New York City History: The Bowery Boys
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?
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?
Direct download: Times_Square.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:28 PM

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.

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 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.

 

Direct download: 117_Mark_Twains_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:11 AM

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.

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Direct download: 116_American_Museum_of_Natural_History.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:54 AM

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? 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 115_African_Burial_Ground.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:57 AM

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.

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: Supernatural_Stories_of_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02 AM

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

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: Niblos_Garden.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:06 AM

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?

Direct download: Gracie_Mansion.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:24 PM

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.

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: Subway_Graffiti.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:49 AM

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!

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: Subway_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33 AM

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?

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: Building_the_Subway.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:07 AM