The Bowery Boys: New York City History
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?

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.

Direct download: 187_Super_City__New_York_and_the_History_of_Comic_Books.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:29 AM

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.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!

Direct download: 186_Hells_Kitchen.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:38 PM

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!

Direct download: 185_Govs_Is_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:35 AM

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.

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 (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!

Direct download: 184_The_Flatiron_Building.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50 PM

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.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 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!

Direct download: 183_Orchard_Street.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:22 AM

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.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 182_Mae_West_on_Broadway.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:37 AM

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
 

Direct download: 181_Park_Slope.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:02 AM

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

Direct download: 180__The_Chelsea_Piers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:28 AM

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.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

patreon.com/boweryboys

Direct download: 179_The_Fight_for_Bryant_Park.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46 AM

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?

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 178_The_Crystal_Palace.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:06 AM