transit.
We'll tell you about the construction of the first line, traveling miles underground through Manhattan and into the Bronx. How did the city cope with this massive project? And what unfortunate accident nearly ripped apart a city block mere feet from Grand Central Station?
For the third part of our Bowery Boys On The Go series, looking back at the history of New York City public transportation, it's a look at the long gone, forgotten methods of getting around the city. The streets were mostly dominated by horse-based transport, but this was smelly and slow -- not to mention awful on the animals. So the city experimented with new ways of moving the masses: by cable car (exported form San Francisco), the trolley and the monorail.
Along the way, you'll find out the connection between the cable car and New York's most famous art-house movie theater, discover the origins behind the name of a classic New York sports team, and hear the contributions of a man known as 'the black Edison'.
ALSO: hear about the failed experiments in monorail technology!
Before there were subways, New York City transported travelers up and down the length of Manhattan by elevated railroad, an almost unreal spectacle to consider today. Steam engines sat high above several avenues in the city, offering passengers not just a faster trek to the northern reaches of Manhattan, but a totally new way to see the city in the 19th century.
Welcome to our second podcast in our series Bowery Boys On The Go, a look at the history of New York City transportation. Before we get to those famous 'El' trains, we explore the earliest travel options in the city -- the omnibuses and horse-drawn railcars, the early steam successes of the New York and Harlem Railroad and Hudson River Railroads, and something affectionately nicknamed the one-legged railroad.
What were some of the more peculiar ideas for improving travel? And why was the idea of a subway immediately shot down by the city? Let's just say -- Boss Tweed and Jay Gould are involved.
ALSO: What were the different motivations driving transportation progress in the city of Brooklyn? Well, it has something to do with the beach.
The Staten Island Ferry is one of the last remaining vestiges of an entire ferry system in New York, taking people between Manhattan and its future boroughs long before any bridges were built. In Staten Island, the northern shores were spiked in piers, competing ferry operators braving the busy waters of New York harbor.In the first of our summer-long podcasts BOWERY BOYS ON THE GO on New York public transportation, I look at the history of Staten Island's famous ferry, its early precursors, its connection to Cornelius Vanderbilt and a Monopoly property, and its evolution when the city took it over in 1905.ALSO: Find out the curious story behind the name of Victory Boulevard and the neighborhoods of St. George and Tompkinsville.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
Extra! Extra! Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst vs. the newsboys! Pandemonium in the streets! One hot summer in July 1899, thousands of corner newsboys 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.
Modern American rock music would have been a whole lot different without the rundown dive mecca CBGB's, a beat-up former flophouse bar that made stars out of young musicians and helped shape the musical edge of downtown Manhattan. Owner Hilly Kristal may have initially envisioned a place for 'Country Blue Grass and Blues', but the music spawned by this little hole in the wall would define the contours of American punk and new wave.The Ramones, Blondie, the Talking Heads and hundreds of others bands would never have been the same without this dank little club with the most notorious bathroom stalls in New York. Tune in to hear a tale of the club's rather inauspicious start and find out why, even as a venerated music icon, it was forced to close its doors.www.boweryboypodcast.com
We're playing Good Cop / Bad Cop this week, as we take a close look at four events from the early history of the New York Police Department. You'll meet shining stars of the force like Jacob Hays, who kept the peace in the early 19th century armed with a mean billyclub -- and the only man to ever hold the title of High Constable of New York. And then you'll encounter Joseph Petrosino, the Italian immigrant turned secret weapon in the early battles against organized crime.Not all the early men in blue were so recommendable. During the Police Riot of 1857, cop turned against cop while the city burned and "Five Points criminals danced in the streets." And finally there's the lamentable tale of officer Charley Becker, the only member of the New York Police Department to be executed for criminal misdeed. But did he really commit the crime -- commissioning the murder of a nervous gambler who was prepared to rat him out?www.boweryboyspodcast.com
Today it's known as Brooklyn's thriving Russian community next door to the amusements of the neighborhood of Coney Island. But a hundred years ago, the neighborhoods of Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach were the homes of lavish hotels catering to the upper and upper middle classes. While many people were playing at Coney Island's Steeplechase Park, Dreamland and Luna Park, the wealthiest were playing at the three most toniest hotels -- Brighton Beach Hotel, the Oriental Hotel and Manhattan Beach Hotel.Find out the origins of these long-gone resorts and how they make their mark on the current neighborhoods. ALSO: Why should we care so much about one particular raging anti-Semite? And why did the Brighton Beach Hotel, several thousand tons of it, have to get dragged inland 500 feet?www.boweryboyspodcast.com
New York City's most exotic residents inhabit hundreds of leafy acres in the Bronx at the once-named New York Zoological Park. Sculpted out of the former DeLancey family estate and tucked next to the Bronx River, the Bronx Zoo houses hundreds of different species from across the globe, many endangered and quite foreign to most American zoos. The well meaning attempts of its founders, however, have sometimes been mired in controversy. The highlight of the show -- and the institution's lowest moment -- is the sad tale of Ota Benga, the pygmy once put on display at the zoo in 1906!
ALSO: We take you on a tour of the zoo grounds, unfurling over 110 years of historical trivia, from the ancient Rocking Stone to the tale of Gunda, the Indian elephant who may also have been a poet.
EPISODE 100 We obviously had to spend our anniversary show with the Power Broker himself, everybody's favorite Parks Commissioner -- Robert Moses. A healthy debate about Moses will divide your friends, and we provide the resources to make your case for both sides. Robert Moses was one of the most powerful men in New York from the late 1920s until the late 1960s, using multiple appointed positions in state and local government to make his vast dream of a modern New York comes to fruition. That dream included glorious parkways and gravity-defying bridges. It also included parking lots and the wholesale destruction of thousands of homes. World's fairs and innovative housing complexes. Elevated highways plowed through residential neighborhoods -- straight through Harlem, midtown Manhattan, and SoHo.We get into the trenches of some of Moses's most renown and controversial projects -- the splendor of Jones Beach; the revolutionary parks and pools; the tragedy of the Cross Bronx Expressway, and his signature project, the Triborough Bridge. What side will you come down on -- did Robert Moses give New York City the resources it needs to excel in the 20th century, or did he hasten its demise with short-sighted, malignant vision?
Madison Square Garden is certainly the recognizable name in arena entertaining, hosting sports, concerts, even political conventions. But it adopted that reputation from three other buildings which also called themselves 'Madison Square Garden'.
The first, inspired by P.T Barnum and a popular bandleader, staked its claim in the hottest area of New York in the 1870s. The second, a classic designed by the city's most famous architect, featured both trendy new sports and high society events. The third Garden, moving up town, stripped off the glamour and helped make the Garden's sporting reputation.
We'll also tell you about the most famous event to ever happen in any Madison Square Garden -- a shocking and brutal murder which led to the 'trial of the century'.
I love the Manhattan Bridge, but there's no doubt it's had a rocky history. For one hundred years, it's withstood more than just comparisons to its far more iconic neighbor, the Brooklyn Bridge. Built to relieve pressure on the East River's best known bridge, the Manhattan Bridge went through two different engineers -- and a couple different ambitious designs -- before finally being completed by another architect who then went on in 1940 to design one of the WORST bridges in America. And what serious design flaw has afflicted the bridge for its entire history?
Listen in and find something to appreciate in this seriously under appreciated marvel of the East River.
Before Delmonico's, New Yorkers ate in taverns or oyster houses. But the city caught the fine dining bug at this family-owned business, Delmonico's Restaurant Francais, which standardized everything you know about restaurants today. Find out about "menus", "fresh ingredients", "dining rooms for ladies" and other unusual and exotic Delmonico innovations.
Trinity Church, with its distinctive spire staring down upon the west end of Wall Street, is more than just a house of worship. Over three different church buildings have sat at this site, and the current one by architect Richard Upjohn is one of America's finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. The church collected Manhattan's upper crust for decades and functions as one of the city's most powerful landowners. Listen to our short history on the New York institution and find out who's buried in their famous churchyards -- Founding Fathers, inventors and a whole lotta Astors.
The Cloisters, home of the Metropolitan Museum's repository for medieval treasures, was a labor of love for many lovers of great European art. In this podcast, I highlight three of the most important men in its history -- a passionate sculptor, a generous multimillionaire and a jet-setting curator. Equally as fascinating is the upper Manhattan park that houses the museum, a site of a Revolutionary War fort of the same name and the exploits of the war's most heroic women.
The modern music industry begins.... on 28th Street? A seemingly nondescript street in midtown Manhattan contains some of the most important buildings where early American pop music was created. Tin Pan Alley was a bustling and frenzied area, the most creative area of the city, with songwriters -- and song pluggers -- churning out iconic music. Sing along as we talk about the greatest songwriters and the process they went through to create the most influential tunes of the century.
Avast ye mateys, there were indeed pirates in New York! Not only did they operate throughout the New York region in the 19th century, most of their grave misdeeds were focused around the East River waterfront, and in particular, Corlear's Hook.
Once a sandy beach, Corlear's Hook, at the bend in the river in lower Manhattan, has a history that include mass slaughter, innovations of the shipping trade, the heart of New York prostitution and the birth of the tenement. And in the last half of the 19th century harbored pirate gangs with names like the Daybreak Boys, the Hook Gang and the Tub of Blood Bunch.
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 a little less than 200 years old.
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.
Henry Steinway, a German immigrant who came to New York in 1850, made his name in various showrooms and factories in downtown Manhattan, enticing the wealthy with his award-winning quality pianos. At their grand Steinway Hall on 14th Street, the family turned a popular concert venue into a clever marketing opportunity.
But their ultimate fate would lie outside of Manhattan; the Steinways would graduate from an innovative factory on Park Avenue to their very own company village in Queens, the basis of a neighborhood which still bears their name today. You may not know much about pianos, but you've cross path with this family's influence in the city. Tune in for this short history of Henry Steinway and his sons.
It's time for our third annual 'ghost stories' episode, our mix of historical facts and spooky legends from the annals of New York's past.
For this round of scary tales, we visit a famous 19th century townhouse haunted by a lonely spinster, a West Village speakeasy with some guests who still haven't gone home, and the site of a former restaurant that might be possessed with the spirit of a famous folk singer.
ALSO: we go back all the way to New Amsterdam for an old legend involving Peter Stuyvesant, a turbulent river, and the Devil himself!
We're going back to school with one of New York's oldest continually operating institutions -- Columbia University. Or should we say, King's College, the pre-Revolution New York school that spawned religious controversy and a few Founding Fathers to boot. Listen in as we chart its locations throughout the city -- from the vicinity of Trinity Church to midtown Manhattan. And finally to its permanent home on the 'Academic Acropolis' in Morningside Heights.
Arguably New York's least conventional hotel, the Chelsea Hotel (or rather, the Hotel Chelsea) is the one of New York's counter-culture centers, a glamorous, art-filled Tower of Babel for both creativity and debauchery. From Mark Twain to Andy Warhol, it's been both inspiration and location for artistic wonder. We wind back the clock to the beginnings of Chelsea and to the hotel's early years as one of the city's cooperative apartment buildings. What made the Chelsea so different? And why are people still fighting over this storied structure today?
For millions of Americans, Ellis Island is the symbol of introduction, the immigrant depot that processed their ancestors and offered an opening into a new American life. But for some, it would truly be an 'Island of Tears', a place where they would be excluded from that life. How did an island with such humble beginnings -- 'Little Oyster Island', barely a sliver of land in the New York harbor -- become so crucial? Who is the 'Ellis' of Ellis Island? And how did it survive decades of neglect to become one of New York's most famous tourist attractions?
Dedicated to my niece Courtney, who specifically suggested this episode.
New Yorkers are serious about their pizza, and it all started with a tiny grocery store in today's Little Italy and a group of young men who became the masters of pizza making. In this podcast, you'll find out all about the city's oldest and most revered pizzerias -- Lombardi's, Totonno's, John's, Grimaldi's and Patsy's in all its variations.
But if those are the greatest names in New York-style pizza, then who the heck is Ray -- Original, Famous or otherwise?
You cannot understand New York without understanding its most corrupt politician -- William 'Boss' Tweed, a larger than life personality with lofty ambitions to steal millions of dollars from the city. With the help of his 'Tweed Ring', the former chair-maker had complete control over the city -- what was being built, how much it would cost and who was being paid.
How do you bring down a corrupt government when it seems almost everybody's in on it? We reveal the downfall of the Tweed ring and the end to one of the biggest political scandal in New York history. It begins with a sleigh ride.
ALSO: Find out how Tammany Hall, the dominant political machine of the 19th century, got its start -- as a rather innocent social club that required men to dress up and pretend they're Indians.
EPISODE 88 What started in a tiny East Village basement grew to become one of New York's most enduring summer traditions, Shakespeare in the Park, featuring world class actors performing the greatest dramas of the age. But another drama was brewing just as things were getting started. It's Robert Moses vs. Shakespeare! Joseph Papp vs. the city! ALSO: Learn how the Public Theater got off the ground and helped save an Astor landmark in the process.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn's biggest public space and home to the borough's only natural forest, was a sequel for Olmsted and Vaux after their revolutionary creation Central Park. But can these two landscape architects still work together or will their egos get in the way? And what happens to their dream when McKim, Meade and White and Robert Moses get to it? ALSO: what glamorous 1960s movie actor is buried here?
We turn the clock back to the very beginnings of New York history -- to the European discovery of Manahatta and the voyages of Henry Hudson. Originally looking for a passage to Asia, Hudson fell upon New York harbor and the Lenape inhabitants of lands that would later make up New York City. The river that was eventually named after Hudson may not have provided access to Asia, but it did offer something else that attracted the Dutch and eventually the very first settlement, New Amsterdam. I'll tell you what it is as I share the strange and slightly oddball history of this influential explorer.
Originally a quiet island of orchards and stone quarries, the place we call Roosevelt Island today was once New York's 'city of asylums', the place where it sent its infirm, its incarcerated, its insane. Today it has the peculiar air of a small town with one of the best views in the world. Find out about its numerous names (from Hog's Island to Welfare Island), its many former institutions, and the stories behind the island's several existing ruins, including the ghostly remains of a smallpox hospital.
A 6-foot plump gold impish figure stares down at you as you look up to
observe the gorgeous red-brick design of the Puck Building, built for
one of the 19th Century's most popular illustrated publications. But
this architectural masterpiece was very nearly wiped away by a sudden
decision by the city. How did it survive?Puck's utterance "What Fools These Mortals Be!" is the slogan for Puck Magazine and words written by Shakespeare.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
The story of Pennsylvania Station involves more than just nostalgia for the long-gone temple of transportation as designed by the great McKim, Meade and White. It's a tale of incredible tunnels, political haggling and big visions. Find out why the original Penn Station was built to look so classical, why it was then torn down, and what strange behaviors the tunnels that connect it to New Jersey exhibit every night.
The Whyos (pronounced Why-Ohs) were New York's most notorious gang after the Civil War, organizing their criminal activities and terrorizing law abiding citizens of the Gilded Age. Find out when they lived, how they broke the law and who they were -- from Googie Corcoran to Dandy Johnny, as well as two particularly notable guys named Danny. ALSO: How much does it cost to have somebody's ear bitten off?
The Great Fire of 1835 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? Listen in as we recount this breathtaking tale of the biggest fire in New York City history.
What is Freedomland U.S.A.? An unusual theme park in the Bronx, only in existence for less than five years, Freedomland has become the object of fascination for New York nostalgia lovers everywhere. Created by an outcast of Walt Disney's inner circle, Freedomland practically defines 60s kitsch, with dozens of rides and amusements related to saccharine views of American history. Along the way, we'll take a visit to the Blast-Off Bunker, Casa Loco, and, yes, Borden's Barn Boudoir!
F.W. Woolworth was the self-made king of retail's newfangled 'five and dime' store and his pockets were overflowing with cash. Meanwhile, in New York, the contest to build the tallest building was underway. The two combine to create one of Manhattan's most handsome buildings, cutting a Gothic profile designed by America's hottest architect of the early century. So what does it all have to do with sneakers and gym clothes?
(with an extra 'Bowery Boys blooper' after the show)
Williamsburg used to have an H at the end of its name, not to mention dozens of major industries that once made it the tenth wealthiest place in the world. How did Williamsburgh become a haven for New York's most well-known factories and how did it then become the wildly diverse neighborhood it is today? Find out how its history connects with whalebones, baseball, beer, and medicine for intestinal worms.
We embark on the tale of the birth of New York City flight -- featuring a Wright brother on Governor's Island, the site of a glue factory turned Brooklyn air strip, Queens' forgotten first airport, and finally to the pet project of mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
Cue the dancing girls, lower the props, raise the curtain -- it's the Bowery Boys and we're taking on Broadway's most famous producer, Florenz Ziegfeld! We give you a brief overview of the first days of Broadway, then sweep into Ziegfeld's life -- from his early successes (both professional and personal) to his famous Follies. And find out how the current Ziegfeld Theatre, a movie house, relates to the original Ziegfeld Theatre, home of Broadway's first 'real' musical, Show Boat.
Webster Hall, as beautifully worn and rough-hewn as it was during its heyday in the 1910s and 20s, disguises a very surprising past, a significant venue in the history of the labor movement, Greenwich Village bohemia, gay and lesbian life, and pop and rock music. Its ballroom has hosted the likes of Emma Goldman, Marcel Duchamp, Elvis Presley, Robert F Kennedy and Madonna. Listen in to find out how it got it's reputation as 'the devil's playhouse'.
It's the summer of 1969, and the police have raided the Stonewall, a popular gay bar in the West Village. Join us as we look at the raid, the riots, and their significance today.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
What's buried in Grant's Tomb? A quirky history that includes an ambitious architect, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, lots of ugly raspberry paint, and charges of prostitution and animal sacrifice! Oh yeah, and that Civil War guy's buried here too....
You know PT Barnum from his circus, but he was bringing the freakshow to New York long before then. Come take a tour with us of the craziest museum to ever hit New York City. Co-starring the Fejee Mermaid, the Witch of Staten Island, Tom Thumb, the original Siamese twins, some unfortunate whales, and the strange and mortally offensive What IS It?
Join the Bowery Boys for a commute through the history of Grand Central -- the depot, the station, and the terminal. www.boweryboyspodcast.com
What do Salvador Dali, John Jacob Astor, Peter Stuyvesant, the Civil War, and a big pile of trash have to do with the world's biggest penal colony? We connect the dots in this history of Rikers Island.
JD Rockefeller Sr. may have earned his money is some rather unscrupulous ways, but his son Junior made good by giving midtown a towering city-within-a-city, a complex of Art Deco buildings that serves as New York's beating heart. We take a compact look at the complicated lineage of Rockefeller Center, from its controversial artwork to its famous Christmas tree.
You don't have to be a beautiful celebrity to enjoy the history of New York's greatest disco, from its early days as an opera and television studio, to the late 70s, full of wild parties, famous folk and a really difficult door policy. With Warhol, Minnelli, Jagger and Grace Jones in her Sunday best. It's Studio 54, are you on the list?
Come listen to the strange and shocking facts of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, of a workplace tragedy that changed how New Yorkers live an work in a world of tall, flammable buildings.
EXTRA! EXTRA! Origins of New York Scandal Sheet Revealed! Post May Be Responsible For Central Park! Rupert Murdoch Property Was Once A Nest of Liberal Sympathizers!
PLUS: Was there really a "headless body" in a "topless bar"?
New York's most hectic park has been the stage for massive Civil War rallies, somber funerals, passionate workers gatherings and both premier and inexpensive shopping. Today, it's got a little bit of everything for everyone. Join the Bowery Boys as they did into the history of Union Square.
Get ready for nine innings (or 30 minutes) of the greatest sports team ever -- the New York Yankees. Hear about their modest beginnings, their best players, and the fate of Yankee Stadium, their home for 85 years.
(And I apologize in advance for this week's wonky recording sound!)
You'll be surprised by Tiffany's 170-year history as a vanguard in New York luxury. See how they went from selling horse whips to world class diamonds. And what makes Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast At Tiffany's particularly important to the fate of this upscale retailer?
A podcast that's "very Saks Fifth Avenue," we get to the origins of the famous upscale retailer, follow its path from Washington D.C. to Heralds Square and then to "the most expensive street in the world," and tell you a little about a glamorous milliner named Tatiana.
We've never done such a saucy show -- full of sex, lies, and petticoats. Meet Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn Heights' most notorious resident, and find out about the fascinating and provocative history of the church that turned him into a national celebrity.
What was life like in New York during the British occupation during the Revolutionary War? Overcrowding, prison ships, food shortages, spies ... and theater?
It's 1776 and revolution is in the air! Join the Bowery Boys as we tackle the British invasion and takeover of New York.
The Bowery Boys stop for a nosh at three Jewish culinary stalwarts of the Lower East Side -- Katz Delicatessen (a movie-friendly dining experience), Russ and Daughters (a tale of herring and girl power) and the Yonah Schimmel Knishery (and its surprising connection to Coney Island).
It's 1964, and we're heading out to Flushing Meadows, Queens, where Robert Moses has constructed the World's Fair of his dreams -- for a second time. Join us for this tale of yesterday's World of Tomorrow...
The biggest surprise behind the revolutionary creation of the Museum of Modern Art is that the characters who put it together were almost as colorful as the art they championed. Tag along as we peek behind the canvas of New York's oldest temple of the avant garde. PLUS: We debut our first Bowery Girl!
Castle Clinton, built to defend New York City from a war that never arrived, has worn a lot of hats in its almost 200 year history; it's been a performance hall, an immigration center and an aquarium! And you can find it in Battery Park, today host to a variety of monuments and made from the materials of ole Fort Amsterdam.
Cooper Union is one of New York City's more storied institutions, not only fostering the best and brightest of art and architecture, but playing host to presidents and activists. Also, find out a little about its amazingly resourceful founder, Peter Cooper.
This is our "potpourri" episode with a little bit of everything in it. We open up some of our favorite readers mail, we take you behind the scenes of how we put together an episode, and we describe three of our very favorite history-related websites that you should check out.
But it wouldn't be a podcast without some history, right? So we take a brief stroll down the Bowery, with over 200 years of history of this famous street. But has anything really changed?
The Bowery Boys explore the story and the family behind the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York's most treasured landmarks -- caissons, anchorages and all.
Times Square's New Years Eve celebration would not be the same without One Times Square and its annual ball drop. But the quirky history of this sometimes abused building reaches all the way back to the naming of Times Square and its original tenent -- the New York Times.
It got off to a rocky start, but the Plaza Hotel has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in New York City. We take a look at its kooky history, from its days as an upper class 'transient hotel' to a party place for celebrities. Starring: Henry Hardenberg, Eloise, Truman Capote and of course the unsinkable Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
Behind the glamour of New York's greatest stage, Radio City Music Hall is a story involving a toothpaste tube designer, an allergy to Brazil nuts, a hydraulic lift protected from the Nazis, and a grandstanding but forgotten man by the name of Roxy. PLUS: The Bowery Boys go backstage (figuratively) with the Rockettes.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
What are the Bowery Boys doing in Chicago? Just a little detour in our search for the origins of the Flatiron Building, the wedge shaped, wind producing oddity -- built as an office space in a department store neighborhood which grew to become one of the most romantic, elegant buildings in New York City.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
A true five-borough episode! The New York City Marathon hosts thousands of runners from all over the world, the dream project of the New York Road Runners and in particular one Fred Lebow, an employee of the Fashion District turned athletic icon. Find out how he launched a massive race in the midst of bankrupt New York. Also -- our guest host Tanya Bielski-Braham takes us on a speedy tour of the course, from the Verrazano-Narrow Bridge to Tavern on the Green.
For our very special 25th episode, we give you all sorts of Bowery boys -- the cultural and fashion trends of the 1840s, the notorious enemy of the Five Points gangs, and that slapstick bunch of New York actors from the 1930s and 1940s. And of course, a little bit about us!www.boweryboyspodcast.com
During the 1940s and 1950s, any celebrity worth their weight in fame either frequented or performed at the Copacabana, a swanky nightclub known for its showgirls, its Chinese food and its mafia ties. On this mini-podcast, we take you on a night on the town with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, and a rowdy table of New York Yankees.
Did you know that the man whose name adorns one of the most successful department stores in the world was a sailor turned failed businessman? Or why Macy's Department Store ALMOST takes up an entire city block? Or how many clowns have been in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade? The Bowery Boys let you in on those answers and lots of other fun facts about one of New York City's premier retailers.
The spiral-ramped wonder that is the Guggenheim Museum began as the dream of two colorful characters -- a severe German artist and her rich patron art-lover. So how did they convince the most famous architect in the world to sign on to their dream for a modern art "museum temple"? Come meander with us through the Guggenheim's quirky history. Co-starring Robert Moses! www.boweryboyspodcast.com
The Bowery Boys take on the history of New York City's most 'forgotten' borough, from its beginnings as a British outpost during the Revolutionary War to the controversy over that big stinky landfill. And we do it all in exactly the time it takes for the Staten Island ferry to take you across the New York harbor! (No really, try it.)
We're going to the 'original' Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in this podcast to hang with the filthy rich. Our guides are the styling and eccentric Astor family, the centerpiece of 19th Century New York wealth and society. Come along as we weave through a family tree of Williams and John Jacobs, not to mention THE Mrs. Astor, the one and only (even if there were really two).
It's the only area of Manhattan that actually belongs to the entire world (literally). Come along with the Bowery Boys as we cut the security line to uncover the true story about the unusual headquarters of the United Nations, and why they ended up in New York City in the first place.
In this mini-podcast, we bring you New York City's first internationally famous writer Washington Irving and his creepy tale of the Headless Horseman. We'll tell you where you can go to celebrate his life and work, and what famous Irving landmark has nothing really to do with him.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
The most desirable woman in downtown Manhattan -- the 'beautiful cigar girl' Mary Rogers -- is found horribly murdered along the Hoboken shore. Hear some of the stories of the murder's prime suspects and marvel at the excessive attentions of the penny press. Also: the deductive Edgar Allen Poe writes one of the first detective stories, and the notorious Madame Restell, who has a surprising connection to the murder.
A city this size certainly has its share of ghosts, and the Bowery Boys spend the spooky season with some of the most famous -- a suicide showgirl, a grumpy landowner, a womanizer theater owner and a rich spinster.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
The New York Public Library may be one of the most revered libraries in America, but it took a far flung combination of bookworms, millionaires and do-gooders to make it into the institution it is today. Also: find out why the architectural style of the Beaux Arts sometimes reminds me of an old French prostitute.
Lady Liberty -- her torch may shine bright, but what story is she hiding under that copper-toned skin? The Bowery Boys bring you the story of the French dinner party that created an American icon.
Harlem's jewel, the Apollo Theater, has more than lived up to its promise as a place "where stars are born and legends are made." It's been the cultural centerpiece of New York for more than seven decades, not bad for a former burlesque theater. And find out which icon made his name -- and held his funeral -- on the same stage.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
Back when New York was New Amsterdam, it was the domain of the bullheaded, pear-growing, peglegged Peter Stuyvesant, who cleaned up the city and gave us our most important street. Find out why he still matters and why he's the king of the East Village.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
By popular demand, we return to the creepier tales of New York City
history, ghost tales and stories of murder and mayhem, all of them at
some point involving great American icons -- Alexander Hamilton, P.T.
Barnum, Dorothy Parker and Mark Twain.
Our older shows will be available on iTunes next week! Just look for
the show called Bowery Boys Archives for our first year of shows,
remastered and re-edited.
Come see the Wonder Wheel, the king of hot dogs, the "Freaks" in the Dreamland Sideshow, a beached whale and Donald Trump's dad -- all in one place! It's Coney Island in the 20th Century. But will it be around much longer in the 21st?
A world of amusement starts here in New York -- Coney Island, the world's oldest and strangest collection of amusement parks, a mishmash of sideshows, concession stands, gambling halls, new-fangled rides and luxury hotels. Take a daytrip with us back to the early days of Coney Island. Hold on to your hat! Part one of a two part mega-episode.
Ah, the classic Chrysler Building! She's got style, glamour and all that jazz. But what magical surprise did she spring on New York in October of 1929? Join us as we tell the story of New York's most beautiful art deco treasure.
From an odd assortment of abandoned creatures, to one of the most notorious zoos in the world, take a tour with us through Central Park's storybook zoo.
The fashionable district of NoLIta happens to be home to a few ghosts as well, tucked behind the walls of St Patrick's Old Cathedral. Come with us as we unearth some info about a mysterious New York fraternal order, the occupants of a few cemetery crypts, and the origins of a legendary film director.
Learn about New York's most famous luxury apartment building and the classic horror film set here. Plus: Lauren Bacall, Connie Chung and some dumb waiters!
Something's afoot in Washington Square Park. Join the Bowery Boys this week on an expedition through one of New York's quirkiest -- and most beloved -- parks, from Hangman's Elm to Bob Dylan. And you say there's WHAT buried in the ground underneath the park?
New York's most under-appreciated treasure gets the Bowery Boys treatment. It's Governors Island: a fort, a small town, a prison and a Burger King ... all bought for one dollar.
Flash back to the summer of 1977, when Star Wars and the Yankees ruled, gas prices were high, a serial killer roamed the streets, and the city experienced a little convenience called the New York City blackout.
Green-wood Cemetery is one of New York's oldest burial grounds, but its development reaches back all the way to the beginning of Brooklyn's surprising history -- in fact, to the founder of Brooklyn Heights. Find out why it took an inventive city planner with a funny name, a dead New York icon, and a few errant parakeets to make this place a beautiful, richly historical place to visit today.www.boweryboyspodcast.com
We tackle the New York Stock Exchange in this episode, beginning with Alexander Hamilton, some pushy auctioneers, a coffee house and a sycamore tree. And find how this seminal financial institution ended up in its latest home -- that beautiful, classically designed George Post building, with a marble goddess on top who was almost too heavy for her own good.
The Mets are movin' out to Citi Field, but we can't overlook the great stories contained in their own home, Shea Stadium, a Robert Moses project took years to get off the ground.
Today it's the Met Life Building. It's been called the ugliest building in New York City. It sits like a monolith behind one of the city's most enduring icons Grand Central Terminal. But it's got some secrets you may not know about. In this podcast, we scale the heights of this misunderstood marvel of modern architecture.
Part two of our "Five Points" podcast. Join us as we explore the "wicked" neighborhood's clean up, fall from grace, and eventual destruction.
You've heard the legend of New York's most notorious neighborhood. Now come with us as we hit the streets of Five Points and dig up some of the nitty, gritty details of its birth, its first residents and its
most scandalous pastimes.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Well, we can at least show you the way through its tumultuous history, from a fortunate meeting on a Norwegian cruise ship, past a symphonic rivalry, and into the 20th Century with some of the biggest names in classical and popular music.
Small islands reveal fascinating secrets of New York's past, and Randall's and Ward's Islands are no exceptions.
Found out how these former potter's fields are related to the most important Olympics-related event New York City has ever seen.
The cast includes a swashbuckling British engineer, Jesse Owens, Tony Bennett, FDR, Othmar Ammann, Robert Moses, and Pearl Jam!
When last we left Central Park, it was the embodiment of Olmstead and Vaux's naturalistic Greensward Plan. So how did all those playgrounds, a swanky nightclub, a theater troupe and all those hippies get here?
Come with us to the beginnings of New York's most popular and most ambitious park -- from the inkling of an idea to the arduous construction. Learn who got uprooted and find out who the park was REALLY intended for.
How did the land surrounding an old 19th century fortress develop into the city's mainline distributor for produce and meat? And how did that once bustling place transform itself from the dilapidated home of leather bars and prostitutes to a hot spot of high fashion stores and boutique hotels? Welcome to the Meatpacking District, one of Manhattan's strangest neighborhoods. www.boweryboyshistory.com
Meet former mayor, governor, senator and privileged son DeWitt Clinton, one of New York's most successful politicians and champion of the Erie Canal.
Grab yourself a couple mugs of dark ale and learn about the history of one of New York City's oldest bars, serving everyone from Abraham Lincoln to John Lennon --- and eventually even women!
We celebrate a year of New York City history podcasting by re-visiting the topic of our very first show.
Downtown Civic Center used to have a big ole pond in the middle of it which provided drinking water for the island's first inhabitants.
What happened to it, why is it important today and how did it give rise to Canal Street, New York's biggest traffic thoroughfare?