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?

Texas Guinan was the queen of the speakeasy era, the charismatic and sassy hostess of New York's hottest nightclubs of the 1920s. Her magnetism, sharpened by years of work in Hollywood, would make her one of the great icons of the Prohibition era.

She's our guide into the underworld of the Jazz Age as we explore the history of Prohibition and how it affected New York City. 

The temperance movement united a very bizarre group of players -- progressives, nativists, churchgoers -- in their quest to eliminate the evil of alcohol from American society. Many saw liquor as a symbol of systemic social failure; others suspected it as the weakness of certain immigrant groups.

Guinan, a Catholic girl from Waco, Texas, was introduced to New York's illegal booze scene by way of the nightclub. Her associations with rumrunners and gangsters were certainly dangerous, but her unique skills and charms allowed her an unprecedented power on the edges of a world fueled by the ways of organized crime. 

Come along as we visit her various nightclubs and follow the course of Prohibition in New York City from the loftiest heights to the lowliest dive.

 

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Direct download: 234_Queen_of_the_Speakeasies__A_Tale_of_Prohibition_New_York.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53pm EDT

The Bowery Boys are heading to the speakeasy and kicking back with some bathtub gin this month -- with a brand new series focusing on New York City during the Prohibition Era.

The 1920s were a transformational decade for New York, evolving from a Gilded Age capital to the ideal of the modern international city. Art Deco skyscrapers reinvented the skyline, reorienting the center of gravity from downtown to a newly invigorated Midtown Manhattan. Cultural influences, projected to the world via radio and the silent screen, helped create a new American style.

And the king of it all was Jimmy Walker, elected mayor of New York City just as its prospects were at their highest. The Tin Pan Alley songwriter-turned-Tammany Hall politician was always known more for his grace and style than his accomplishments. His wit and character embodied the spirit (and the spirits) of the Roaring '20s.

Join us for an after-midnight romp with the Night Mayor of New York as ascends to the most powerful seat in the city and spends his first term in the lap of luxury. What could possibly go wrong?

Direct download: 01_233_Mayor_Jimmy_Walker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33pm EDT

Picture the neighborhood of SoHo (that’s right, "South of Houston") in your head today, and you might get a headache. Crowded sidewalks on the weekend, filled with tourists, shoppers and vendors, could almost distract you from SoHo’s unique appeal as a place of extraordinary architecture and history.

On this podcast we present the story of how a portion of “Hell’s Hundred Acres” became one of the most famously trendy places in the world.

In the mid 19th century this area, centered along Broadway, became the heart of retail and entertainment, department stores and hotels setting up shop in grand palaces. (It also became New York’s most notorious brothel district). The streets between Houston and Canal became known as the Cast Iron District, thanks to an exciting construction innovation that transformed the Gilded Age.

Today SoHo contains the world’s greatest surviving collection of cast-iron architecture. But these gorgeous iron tributes to New York industry were nearly destroyed – first by rampant fires, then by Robert Moses. Community activists saved these buildings, and just in time for artists to move into their spacious loft spaces in the 1960s and 70s. The artists are still there of course but these once-desolate cobblestone streets have almost unrecognizably changed, perhaps a victim of its own success.

Direct download: 01_232_Story_of_Soho.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:13pm EDT

While Greg and Tom are away this week on life-changing adventures, please enjoy this very New York City-centric episode of the Bowery Boys spinoff podcast The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences --

The Black Crook is considered the first-ever Broadway musical, a dizzying, epic-length extravaganza of ballerinas, mechanical sets, lavish costumes and a storyline about the Devil straight out of a twisted hallucination.

The show took New York by storm when it debuted on September 12, 1866. This is the story of how this completely weird, virtually unstageable production came to pass. Modern musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Hamilton wouldn’t quite be what they are today without this curious little relic.

Featuring music by Adam Roberts and Libby Dees, courtesy the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

And the voice of Ben Rimalower reading the original reviews of the Black Crook.

And our special thanks to Secret Summer NYC for sponsoring this episode. Please visit www.secretsummernyc.com for more information and to get tickets.

boweryboyshistory.com 

 

Direct download: The_Bowery_Boys_Present__The_First_Broadway_Musical.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 6:49pm EDT

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, undercover police officers attempting to raid the Stonewall Inn, a mob-controlled gay bar with darkened windows on Christopher Street, were met with something unexpected -- resistance.

That 'altercation' was a messy affair indeed -- chaotic, violent, dangerous for all. Homeless youth fought against riot police along the twisting, crooked streets of the West Village. And yet, by the end, thousands from all walks of life met on those very same streets in the days and weeks to come in a new sense of empowerment.

In May of 2008, we recorded a podcast on the Stonewall Riots, an event that galvanized the LGBTQ community, giving birth to political organizations and a sense of unity and pride.

So much has changed within the LGBTQ community -- and so much was left out of our original show -- that's we've decided to do something unique. In the first half, we present to you our original 2008 history on the Stonewall Riots, warts and all. In the second half, we present newly recorded material, exploring the effects of Stonewall on the crises that faced the gay community in the 1980s and 90s.

Now an official U.S. National Monument maintained by the National Park Service, the Stonewall National Monument preserves New York City's role in the birth of the international LGBT movement.

And please forgive us in advance for being extra personal in this show near the end.

 

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Direct download: 231_The_Stonewall_Riots_Revisited.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:14pm EDT

Today we sometimes define New York City's African-American culture by place – Harlem, of course, and also Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, neighborhoods that developed for groups of black residents in the 20th century.

But by no means were these the first in New York City. Other centers of black and African-American life existed long before then. In many cases, they were obliterated by the growth of the city, sometimes built over without a single marker, without recognition.

This is the story of a few of those places.  From the 'land of the blacks' -- the home to New Amsterdam and British New York's early black population -- to Seneca Village, a haven for early African-American lives that was wiped away by a park. From Little Africa -- the Greenwich Village sector for the black working class in the late 19th century -- to Sandy Ground, a rural escape in Staten Island with deep roots in the neighborhood today.

And then there's Weeksville, Brooklyn, the visionary village built to bond a community and to develop a political foothold.

Greg welcomes Kamau Ware (of the Black Gotham Experience) and Tia Powell Harris of the Weeksville Heritage Center to the show!

 
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Direct download: 230_Before_Harlem.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55pm EDT

In early June of 2007, Tom Meyers and Greg Young sat around a laptop and a karaoke microphone, looked out over Canal Street in the Lower East Side and began recording the very first Bowery Boys: New York City History Podcast.

For ten years the Bowery Boys podcast has brought the history of this extraordinary city to life -- the people, places and events which have helped shape our modern metropolis.

In celebration of this anniversary, join them for their very first podcast event in front of a live audience as a part of the 2017 NYC Podfest festival. This show was recorded on April 9, 2017, at the Bell House, in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

They talk about how they met, how they came up with the idea for their show and run through a list of their favorite and most notable podcasts.

The Bowery Boys are joined by moderator Nat Towsen, host of the Nat Towsen Downtown Variety Hour every month at UCB Theater in the East Village. And stay tuned until the end! An unexpected guest arrives to present the Bowery Boys with a special gift.

FEATURING: Stories of Eartha Kitt, Boss Tweed, ABBA, Evelyn Nesbit, P. T. Barnum, Tallulah Bankhead, Donald Trump, Varla Jean Merman, the musical Rent and, of course, Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.

boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 229_The_Bowery_Boys_Podcast_Live_In_Brooklyn.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT

The area of Lower Manhattan below Wall Street is today filled with investment bankers, business people and tourists. But did you know, over 300 years ago, that the same streets were once crawling with pirates?

In the early decades of the British colony of New York, the city was quite an appealing destination for pirates and their ships filled with stolen treasure. After all, the port of New York was far away from the supervision of the crown, providing local merchants with ample temptations to do business with the high sea's most notorious criminals.

Captain William Kidd is a figure of legend, the most ruthless and bloodthirsty pirate on the planet. And yet, for many years, he was a respectable New York gentleman, with connected friends, a wealthy wife and a sumptuous home on Pearl Street near the original wall of Wall Street.

But Kidd sought adventure as a privateer and made a deal with prominent New Yorkers to scour British trading routes for pirates. This is the tale of how a dashing New York sea captain became branded (perhaps unfairly) as one of the most evil men of the ocean.

PLUS: Captain Kidd startling connection to New York's Trinity Church! And where in New York City might one find some of Captain Kidd's fabled treasure today?

 

boweryboyshistory.com

 

CORRECTION: From the final section — it is Blackbeard the pirate, not Bluebeard the pirate, who is made an example of by the English in 1718.


On the afternoon of May 6, 1937, New Yorkers looked overhead at an astonishing sight -- the arrival of the Hindenburg, the largest airship in the world, drifting calmly across the sky. 

New York City was already in the throes of "Zeppelin mania" by then. These rigid gas-filled airships, largely manufactured by Germany, were experiencing a Jazz Age rediscovery thanks in part to the Graf Zeppelin, a glamorous commercial airship which first crossed the ocean in 1928. Its commander and crew even received two ticker-tape parades through lower Manhattan.

In size and prominence, the Hindenburg would prove to be the greatest airship of all. It was the Concorde of its day, providing luxurious transatlantic travel for the rich and famous. In Germany, the airship was used as a literal propaganda machine for the rising Nazi government of Adolf Hitler.

But dreams of Zeppelin-filled skies were quickly vanquished in the early evening hours of May 6, 1937, over a landing field in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Its destruction would be one of the most widely seen disasters in the world, marking an end to this particular vision of the future.

But a mark of the Zeppelin age still exists on the New York City skyline, atop the city's most famous building!

Direct download: 01_227_The_Hindenburg_Over_New_Yo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:55pm EDT

The Midtown Manhattan stretch of Fifth Avenue, once known for its ensemble of extravagant mansions owned by the Gilded Age's wealthiest families, went through an astonishing makeover one hundred years ago. Many lavish abodes of the rich were turned into exclusive retail boutiques, catering to the very sorts of people who once lived here.

On the forefront of this transformation were two women from very different backgrounds. Elizabeth Arden was a Canadian entrepreneur, looking to establish her business in the growing city of New York. Helena Rubinstein, from Poland by way of Australia, already owned an established company and looked to Manhattan as a way to anchor her business in America.

Their products -- beauty! Creams, lotions, ointments and cleansers. Then later: eye-liners, rouges, lipsticks, mascaras.

In this episode we observe the growing independence of American woman and the changing beauty standards which arose in the 1910s and 20s, bringing 'the painted face' into the mainstream.

And it's in large part thanks to these two extraordinary businesswomen, crafting two parallel empires in a corporate framework usually reserved for men.

ALSO: Theda Bara, Estée Lauder, Max Factor and a whole lot of sheep and horses!

Visit boweryboyshistory.com for images described in this show as well as other articles relating to New York City history.

Direct download: 226_The_Beauty_Bosses_of_Fifth_Avenue.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 7:43pm EDT

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages -- the Bowery Boys present to you the tale of P. T. Barnum and his "Greatest Show on Earth," the world's most famous circus!

You can't even bring up the discussion of circuses without mentioning the name of Barnum. But in fact, he only entered the circus business in his later years, after decades of success with bizarre museums, traveling curiosities, touring opera divas and all manner of fabricated 'humbugs'.

In the late 19th century, in order for circuses to survive, innovators like Barnum needed to come up with startling new ways to get the attentions of audiences. Although his circus -- which would eventually merge with that of James Bailey and, later, the Ringling Brothers -- was a sensation which toured across the United States, it always began each season in New York, specifically situated on the northeast corner of Madison Square.

Tune in to find out how New York institutions owned by Barnum became imprinted on the basic structure of the classic American circus.  And join us as we visit the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT, to gather some insight on Barnum's unique genius.

CO-STARRING: Jumbo the Elephant, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, the Cardiff Giant and Tom Thumb!

Direct download: 225_P._T._Barnum_and_the_Greatest_Show_on_Earth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:16pm EDT

You don't have a New York City without the Irish. In fact, you don't have a United States of America as we know it today.

This diverse and misunderstood immigrant group began coming over in significant numbers starting in the Colonial era, mostly as indentured servants. In the early 19th century, these Irish arrivals, both Protestants and Catholics, were already consolidating -- via organizations like the Ancient Order of the Hibernians and in places like St. Patrick's Cathedral.

But starting in the 1830s, with a terrible blight wiping out Ireland's potato crops, a mass wave of Irish immigration would dwarf all that came before, hundreds of thousands of weary, sometimes desperate newcomers who entered New York to live in its most squalid neighborhoods.

The Irish were among the laborers who built the Croton Aqueduct, the New York grid plan and Central Park. Irish women comprised most of the hired domestic help by the mid 19th century.

The arrival of the Irish and their assimilation into American life is a story repeated in many cities. Here in New York City, it is essential in our understanding of the importance of modern immigrant communities to the life of the Big Apple.

PLUS: The origins of New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: The_Arrival_of_the_Irish.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:24pm EDT

One June afternoon in the spring of 1919, a group of writers and theatrical folk got together at the Algonquin Hotel to roast the inimitable Alexander Woollcott, the trenchant theater critic for the New York Times who had just returned from World War I, brimming with dramatically overbaked stories.  

The affair was so rollicking, so engaging, that somebody suggested -- "Why don't we do this every day?"

And so they did. The Algonquin Round Table is the stuff of legends, a regular lunch date for the cream of New York's cultural elite. In this show, we present you with some notable members of the guest list -- including the wonderful droll Dorothy Parker, the glibly observant Franklin Pierce Adams and the charming Robert Benchley, to name but a few.

But you can't celebrate the Round Table from a recording studio so we head to the Algonquin to soak in the ambience and interview author Kevin C. Fitzpatrick about the Jazz Age's most famous networking circle.

Are you ready for a good time? “The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” -- Dorothy Parker

Direct download: 01_223_Algonquin_Round_Table.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:26pm EDT

In the spring of 1836, a young woman named Helen Jewett was brutally murdered with a hatchet in a townhouse on Thomas Street, just a few blocks northwest from City Hall.

This was not a normal crime. Helen was a prostitute of great beauty and considerable intelligence, making her living in a rapidly transforming city. Among her client list were presentable gentlemen and rowdy young men alike -- their kind fueling the rise of illicit pleasures throughout New York City in the 1830s.

This was the era of the sporting man. Young single men with a little change in their pocket hit the streets of New York after dark, looking for a good time. For some single young women struggling to survive, the sex industry -- from the 'high end' brothels to the grimy upper tiers of the theater -- allowed them to live comfortable, if secretive, lives. But it placed many in great danger.

The prime suspect for Helen's murder was a young Connecticut man who worked at a respectable New York firm. His trial would captivate New Yorkers and even interest newspaper readers around the country. But would justice be served?

ALSO: Find out how this incident helped shape the nature of American journalism itself.

PLUS: Meet more than one person named Ogden!

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

If you like this show, check out the new Bowery Boys spin-off podcast series -- The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences. You can find it the same place you found this show.

Direct download: 222_Who_Murdered_Helen_Jewett__A_Mystery_By_Gaslight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:56pm EDT

During a handful of months in 1789 and 1790, representatives of the new nation of the United States came together in New York City to make decisions which would forever affect the lives of Americans.

In this second part of our two-part show on New York as the first federal capital of the United States, we roll up our sleeves and get down to business. (In the first part, he moved the capital to lower Manhattan and inaugurated ourselves a new president George Washington!) 

The men of the first Continental Congress -- which first met in the Spring of 1789 -- had a lofty job in front of them that year. They needed to not only construct the tools and offices of a brand new government, they were also tasked with defining the basic rights of American citizens via a set of amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- the Bill of Rights.

Now imagine doing this in your post-Colonial era garments during a hot summer, all crammed into a few rooms at Federal Hall, the former City Hall building on Wall Street.

It was here that the Bill of Rights was introduced, debated and voted upon. But those weren't the only monumental decisions being made in the city.

When nobody could come to an agreement on two major issues -- the assumption of state debt and the location of the permanent federal capital -- it was up to Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to craft a deal, made during a legendary dinner party on Maiden Lane. We live today with the critical decisions made by these three men on that night over food and wine.

ALSO: The tale of James Hemings, an enslaved man who became an accomplished French chef and most likely the cook for that very dinner, witness to the events in "the room where it happened."

 

boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 221_New_York__Capital_City_of_the_United_States.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:50pm EDT

The story of New York City's role in the birth of American government is sometimes forgotten. Most of the buildings important to the first U.S. Congress, which met here from the spring of 1789 to the late summer of 1790, have long been demolished. There's little to remind us that our modern form of government was, in part, invented here on these city streets.

Riding high on the victories of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers organized a makeshift Congress under the Articles of Confederation.  After an unfortunate crisis in Philadelphia, that early group of politicians from the 13 states eventually drifted up to New York (specifically to New York's City Hall, to be called Federal Hall) to meet. But they were an organization without much power or respect.

The fate of the young nation lay on the shoulders of George Washington who arrived in New York in the spring of 1789 to be inaugurated as the first president of the United States. His swearing-in would finally unite Americans around their government and would imbue the port city of New York with a new urgency.

This is Part One of a two part celebration of these years, featuring cantankerous vice presidents, festive cannonades, and burning plumage! (Part Two arrives in two weeks.)

FEATURING Washington, Adams, Madison, Livingston and, of course, HAMILTON!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

 

NOTE: In the show we accidentally say 'Yorkville' once when we meant 'Yorktown'. Blame it on our New York-centrism; Yorkville is a neighborhood in the Upper East Side!

Direct download: Episode_220_NYC_Capital_City.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:10pm EDT

We're in the mood for a good old-fashioned Gilded Age story so we're replaying one of our favorite Bowery Boys episodes ever -- Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst vs. the newsies!

It was pandemonium in the streets. One hot summer in July 1899, thousands of corner newsboys (and girls) went on strike against the New York Journal and the New York World. Throngs filled the streets of downtown Manhattan for two weeks and prevented the two largest papers in the country from getting distributed.

In this episode, we look at the development of the sensationalist New York press -- the birth of yellow journalism -- from its very earliest days, and how sensationalism's two famous purveyors were held at ransom by the poorest, scrappiest residents of the city. The conflict put a light to the child labor crisis and became a dramatic example of the need for reform.

Crazy Arborn, Kid Blink, Racetrack Higgins and Barney Peanuts invite you to the listen in to this tale of their finest moment, straight from the street corners of Gilded Age New York.

PLUS: Bonus material featuring a closer look at the Brooklyn Newsboys Strike and a moment with the newsies during the holidays.

Direct download: 01_Newsboy_Strike_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:31am EDT

Warm up the orchestra, lace up your dance slippers, and bring the diva to the stage! For our latest show we’re telling the origin story of Lincoln Center, the fine arts campus which assembles some of the city’s finest music and theatrical institutions to create the classiest 16.3 acres in New York City.

Lincoln Center was created out of an urgent necessity, bringing together the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Juilliard School of Music and other august fine-arts companies as a way of providing a permanent home for American culture.

However this tale of Robert Moses’ urban renewal philosophies and the survival of storied institutions has a tragic twist. The campus sits on the site of a former neighborhood named San Juan Hill, home to thousands of African American and Puerto Rican families in the mid 20th century.  No trace of this neighborhood exists today.

Or, should we say, ALMOST no trace. San Juan Hill exists, at least briefly, with a part of classic American cinema. The Oscar-winning film West Side Story, based on the celebrated musical, was partially filmed here. The movie reflects many realities of the neighborhood and involves talents who would be, ahem, instrumental in Lincoln Center’s continued successes.

FEATURING – Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, James Earl Jones, Imelda Marcos, David Geffen and, naturally, the Nutcracker!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: Bowery_Boys_218.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:11pm EDT

Truman Capote is a true New York character, a Southern boy who wielded his immense writing talents to secure a place within Manhattan high society. Elegant, witty, compact, gay -- Capote was a fixture of swanky nightclubs and arm candy to wealthy, well-connected women.

One project would entirely change his life -- the completion of the classic In Cold Blood, a 'non-fiction novel' about a brutal mass murder in Kansas. Retreating from his many years of research, Truman decided to throw a party.

But this wasn't ANY party. This soiree -- a masquerade ball at the Plaza Hotel -- would have the greatest assemblage of famous folks ever gathered for something so entirely frivolous. An invite to the ball was the true golden ticket, coveted by every celebrity and social climber in America.

Come with us as we give you a tour of the planning of the Black and White Ball and a few glamorous details from that strange, glorious evening.

FEATURING: Harper Lee, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Halston, Katherine Graham and a cast of thousands (well, or just 540)

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 217_Truman_Capotes_Black_And_White_Ball.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:33pm EDT

Edwin Booth was the greatest actor of the Gilded Age, a superstar of the theater who entertained millions over his long career. In this podcast, we present his extraordinary career, the tragedies that shaped his life (on stage and off), and the legacy of his cherished Players Club, the fabulous Stanford White-designed Gramercy Park social club for actors, artists and their admirers.
 

The Booths were a precursor to the Barrymores, an acting family who were as famous for their personal lives as they were for their dramatic roles.  Younger brother John Wilkes Booth would horrify the nation in 1865, and Edwin would briefly retire from the stage. But an outpouring of love would bring him back to the spotlight and the greasepaint.

Edwin Booth would give back to the theatrical community for the formation of the Players Club in 1888. In this show, we’ll take you on a tour of this exclusive destination for film and theatrical icons, including a look at the upstairs bedroom where Booth died, still preserved exactly as it looked on that fateful day in 1893.

Boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: Episode_216.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33pm EDT

01: The first Ferris Wheel was invented to become America’s Eiffel Tower, making its grand debut at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The wheel’s inventor George Washington Gale Ferris was a clever and optimistic soul; he did everything in his power to ensure that his glorious mechanical ride would forever change the world.

That it did, but unfortunately, its inventor paid a horrible price.

FEATURING a visit to one of the most famous wheels in the world and a trip to one of Chicago’s newest marvels.

This is a special preview for the new Bowery Boys spin-off podcast series The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences, brought to you by Bowery Boys host Greg Young.

Direct download: 01_The_Wheel__Ferris_Big_Idea_The_First_Special_Preview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:05pm EDT

For this year's 10th annual Bowery Boys Halloween special, we're highlighting haunted tales from the period just after the Civil War when New York City became one of the richest cities in the world -- rich in wealth and in ghosts!

We go to four boroughs in this one (sorry Brooklyn!):

-- In the Bronx we highlight a bizarre house that once stood in the area of Hunts Point, a mansion of malevolent and disturbing mysteries

-- Then we turn to Manhattan to a rambunctious poltergeist on fashionable East 27th Street

-- Over in Queens, a lonely farmhouse in the area of today's Calvary Cemetery is witness to not one, but two unsettling and confounding deaths

-- Finally, in Staten Island, we take a visit to the glorious Vanderbilt Mausoleum, a historic landmark and a location with a few strange secrets of its own

PLUS: Stay tuned until the end to hear the trailer for the new Bowery Boys podcast series -- The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 215_Ghosts_of_the_GIlded_Age.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

The Bronx was burning. The Bronx is now rising.

In the third and final part of our Bronx history series, we tackle the most difficult period in the life of this borough -- the late 20th century and the days and nights of urban blight.

The focus of this show is the South Bronx, once the tranquil farmlands of the Morris family and the location of the first commuter towns, situated along the new railroad.  By the 1950s, however, a great number of socio-economic forces and physical changes were conspiring to make life in this area very, very challenging.

Construction projects like the Cross Bronx Expressway and shifts in living arrangements (from new public housing to the promise of Co-Op City) had isolated those who still lived in the old tenements of the South Bronx. Poverty and high crime rendered the neighborhood so undesirable that buildings were abandoned and even burned.

Mainstream attention (from notable television broadcasts to visits by the President of the United States) did not seem to immediately change things here. It would be up to local neighborhood activists and wide-ranging city and state programs -- not to mention the purveyors of an energetic new musical force -- to begin to improve the fortunes of this seemingly doomed borough.

FEATURING an interview with Inside Out Tours founder and chief tour guide Stacey Toussaint about the new Bronx renaissance.

ALSO: Appearances by Howard Cosell, Sonia Sotomayor, Robert Moses, Grand Wizzard Theodore, and Jimmy Carter!

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 214_Bronx_Trilogy_Part_Three_The_Bronx_Was_Burning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03pm EDT

In the second part of the Bowery Boys' Bronx Trilogy -- recounting the entire history of New York City's northernmost borough -- we focus on the years between 1875 and 1945, a time of great evolution and growth for the former pastoral areas of Westchester County.

New York considered the newly annexed region to be of great service to the over-crowded city in Manhattan, a blank canvas for visionary urban planners.  Soon great parks and mass transit transformed these northern areas of New York into a sibling (or, perhaps more accurately, a step-child) of the densely packed city to the south.

The Grand Concourse embodied the promise of a new life for thousands of new residents -- mostly first and second-generation immigrants, many of them Jewish newcomers. But the first time that many outside New York became aware of the Bronx may have been the arrival in 1923 of New York's most victorious baseball team, arriving via a spectacular new stadium where sports history would frequently be made.

By the 1930s Parks Commissioner Robert Moses began looking at the borough as a major factor in his grand urban development plans. In some cases, this involved the creation of vital public recreations (like Orchard Beach). Other decisions would mark the beginning of new troubles for the Bronx.

Direct download: Episode_213.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT

The story of the Bronx is so large, so spectacular, that we had to spread it out over three separate podcasts!

In Part One -- The Bronx Is Born -- we look at the land that is today's borough, back when it was a part of Westchester County, a natural expanse of heights, rivers and forests occasionally interrupted by farm-estates and modest villages.  Settlers during the Dutch era faced grave turmoil. Those that came afterwards managed to tame the land with varying results.  Speculators were everyone; City Island was born from the promise of a relationship with the city down south.

During the Revolutionary War, prominent families were faced with a dire choice -- stay with the English or side with George Washington's Continental Army? One prominent family would help shape the fate of the young nation and leave their name forever attached to one of the Bronx's oldest neighborhoods. Sadly that family's legacy is under-appreciated today.

By the 1840s, Westchester County was at last connected to New York via a new railroad line. It was a prosperous decade with the development of the area's first college, a row of elegant homes and some of its very first 'depot towns'.  Two decades later, the future borough would even cater to the dead -- both the forgotten (at Hart Island) and the wealthy (Woodlawn Cemetery).

The year 1874 would mark a new chapter for a few quiet towns and begin the process of turning this area into the borough known as the Bronx.

FEATURING: Many places in the Bronx that you can visit today and experience this early history up close, including Wave Hill, Pelham Bay Park, Woodlawn Cemetery, City Island and more.

 

NOTE: Thanks to Angel Hernandez from the Bronx Historical Society, not (as per our slip of the tongue in an older version of this show) the Brooklyn Historical Society.

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Our book Adventures In Old New York is now in bookstores and online, wherever books are sold!

Direct download: 212_Bronx_Trilogy_The_Bronx_Is_Born1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:32pm EDT

Ann Lohman, aka Madame Restell, was one of the most vilified women of the 19th century, an abortion practitioner that dodged the law to become one of the wealthiest self-made women in the Gilded Age. But is her reputation justified?

Thoughts on abortion and birth control were quite different in the 1830s, the era in which Madame Restell got her start. It was society and marital morality -- not science and religion -- that played a substantial role in New Yorkers' views on the termination of pregnancy.  Restell and countless imitators offers a wide range of potions, pills and powders to customers, provided in veiled wording in newspaper advertisements.

By the 1860s Restell was insulated from serious interrogation and flaunted her unique position in society by planting her Fifth Avenue mansion in a very controversial place. But she soon became a target of New York's most dogged reformer, a man who considered her pure evil and the source of society's most illicit sins.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 211_Madame_Restell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:01pm EDT

New York has an interesting, complex and downright weird relationship with video games, from the digital sewers below Manhattan to the neon-lit arcades of Times Square.  In this grab bag episode – filled with nostalgia and nerdyness -- we capture all sides of the relation.

First -- the relationship between the city and the arcade itself, once filled with shooting galleries, skee ball and pinball machines which, in  the 1930s. became public enemy number one for one of New York’s most powerful mayors.  

The era of Space Invaders, Pac Man and Donkey Kong descends in New York during its grittiest period – the late 70s/early 80s – and arrives, like an alien presence, into many neighborhood arcades including one of the most famous in Chinatown – an arcade that is still open and the subject of a new documentary 'The Lost Arcade'.

While the video game industry is not something New York City is particularly associated with, the city does in fact set the stage for this revolution of blips and joysticks at the start of the 20th century.  

Then it's on to Queens when you can find one of America's great tributes to the video game, in the arcade collection at the Museum of the Moving Image. 

At the end Greg goes into the games themselves to explore New York as a digital landscape that continues to be of fascination to game developers and players alike. 

So are you ready Player One? Grab your quarters and log in to this New York adventure through the world of video games.

 

boweryboyshistory.com

Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Direct download: 210_Digital_City__New_York_and_the_World_of_Video_Games.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:46pm EDT

You might think you know this tale, but do we have surprises for you.

The Waldorf-Astoria -- or the Waldorf=Astoria or even the Waldorf Astoria -- has been a premier name in hotel accommodations since the opening of the very first edition on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue (the location of today's Empire State Building).

But the history of the current incarnation on Park Avenue contains the twists and turns of world events, from World War II to recent diplomatic dramas. In essence, the Waldorf Astoria has become the world's convention center.

Step past the extraordinary Art Deco trappings, and you'll find rooms which have hosted a plethora of important gatherings, not to mention the frequent homes to Hollywood movie stars. But its those very trappings -- some of it well over a century old -- that finds itself in danger today as recent changes threaten to wipe away its glamorous interiors entirely.

boweryboyshistory.com

Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Direct download: 209_Waldorf_Astoria.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EDT

New Yorkers can be tough to crack, maneuvering through a rapidly changing, fast-paced city. But they can, at times, also be easily fooled.

In this episode, we explore two of the wackiest stories in early New York City history, two instances of tall tales that got quite out of hand. While both of these stories are almost two centuries old, they both have certain parallels to modern-day hucksterism.

In the 1820s, the Erie Canal would completely change the fortunes of the young United States, turning the port city of New York into one of the most important in the world.  But an even greater engineering challenge was necessary to prevent the entire southern part of Manhattan from sinking into the harbor. You read that right -- New York was sinking! That is, if you believed a certain charlatan hanging out at the market.....

One decade later, the burgeoning penny press would give birth to another tremendous fabrication and kick off an uneasy association between the media and the truth. In the summer of 1835 the New York Sun reported on startling discoveries from one of the world's most famous astronomers. Life on the moon! Indeed, vivid moon forests populated with a menagerie of bizarre creatures and winged men with behaviors similar to that of men on Earth. 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Our book The Bowery Boys' Adventures In Old New York is now out in bookstores and on line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Direct download: 208_Great_Hoaxes_of_Old_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT

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 100th 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

On July 30, 1916, at just after 2 in the morning, a massive explosion ripped apart the island of Black Tom on the shoreline near Jersey City, sending a shockwave through the region and thousands of pounds of wartime shrapnel into the neighboring Ellis Island and Bedloe's Island (home to the Statue of Liberty).

Thousands of windows were shattered in the region, and millions woke up wondering what horrible thing had just happened.

The terrifying disaster was no accident; this was the sabotage of German agents, bent on eliminating tons of munitions that were being sent to the Allied powers during World War I.  Although America had not yet entered the war, the United States was considered an enemy combatant thanks to weapons manufactures in the New York region and around the country.

But the surprising epicenter of German spy activity was in a simple townhouse in the neighborhood of Chelsea.

ALSO: New Yorkers still feel the ramifications of the Black Tom Explosion today at one of America's top tourist attractions.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Arriving in May 2016: The first-ever Bowery Boys book - Adventures in Old New York!

Direct download: 197_Danger_In_The_Harbor__The_Black_Tom_Explosion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:24pm EDT

The Garment District in Midtown Manhattan has been the center for all things American fashion for almost one hundred years.  The lofts and office buildings here still buzz with industry of making clothing -- from design to distribution.

New York's long history with the ready-to-wear apparel industry has an ugly beginning -- the manufacture of clothing for Southern slaves. Garment production thrived here by the middle of the 19th century thanks to thousands of arriving immigrants, skilled in the production of making clothes.

By 1900, most of the clothes in the United States were made below 14th Street, in the tenement neighborhoods of New York. The disaster at the Triangle Factory Fire in 1911 brought attention to the terrible conditions found in New York's new loft-style factories
Fears of the clothing industry encroaching upon Fifth Avenue provoked some New  York businesses to stop working with garment sector unless they moved to particular area of the city.  And so, by the mid 20th century, hardly a stitch was sold in the United States without it coming through the blocks between 34th Street and 42nd Street west of Sixth Avenue.

Listen in as we describe the Garment District's chaotic rush of activity  -- from the fabulous showrooms of the world's greatest designers to the nitty-gritty bustle of the crowded streets.

FEATURING: Ed Koch, Lauren Bacall, George Opdyke and Brooks Brothers

WARNING: This show is bursting at the seams with clothing puns!

Direct download: 196_Ready_To_Wear_-_final_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:15am EDT

In this episode, we look back on the one day of the year that New Yorkers look forward.  New Years Eve is the one night that millions of people around the world focus their attentions on New York City -- or more specifically, on the wedge shaped building in Times Square wearing a bright, illuminated ball on its rooftop.

In the 19th century, the ringing-in of the New Year was celebrated with gatherings near Trinity Church and a pleasant New Years Day custom of visiting young women in their parlors.  But when the New York Times decided to celebrate the opening of their new offices -- in the plaza that would take the name Times Square -- a new tradition was born.

Tens of millions have visited Times Square over the years, gazing up to watch the electric ball drop, a time-telling mechanism taken from the maritime tradition. The event has been affected by world events -- from Prohibition to World War II -- and changed by the introduction of radio and television broadcasts.

ALSO: What happened to the celebration which it reached the gritty 1970s and a Times Square with a surly reputation?

PLUS: A few tips for those of you heading to the New Years Eve celebration this year!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 195_Midnight_In_Times_Square_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:55pm EDT

Nellie Bly was a determined and fearless journalist ahead of her time, known for the spectacular lengths she would go to get a good story. Her reputation was built on the events of late September-early October 1887 -- the ten days she spent in an insane asylum.

Since the 1830s Blackwell's Island had been the destination for New York's public institutions of an undesirable nature -- hospitals for grave diseases, a penitentiary, an almshouse, even a quarantine for smallpox. There was also a mental institution -- an insane or lunatic asylum -- rumored to treat its patients most cruelly.

The ambitious young reporter decided to see for herself -- by acting like a woman who had lost her mind. Her ten days in this particular madhouse -- the basis of her newspaper articles and a book -- would expose the world to the sinister treatment of the mentally ill and the loathsome conditions of New York institutions meant to care for the most needy.

But would the process of getting this important story lead Nellie herself to go a little mad? And once she got inside the asylum, how would she get out?

ALSO: Not only is a vestige of the asylum still around today, you can live in it!

Direct download: 194_Nellie_Bly_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:55pm EDT

St. Mark's Place may be named for a saint but it's been a street full of sinners for much of its history. 

One of the most fascinating streets in the city, St. Mark's traces its story back to Peter Stuyvesant, meets up with the wife of Alexander Hamilton in the 1830s, experiences the incredible influx of German and Polish immigrants, then veers into the heart of counter-culture -- from the political activism of Abbie Hoffman to the glamorously detached parties of Andy Warhol. 

And that's when the party gets started! St. Mark's is known for music, fashion, rebellion and pandemonium. Let it be known -- this is one of the wildest, most creative, most exciting streets in New York City history. 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 193_St._Marks_Place.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:15pm EDT

Don't be frightened! It's the ninth annual Bowery Boys ghost stories podcast. We're here to guide you through the back alleys ... OF TERROR!

In this installment, we take a look at the spectral lore behind some of New York City's most famous landmarks, buildings with great reputations as iconic architectural marvels and locations for great creativity. 

But they're also filled with ghost stories:

Who are the mysterious sisters in colorful outerwear skating on the icy pond in Central Park? And why are there so many uninvited guests at the Dakota Apartments, one of the first and finest buildings on the Upper West Side?

Meanwhile, at the Chelsea Hotel, all the intense creativity that is associated with this great and important location seems to have left an imprint of the afterworld upon its hallways.

Over at Grand Central Terminal, the Campbell Apartment serves up some cocktails -- and a few unnatural encounters with Jazz Age spirits.

Finally, on the Brooklyn Bridge, a tragedy during its construction has left its shadow upon the modern tourist attraction. Who's that up ahead on the pedestrian pathway?

A little spooky fun -- mixed with a lot of interesting history -- and a few cheesy sound effects!

www.boweryboyshistory.com

 

Direct download: 192_Haunted_Landmarks_of_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:47pm EDT

A little after midnight on September 21, 1776, the Fighting Cocks Tavern on Whitehall Street caught on fire. The drunken revelers inside the tavern were unable to stop the blaze, and it soon raged into a dangerous inferno, spreading up the west side of Manhattan.

Some reports state that the fire started accidentally in the tavern fireplace. But was it actually set on purpose – on the orders of George Washington?

To understand that damning speculation, we unfurl the events that lead up to that moment – from the first outrages against the British by American colonists to the first sparks of the Revolutionary War. Why did New York get caught up so early in the war and what were the circumstances that led to the city falling into British hands?

Underneath this expansive story is another, smaller story – that of a young man on a spy mission, sent by Washington into enemy territory.  His name was Nathan Hale, and his fate would intersect with the disastrous events of September 21, 1776.

PLUS:  The legacy of St. Paul’s Chapel, a lasting reminder not only of the Great Fire of 1776 but of an even greater disaster which occurred almost exactly 225 years later.
 
www.boweryboyshistory.com
 
This episode is brought to you by Trunk Club, taking the hassle out of shopping by shipping you a trunk of clothes that fit perfectly and make you look like a million bucks. To take advantage of this unique styling service and to support the Bowery Boys, go to trunkclub.com/BOWERY for a trunk full of clothes that you’ll love wearing

Direct download: 191_Great_Fire_of_1776.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:49pm EDT

 The gripping and startling tale of Typhoid Mary is a harrowing detective story and a chilling tale of disease and death. Why are whole healthy families suddenly getting sick with typhoid fever -- from the languid mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast to the gracious homes of Park Avenue? Can an intrepid researcher and investigator named George Soper locate a mysterious woman who may be unwittingly spreading this dire illness?

Mary Mallon -- is she a victim or an enemy? One of the weirdest and divisive tales of the early 1900s. What side are you on?

 

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 190_Typhoid_Mary.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:58pm EDT

In this episode, we recount almost 175 years of getting around New York in a private ride.  The hansom, the romantic rendition of the horse and carriage, took New Yorkers around during the Gilded Age. But unregulated conduct by ‘nighthawks’ and the messy conditions of streets due to horses demanded a more sophisticated solution.

At first it seemed the electric car would save the day but the technology proved inadequate.  In 1907 came the first gas-propelled automobile cabs to New York, officially ‘taxis’ due to a French invention installed in the front seat.

By the 1930s the streets were filled with thousands of taxicabs. During the Great Depression, cab drivers fought against plunging fare and even waged a strike in Times Square. In 1937, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia debuted the medallion system as a way to keep the streets regulated.

By the 1970s many cabdrivers faced an upswing of crime that made picking up passengers even more dangerous than bad traffic.  Drivers began ignoring certain fares – mainly from African-Americans – which gave rise to the neighborhood livery cab system.

Today New York taxicab fleets face a different threat – Uber and the rise of private app-based transportation services. Will the taxi industry rise to the challenge in time for the debut of their ‘taxi of tomorrow’?
 
Boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 189_Taxi_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

On the evening of June 25, 1906, during a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, the architect Stanford White was brutally murdered by Harry Kendall Thaw. The renown of White's professional career -- he was one of New York’s leading social figures -- and the public nature of the assassination led newspapers to call it the Crime of the Century.  But many of the most shocking details would only be revealed in a courtroom, exposing the sexual perversities of some of the city’s wealthiest citizens.

White, as a member of the prestigious firm McKim, Mead and White, was responsible for some of New York's most iconic structures including Pennsylvania Station, the Washington Square Arch and Madison Square Garden, where he was slain. But his gracious public persona disguised a personal taste for young chorus girls, often seduced at his 24th Street studio, famed for its "red velvet swing".

Eveyln Nesbit was only a teenager when she became a popular artist's model and a cast member in Broadway's hottest musical comedy. White wooed her with the trappings of luxury and subsequently took advantage of her. The wealthy playboy Harry Thaw also fell for Nesbit -- and grew insanely jealous of White. Soon his hatred would envelop him, leading to the unfortunate events of that tragic summer night.

www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 188_Stanford_White_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:39pm EDT

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: 9:29pm EDT

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: 6:38pm EDT

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: 11:35pm EDT

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: 5:50pm EDT

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: 12:22am EDT

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: 12:37am EDT

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: 12:02am EDT

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: 11:28pm EDT

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: 8:46pm EDT

 Grab your fedora and take a trip with the Bowery Boys into the heart of New York City's jazz scene -- late nights, smoky bars, neon signs -- through the eyes of one of the greatest American vocalists who ever lived here -- Billie Holiday.

This a tour of the three great jazz centers of the early and mid 20th century -- 133rd Street in Harlem, 52nd Street (aka Swing Street) in Midtown, and Greenwich Village.

Featuring snippets of some of Holiday's greatest vocal performances.

 

Please note our new website address: www.boweryboyshistory.com

Direct download: 176_Billie_Holidays_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:03am EDT

When historians look back at the year 2014, what events or cultural changes within New York City will historians consider significant?  In this special episode, the Bowery Boys look back at some of the biggest historical headlines of the year -- the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the troubling trend of mega-condominiums along 57th Street and the continuing gentrification of several New York City neighborhoods.  

 

We also answer some questions from listeners and present some resolutions and thought on how you can help protect and preserve the historical landscape of New York City -- whether you live here or not.  

 

And a big cheers and our hopes for great things in 2015!

 

NOTE: We recorded this episode on December 17, and so were unable to make note of events from the recent few days including the tragic shooting of two NYPD officers on December 20, 2014.

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 175_Bowery_Boys_2014_Year_In_Review.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:27pm EDT

The Radio City Rockettes are perhaps America's best known dance troupe -- and a staple of the holiday season -- but you may not know the origin of this most iconic of New York City symbols. For one, they're not even from the Big Apple!

 

Formerly the Missouri Rockets, the dancers and their famed choreographer Russell Markert were noticed by theater impresario Samuel Rothafel, who installed them first as his theater The Roxy, then at one of the largest theaters in the world -- Radio City Music Hall.

 

The life of a Rockettes dancer was glamorous, but grueling; for many decades dancing not in isolated shows, but before the screenings of movies, several times a day, a different program each week.  There was a very, very specific look to the Rockettes, a look that changed -- and that was forced to change by cultural shifts -- over the decades.

 

This show is dedicated to the many thousands of women who have shuffled and kicked with the Rockettes over their many decades of entertainment, on the stage, the picket line or the hallways of Grand Central.

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 174_The_History_of_the_Rockettes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

The ruins of the New York State Pavilion, highlight of the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, have become a kind of unofficial Statue of Liberty of Queens, greeting people as they head to and from LaGuardia and JFK airports.  Its abandoned saucer-like observation decks and steel arena have inspired generations of New Yorkers who have grown up with this oddity on the horizon.

 

The Pavilion holds a great many surprises, and its best days may be yet to come.  Designed by modernist icon Philip Johnson, the Pavilion was saved from the fate of many of the venues in the World's Fair. But it's only been used sporadically over the past 50 or so years, and the fear of further deterioration is always present.

 

For the first part of this very special episode of the Bowery Boys, I take you through the pavilion's presence in the World's Fair, a kaleidoscopic attraction that extolled the greatness of the state of New York.  In its first year, however, a battle over controversial artwork was waged, pitting Robert Moses and Nelson Rockefeller against the hottest artist of the day -- Andy Warhol. Other controversies at the Fair threatened to derail the message behind its slogan 'Peace Through Understanding'.

 

In the show's second half, I head out to record at the Queens Theater -- the only part of the New York State Pavilion that's been rehabilitated -- to explore the venue's 'lonely years' with filmmaker Matthew Silva, a co-founder of People For The Pavilion, an organization that's successfully bringing attention to this weird little treasure.  Matthew gives us the scoop of the pavilion's later years, culled from some of his interviews in the film Modern Ruin: A World's Fair Pavilion.

 

This is crucial time in the history of this spectacular relic. With public attention at an all time high, we may now be at the right time to re-purpose the Pavilion into a new destination for New Yorkers. What do you think should be done with the New York State Pavilion?

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 173_Ruins_of_the_Worlds_Fair.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:06pm EDT

Brooklyn is the setting for this quartet of classic ghost stories, all set before the independent city was an official borough of New York City.  This is a Brooklyn of old stately mansions and farms, with railroad tracks laid through forests and large tracks of land carved up, awaiting development.  These stories also have another curious resemblance -- they all come from local newspapers of the day, reporting on ghost stories with amusement and more than a little skepticism.

 

-- The Coney Island and Sea Beach Railroad took passengers to and from Brooklyn's amusement district.  But nobody was particularly amused one evening to be stopped by a horrific gangly ghost upon the tracks near the neighborhood of Mapleton.

 

-- In Clinton Hill, a plantation-style house built in the early years of the Brooklyn Navy Yard has survived hundreds of unusual tenants over the years, but certainly the scariest days in this historic home occurred in 1878 with a relentless, invisible hand that would not stop knocking. 

 

-- The Oceanic Hotel was one of Coney Island's first great hotels, an accommodation for almost 500 near the increasingly popular beaches of Brighton Beach.  But in 1894, the hotel was virtually emptied out and reportedly haunted.  Did it have something to do with the murder upstairs in Room 30?

 

-- And finally, the area of Bushwick nearest the Queens border are populated with various burial grounds like the Evergreens Cemetery, borne of the rural cemetery movement which transplanted thousands of previously buried bodies from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  In 1894, with Bushwick prepared for a spate of new development, the sudden appearance of an oddly dressed spirit threatens to disrupt the entire neighborhood.  During one evening, a drunken party of 300 ghost hunters, brandishing swords and revolvers, come across one terror that proved to be very real indeed.

 

ALSO: Secrets of The Sentinel, a 1977 horror film set in an old house along the Brooklyn Promenade.

Direct download: 172_Ghost_Stories_of_Brooklyn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42pm EDT

Gramercy Park is Manhattan's only private park, a prohibited place for most New Yorkers. However we have your keys to the history of this significant and rather unusual place, full of the city's greatest inventors, civic leaders and entertainers!

 

Literally pulled up from swampy land, Gramercy Park naturally appealed to the city's elite, a pocket neighborhood with classic old brownstones so vital to the city's early growth that two streets sprang from its creation -- Irving Place and Lexington Avenue.

 

In this show, we give you an overview of its history -- a birds eye's view, if you will -- then follow it up with a virtual walking tour that you can use to guide yourself through the area, on foot or in your mind.  In this tour, we'll give you the insights on an early stop on the Underground Railroad, the house of a controversial New York mayor, a fabulous club of thespians, and a hotel that has hosted both the Rolling Stones and John F Kennedy (though not at the same time).

 

ALSO: How DO you get inside Gramercy Park? I mean, really?

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

 

Direct download: 171_Gramercy_Park.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:22pm EDT

Rudolph Valentino was an star from the early years of Hollywood, but his elegant, randy years in New York City should not be forgotten.  They helped make him a premier dancer and a glamorous actor. And on August 23, 1926, this is where the silent film icon died.

 

Valentino arrived in Ellis Island in 1913, one of millions of Italians heading to America to begin a new life.  In his case, he was escaping a restless life in Italy and a set of mounting debts! But he quickly distinguished himself in New York thanks to his job as a taxi dancer at the glamorous club Maxim's, where he mingled with wealthy society women.

 

He headed to Hollywood and became a huge film star in 1921, thanks to the film The Sheik, which set his reputation as the connsumate Latin Lover.  Throughout his career, he returned to New York to make features (in particular, those as his Astoria movie studio), and he once even judged a very curious beauty pageant here.  

 

In 1926, he headed here not only to promote a sequel to The Sheik, but to display his masculinity after a scathing article blamed him for the effeminacy of the American male!

 

Sadly, however, he tragically and suddenly (and, some would say, mysteriously) died at a Midtown hospital.  People were so shocked by his demise that the funeral chapel (in the area of today's Lincoln Center) was mobbed for almost a week, its windows smashed and the streets paralyzed by mourners -- or where those people paid by the film studio?

 

ALSO: We are proud to introduce to you -- POLA!

Direct download: 170_The_Life_and_Death_of_Rudolph_Valentino.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19pm EDT

One World Trade Center was declared last year the tallest building in America, but it's a very different structure from the other skyscrapers who have once held that title. In New York, owning the tallest building has often been like possessing a valuable trophy, a symbol of commercial and social superiority. In a city driven by commerce, size matters.

In this special show, I give you a rundown of the history of being tall in New York City, short profiles of the 12 structures (11 skyscrapers and one church!) that have held this title.  In several cases, these weren't just the tallest buildings in the city; they were the tallest in the world.  

Skyscrapers were not always well received.  New York's tallest building in 1899 was derisively referred to as a "horned monster."  Lower Manhattan became defined by this particular kind of structure, creating a canyon of claustrophobic, darkened streets.  But a new destination for these sorts of spectacular towers beckoned in the 1920s -- 42nd Street.

You'll be familiar with a great number of these -- the Woolworth, the Chrysler, the Empire State.  But in the early days of skyscrapers, an odd assortment of buildings took the crown as New York's tallest, from the vanity project of a newspaper publisher to a turtle-like tower made for a sewing machine company.

At stake in the race for the tallest is dominance in the New York City skyline.  With brand new towers popping up now all over the five boroughs, should be worried that they'll overshadow the classics? Or should the skyline always be in a constant state of flux?

ALSO: New York's very first tall buildings and the ominous purpose they were used for during the Revolutionary War!

PICTURES, SOURCES and RECOMMENDED READING will be available at boweryboyspodcast.com

CORRECTION: Ack, I keep saying Crystal Palace Exposition when it's actually Crystal Palace Exhibition! I mean, they basically mean the same thing, almost, right?

 

THIS EPISODE OF THE BOWERY BOYS IS SPONSORED BY AUDIBLE,  the premier provider of digital audiobooks. Get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial atwww.audibletrial.com/boweryboys. Over 150,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player Audible titles play on iPhone, Kindle, Android and more than 500 devices for listening anytime, anywhere.

 

Direct download: 169_The_Tallest_Building_In_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19pm EDT

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met at a clearing in Weehawken, NJ, in the early morning on July 11, 1804, to mount the most famous duel in American history. But why?

 

This is the story of two New York lawyers -- and two Founding Fathers -- that so detested each other that their vitriolic words (well, mostly Hamilton's) led to these two grown men shooting each other out of honor and dignity, while robbing America of their brilliance, leadership and talent.

 

You may know the story of this duel from history class, but this podcast focuses on its proximity to New York City, to their homes Richmond Hill and Hamilton Grange and to the places they conducted their legal practices and political machinations.

 

Which side are you on?

 

ALSO: Find out the fates of sites that are associated with the duel, including the place Hamilton died and the rather disrespectful journey of the dueling grounds in Weehawken.

 

CORRECTION: Alexander Hamilton had his fateful dinner as the house of Judge James Kent, not John Kent, as I state here.

Direct download: 168_DUEL_Aaron_Burr_vs_Alexander_Hamilton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29pm EDT

Cleopatra's Needle is the name given to the ancient Egyptian obelisk that sits in Central Park, right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is the bizarre tale of how it arrived in New York and the unusual forces that went behind its transportation from Alexandra to a hill called Greywacke Hill.

 

The weathered but elegant monolith was created thousands of years ago by the pharaoh Thutmose III.  Thanks to the great interest in Egyptian objects in the 19th century -- sometimes called Egyptomania -- major cities soon wanted obelisks for their own, acquired as though they were trophies of world conquest.  France and England scooped up a couple but -- at least in the case of the ill-fated vessel headed to London -- not without great cost.

 

One group was especially fascinated in the Alexandrian obelisks.  The Freemasons have been a mysterious and controversial fraternity who have been involved in several critical moments in American history (including the inauguration of fellow Freemason George Washington.) A Freemason engineer and adventurer named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe discovered an incredible secret on the remaining Alexandria obelisk, a secret that might link the secretive organization to the beginnings of human civilization.

 

But how do you get a 240 ton object, the length of a 7-story building, across the Atlantic Ocean and propped up in New York's premier park which had just opened a few years before?  

 

We let you in on Gorringe's technique and the curious Freemasons ceremony that accompanied the debut of the obelisk's cornerstone.

 

PLUS: We have a secret or two to reveal ourselves in this episode. This is a must-listen podcast!

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 167_Cleopatras_Needle_and_the_Freemasons_Secret.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:26pm EDT

On June 15, 1904, hundreds of residents of the Lower East Side's thriving German community boarded the General Slocum excursion steamer to enjoy a day trip outside the city.  Most of them would never return home.

The General Slocum disaster is, simply put, one of the greatest tragedies in American history.  Before September 11, 2001, it was the largest loss of life of any event that has ever taken place here. 

This is a harrowing story, brutal and tragic.  The fire that engulfed the ship near the violent waters of the Hell Gate gave the passengers a horrible choice -- die by fire or by drowning.  In the end, over one thousand people would lose their lives over an horrific event that could have been easily prevented.

But in this tale are some surprising and even shocking stories of human survival, real stories of bravery and heroism. 

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 166_General_Slocum_Disaster.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT

Ladies' Mile -- the most famous New York shopping district in the 19th century and the "heart of the Gilded Age," a district of spectacular commercial palaces of cast-iron.  They are some of the city's greatest buildings, designed by premier architects.

Unlike so many stories about New York City, this is a tale of survival, how behemoths of retail went out of business, but their structures remained to house new stores.  This is truly a rare tale of history, where so many of the buildings in question are still around, still active in the purpose in which they were built.

We start this story near City Hall, with the original retail mecca of A.T. Stewart -- the Marble Palace and later his cast-iron masterpiece in Astor Place.  Stewart set a standard that many held dear, even as his competitors traveled uptown to the blocks between Union Square and Madison Square.

Join us on this glamorous journey through the city's retail history, including a walking tour circa 1890 (with some roleplay involved!) of some of the district's best known buildings.

PLUS: Why is Chelsea's Bed Bath and Beyond so particularly special in this episode?

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 165_Ladies_Mile.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:18am EDT

England's great thespian William Macready mounted the stage of the Astor Place Opera House on May 10, 1849, to perform Shakespeare's Macbeth, just as he had done hundreds of times before.  But this performance would become infamous in later years as the trigger for one of New York City's most violent events -- the Astor Place Riot.

 

The theater, being America's prime form of public entertainment in the early 19th century, was often home to great disturbances and riots.  It was still seen as a British import and often suffered the anti-British sentiments that often vexed early New Yorkers.

 

Macready, known as one of the world's greatest Shakespearean stars, was soon rivaled by American actor Edwin Forrest, whose brawny, ragged style of performance endeared the audiences of the Bowery.  To many, these two actors embodied many of America's deepest divides -- rich vs. poor, British vs. American, Whig vs. Democrat.

 

On May 10th, these emotions overflowed into an evening of stark, horrifying violence as armed militia shot indiscriminately into an angry mob gathering outside the Astor Place theater.  By the end of this story, over two dozen New Yorkers would be murdered, dozens more wounded, and the culture of the city irrevocably changed. 

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 164_Astor_Place_Riots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:49pm EDT

#163 South Street Seaport

The glory of early New York City came from its role as one of the world's great ports.  Today the South Street Seaport is a lasting tribute to that seafaring heritage, a historical district beneath the Brooklyn Bridge that contains some of the city's oldest buildings.

 

But there are many secrets here along the cobblestone streets.  Schermerhorn Row, the grand avenue of counting houses more than two centuries old, is built atop of landfill.  Historic Water Street once held a seedy concentration of brothels and saloons. Not to mention a very vibrant rat pit! And the Fulton Fish Market, the neighborhood's oldest customer tradition, once fell into the river.

 

The modern South Street Seaport, a preservation construct of concerned citizens, become popular with tourists during the 1980s but saw severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.  It's now the subject of some potentially dramatic changes.  How much of an adherence to the traditions of the past will determine the Seaport's future?

 

ALSO: The FDR Drive -- How it almost went below the Seaport!

Direct download: 163_South_Street_Seaport.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00pm EDT

#162 George Washington Bridge

The George Washington Bridge is surprisingly graceful, but politically scandalous.  And we're not talking about the current crisis being faced by current New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

 

Figuring out a way to cross over the Hudson River (not using a boat or ferry) between New York City and New Jersey has been a challenge engineers and builders have tried to solve for over two hundred years.  With the formation of the Port Authority in 1921, there was finally an administrative body with the ability to bring a Hudson River bridge to life.

 

At the core of this story is a professional disagreement (or betrayal, depending on how you see it) between Gustav Lindenthal, the dreamer of a monumental crossing twice the size of the Brooklyn Bridge, and his protégée Othmar Ammann, who envisioned a simpler crossing in a less populated part of town. 

 

The eventual bridge was built thanks to a few strategic, political moves by the New Jersey governor, but some of its original ornamentation was left off during the Great Depression. Still, even today, it's considered one of the most beautiful bridges of the Hudson River. Here's the story of an under-appreciated masterpiece that two states are proud to share.

 

ALSO: The story of the little red lighthouse and the great big flag!

 

Direct download: 162_George_Washington_Bridge.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:16am EDT

The New York Fire Department protects the five boroughs from a host of disasters and mishaps -- five-alarm blazes, a kitchen fire run amok, and even those dastardly midtown elevators, always getting stuck!  But today's tightly organized team is a far cry from the chaos and machismo that defined New York's fire apparatus many decades ago.

New York's early firefighters -- Peter Stuyvesant's original ratel-watch -- were all-purpose guardians, from police work to town timepieces.  Volunteer forces assembled in the 18th century just as innovative new engines arrived from London.  By the 19th century, the fire department was the ultimate boys club, gangs of rival firefighters, with their own volunteer 'runners', racing to fires as though in a competition. Fisticuffs regularly erupted.  From this tradition came Boss Tweed, whose corrupt political ways would forever change New York's fire services -- for better and for worse.

Volunteers were replaced by an official paid division by 1870.  Now using horse power and new technologies, the department fought against the extraordinary challenges of skyscraper and factory fires.  There were internal battles as well, as the department struggled to become more inclusive within its ranks.

But the greatest test lay in the modern era -- from a deteriorating infrastructure in the 1970s that left many areas of New York unguarded, and then, the new menace of modern terrorism that continues to test the skill of the NYFD.  From burning chimneys in New Amsterdam to the tragedy of 9/11, this is the story of how they earned the nickname New York's Bravest.

Direct download: 161_Fire_Department_of_New_York_FDNY.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:03pm EDT

Central Park has frequently been called 'the people's park," but we think Tompkins Square Park may have a better claim to that title.  From its inception, this East Village recreational spot -- named for Vice President Daniel D Tompkins -- has catered to those who might not have felt welcome in other New York parks.

Carved from the marshy area of Peter Stuyvesant's old farm, Tompkins Square immediately reflected the personality of German immigrants who moved here, calling it Der Weisse Garten.  With large immgratns groups came rallies and demands for improved working conditions, leading to more than a number of altercations with the police in the 19th century.

Progressives introduced playgrounds here, and Robert Moses changed the very shape of Tompkins Square.  But the most radical transformation here took place starting in the late 1950s, with the introduction of 'hippie' culture and infusion of youth and music. By the 1980s, the park became known not only for embodying the spirit of the East Village through punk music and drag shows, but also as a haven for the homeless.  Clashes with police echoed the altercation that happened here one century before.  The park still maintains a curfew left over from the strife of the late 1980s.

FEATURING:  Lillian Wald, the Grateful Dead, Charlie Parker, Lady Bunny ... and Chevy Chase? 

Direct download: 160_Tompkins_Square_Park.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:48am EDT

The Broadway Musical is one of New York City's greatest inventions, 150 years in the making! It's one of the truly American art forms, fueling one of the city's most vibrant entertainment businesses and defining its most popular tourist attraction -- Times Square.

But why Broadway, exactly? Why not the Bowery or Fifth Avenue? And how did our fair city go from simple vaudeville and minstrel shows to 'Shuffle Along', 'Irene' and 'Show Boat', surely the beginning of the truly modern American musical?

This podcast is an epic and wild musical adventure in itself, full of musical interludes, zipping through the evolution of musical entertainment in New York City, as it races up the 'main seam' of Manhattan -- the avenue of Broadway.  We are proud to present a tour up Broadway, past some of the greatest theaters and shows that have ever won acclaim here, from the wacky (and highly copied) imports of Gilbert & Sullivan to the dancing girls and singing sensations of the Jazz Age.

STARRING: Well, some of the biggest names in songwriting, composing and singing. And even a dog who talks in German!

And featuring our new sponsor Squarespace!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Twitter: boweryboys

Direct download: 159_The_Broadway_Musical__Setting_the_Stage.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

The Hotel Theresa is considered a genuine (if under-appreciated) Harlem treasure, both for its unique architecture and its special place in history as the hub for African-American life in the 1940s and 50s.

The luxurious apartment hotel was built by a German lace manufacturer to cater to a wealthy white clientele. But almost as soon as the final brick was laid, Harlem itself changed, thanks to the arrival of thousands of new black residents from the South.  Harlem, renown the world over for the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance and its burgeoning music scene, was soon home mostly those who identified as black.  But many of the businesses here refused to serve black patrons, or at least certainly made them unwelcome.

The Theresa changed its policy in 1940 and soon its lobby was filled with famous athletes, actresses and politicians, many choosing to live at the Hotel Theresa over other hotels in Manhattan.  The hotel's relative small size made it an interesting concentration of America's most renown black celebrities.

In this podcast, I give you a tour of this glamorous scene, from the corner bar to the penthouse, from the breakfast table of Joe Louis to the crazy parties of Dinah Washington.

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 158_Hotel_Theresa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:01pm EDT

This is the Bowery Boys 7th annual Halloween podcast, with four new scary stories to chill your bones and keep you up at night, generally doused with strange and fascinating facts about New York City.

For this episode, we've decided to go truly old-school, reaching back to old legends and tales from the years of the Revolutionary War and early 19th century.  These ghosts have two things in common -- George Washington (directly or indirectly) and ghosts! Although no ghosts of George Washington.

We venture to the haunted woods of Van Cortlandt Park for the tale of an Indian massacre and a forlorn servant girl, looking for her master's silver.  From there, we head to the early days of Greenwich Village and a tormented vice president waiting for his daughter's return.  Meanwhile, over in Brooklyn, the ruins of an old Revolutionary War fort provide the setting for a horrific tale of a late-night booze run gone wrong.  And, finally, no Bowery Boys Halloween podcast would be complete without the ghost of a dramatic actor -- in this case, one without his head!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com


Direct download: 157_Early_Ghost_Stories_of_Old_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56pm EDT

In the third part of the Bowery Boys Summer TV Mini-Series, I give you a grand tour of the New York City television production world from the 1970s to today, from the debut of Sesame Street in the Upper West Side to the flourishing 1990s, where the city was represented by a few iconic shows, including Sex And The City and Seinfeld.

Along the way, hear about the debuts of public access, HBO, MTV, the Cosby Show, NY1 and, of course, the TV show that employed thousands of New Yorkers during its two-decade run -- Law and Order.

Bong-bonggg!

Direct download: 155_Sesame_Street_to_Seinfeld.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm EDT

It's the second part of the Bowery Boys TV Mini-Series, covering the years of New York City television production from the late 1940s to the 1960s. This podcast is arranged a little bit like a leisurely Midtown walking tour, taking you past four of the greatest locations in NYC televison history. And we guide you through the stories of the greatest shows in TV history -- from Howdy Doody to the Ed Sullivan Show!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 154_NYC_in_the_Golden_Age_of_Televison.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24am EDT

It's the beginning of The Bowery Boys Summer TV Mini-Series, three podcasts devoted to New York City's illustrious history with broadcast television -- from Sarnoff to Seinfeld!  

In our first show, we go back to the start of the invention of the television and the city's role in both the creation of the complicated technology and the early formation of programming. 

We begin with the Electro Importing Co. and the imagination of one of the greatest names in science fiction. Then head into scientific realities -- the failures of mechnical televisions and the brutal patent wars between RCA's David Sarnoff and one of the great inventors of television, Philo Farnsworth.

In victory, Sarnoff claimed the mantel of 'father of television' at the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens.  It's but one of many great New York City's beloved landmarks with ties to television's early history, from the heights of the Empire State Building to even a floor at Wanamaker's Department Store. And we even go drinking at McSorley's Old Ale House!

ALSO: Why is Greg singing Cole Porter?

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 153_NYC_and_the_Invention_of_Television._wav.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:24am EDT

Bellevue Hospital, you might have heard, once had a very notorious psychiatric ward.  But those horror stories have only distracted from the rather breathtaking -- and heart-breaking -- history of this historic institution, a lifeline not only for the sick, but for the poor, the incarcerated, the abandoned -- even the dead!

The hospital traces its origins to a six-bed almshouse that once sat near the location of New York City Hall today.  Despite its humble and (to the modern eye) confusing original purposes, the almshouse was miles better than the barbaric medical procedures of early New York, courtesy the ominous sounding 'barber-surgeons'.

A series of yellow fever epidemics moved care for the sick to a former mansion called Belle Vue near Murray Hill -- and, in fact, with a strong connection to Murray himself!  Soon the institution fulfilled a variety of roles and in rather ghastly conditions, from 'pest house' to execution ground, from a Pathological Museum to New York's first city morgue.

A great many medical advances came from Bellevue, not least of which the origins of the modern ambulance.  But some of that progress has been obscured by the reputation of the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital which opened in 1931 and 'hosted' a variety of famous people with disturbing issues.  

And in the 1980s,  Bellevue would take on another grim role -- during the most distressing years of the AIDS crisis.

Direct download: 152_Bellevue_Hospital.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:52pm EDT

If you had told 1840s religious leader William Muhlenberg that his innovative new Church of the Holy Communion, designed by renown architect Richard Upjohn, would become the glittering seat of drugs and debauchery 150 years later, he might have burned it down then and there.

But thankfully, this lovely building is still with us, proving to be one of the most flexible examples of building use in New York City history.

This unusual tale begins with the captivating relationship between Muhlenberg (the grandson of America's first Speaker of the House) and Anna Ayres, the First Sister in charge of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion.  The two of them helped create one of New York's great hospital centers. But was something else going on between them?

The Church of the Holy Communion survives the elevated railroad and the fashionable stores of Ladies Mile, and it weathers the various fortunes of the neighborhood. When it is finally sold and deconsecrated, it briefly houses an intellectual collective and a drug rehabilitation center before being bought by Canadian club impresario Peter Gatien, who turns it into an iconic and sacrilegious symbol of New York nightlife. 

And today, it makes for a truly bizarre retail experience. Warning: This episode might give you whiplash.

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 151_The_Limelight__Church_Nightclub_and_Mall.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm EDT

Here's the story of how two very big cities and a whole bunch of small towns and villages -- completely different in nature, from farmland to skyscraper -- became the greatest city in the world.

This is the tale of Greater New York, the forming of the five boroughs into one metropolis, a consolidation of massive civic interests which became official on January 1, 1898.

But this is not a story of interested parties, united in a common goal. In fact, Manhattan (comprising, with some areas north of the Harlem River, the city of New York) was in a bit of a battle with anti-consolidation forces, mostly in Brooklyn, who saw the merging of two biggest cities in America as the end of the noble autonomy for that former Dutch city on the western shore of Long Island.  You'll be stunned to hear how easily it could have all fallen apart!

In this podcast is the story of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island (or Richmond, if you will) and their journey to become one. And how, rather recently in fact, one of those boroughs would grow uncomfortable with the arrangement.

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 150_CONSOLIDATION__Five_Boroughs_One_Big_City.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:23am EDT

A long, long time ago in New York -- in the 1730s, back when the city was a holding of the British, with a little over 10,000 inhabitants -- a German printer named John Peter Zenger decided to print a four-page newspaper called the New York Weekly Journal. 

This is pretty remarkable in itself, as there was only one other newspaper in town called the New York Gazette, an organ of the British crown and the governor of the colony. (Equally remarkable: Benjamin Franklin almost worked there!)  But Zenger's paper would call to question the actions of that governor, a virtual despot named William Cosby, and in so doing, set in motion an historic trial that marked a triumph for liberty and modern democratic rights, including freedom of the press and the power of jury nullification.

This entire story takes place in lower Manhattan, and most of it on a couple floors of old New York City Hall at Wall Street and Nassau Street. Many years later, this spot would see the first American government and the inauguration of George Washington. But many could argue that the trial that occurs here on August 4, 1735, is equally important to the causes of democracy and a free press.

And somehow, we manage to fit Kim Kardashian into this.

 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Direct download: 149_John_Peter_Zenger_and_the_Freedom_of_the_Press.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

This year is the 125th anniversary of one of the worst storms to ever wreck havoc upon New York City, the now-legendary mix of wind and snow called the Great Blizzard of 1888.  Its memory was again conjured up a few months ago as people struggled to compare Hurricane Sandy with some devastating event in New York's past.

And indeed, the Blizzard and Sandy have several disturbing similarities.  But the battering snow-hurricane of 1888, with freezing temperatures and drifts three stories high, was made worse by the condition of New York's transportation and communication systems, all unprepared for 36 hours of continual snow and wind.

The storm struck in the early hours of Monday, and so thousands were attempting to make their way to work. It would be the worst commute in New York City history!  Fallen telephone and telegraph poles became a hidden threat under the quickly accumulating drifts. Elevated trains were frozen in place, their passengers unable to get out for hours.  Many died simply trying to make their way back home on foot, including Roscoe Conkling, a power broker of New York's Republican Party.

But there were moments of amusement too. Saloons thrived, and actors trudged through to the snow in time for their performances,  And for P.T. Barnum, the show must always go on!

Direct download: 148_The_Blizzard_of_1888.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:24pm EDT

#147 Art Insanity: The Armory Show of 1913
The Armory Show of 1913 was the mainstream debut of modernist art -- both European and American -- to New York City audiences. Galleries had previously devoted themselves to the great European masters, antiquity and American landscapes as a way to influence the taste of a growing city. But even though vanguards like Alfred Stieglitz debuted artists like Picasso and Cezanne into his Fifth Avenue gallery, those names were still barely known to the average New Yorker.
The Armory Show, located at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, changed all that, but not without controversy. When the exhibition debuted on February 17, 1913, writers and art critics exploded in shock and outrage.

This is the story of an important moment in American art history, but also a moment in New York City pop culture, an event that shook society and challenged its beliefs about taste and beauty -- not a small thing in the waning years of the Gilded Age.
Direct download: 147_The_Armory_Show_of_1913.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:07am EDT

#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? 
www.boweryboyspodcast.com
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.

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

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).

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

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

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

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!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Twitter: Boweryboys

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?

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

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!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com 

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!

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Twitter: Boweryboys

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. 

www.boweryboyspodcast.com

Twitter: boweryboys

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