Thu, 23 June 2016
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!
Thu, 9 June 2016
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)
Thu, 26 May 2016
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.
Thu, 12 May 2016
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:
-- I made two 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.
Thu, 28 April 2016
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 City.
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 bookstore.
Fri, 15 April 2016
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!
Fri, 1 April 2016
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.
Fri, 18 March 2016
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 10th anniversary of her birth.
PLUS: ROOOOBERT MOOOOSES!
Tue, 8 March 2016
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?
Fri, 19 February 2016
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.