The Bowery Boys: New York City History (general)
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?

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!

Direct download: 207_The_First_Subway__Beachs_Pneumatic_Marvel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm EDT

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

Direct download: 206_The_Lenape__The_Real_Native_New_Yorkers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm EDT

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

Direct download: Dorothy_Arnold_-_final_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:51pm EDT

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.

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

 

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.

 

Direct download: 204_The_Cotton_Club__The_Aristocrat_of_Harlem.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:03pm EDT

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

Direct download: 202_Lower_Eat_Side.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:28pm EDT

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.

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 201_GOWANUS_Brooklyns_Troubled_Waters.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:07am EDT

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!

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 200_Jane_Jacobs__Saving_the_Village.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36am EDT

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

Direct download: 199-2_Behind_the_Show_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:57am EDT

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.

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 199_Battle_For_The_Skyline.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:04am EDT

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.

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

And coming in May 2016 -- The Adventures In Old New York, the first-ever Bowery Boys book!

Direct download: 198_Greenpoint_Brooklyn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15am EDT