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?
#146 Herald Square

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? 

Direct download: 146_Herald_Square.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:48am EDT

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? 
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Direct download: 145_Bicycle_Mania_From_Velocipede_to_the_Ten-Speed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:43pm EDT

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.

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Direct download: Hurricane_Sandy_Update.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:59pm EDT

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.

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 144_Mysteries_and_Magicians_of_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:11pm EDT

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).

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Direct download: 143_Water_For_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:43pm EDT

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.

Direct download: 142_New_York_University.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:17am EDT

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

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Direct download: 141_New_York_Beer_History.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:07pm EDT

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!

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Direct download: 140_Rockaway_Beach.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:08pm EDT

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!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 139_Brooklyn_Academy_of_Music.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:43am EDT

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?

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Direct download: St._Marks_in_the_Bowery.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:27pm EDT

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!

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Radio clips featured in this show can be found at http://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio

Direct download: 137_NYC_and_the_World_of_Radio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:07pm EDT

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!

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Direct download: 136_The_High_Line_Walking_Tour.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54pm EDT

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. 

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Direct download: 135_The_High_Line.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:02pm EDT

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!

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Direct download: St._Patricks_Cathedral.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05am EDT

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!

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Direct download: Red_Hook__Brooklyn_on_the_Waterfront.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:56pm EDT