The Bowery Boys: New York City History
New York City history is America's history. It's the hometown of the world, and most people know the city's familiar landmarks, buildings and streets. Why not look a little closer and have fun while doing it?

The streets of New York have been lit in various ways through the decades, from the wisps of whale-oil flame to the modern comfort of gas lighting. With the discovery of electricity, it seemed possible to illuminate the world with a more dependable, potentially inexhaustible energy source. 

First came arc light and 'sun towers' with their brilliant beams of white-hot light casting shadows down among the holiday shoppers of Ladies Mile in 1880. But the genius of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison, envisioned an entire city grid wired for electricity. From Edison's Pearl Street station, the inventor turned a handful of blocks north of Wall Street into America's first area entirely lit with the newly invented incandescent bulbs.

ALSO: The War of Currents, the enigmatic Nicola Tesla and the world's first electric Christmas lights

Direct download: 132_Electric_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28pm EDT

Well, we're movin' on the first New York apartment building ever constructed. New Yorkers of the emerging middle classes needed a place to live situated between the townhouse and the tenement, and the solution came from overseas -- a daring style of communal and affordable living called the 'apartment' or 'French flat'.

The city's first was financed by Rutherford Stuyvesant, an old-money heir with an unusual story to his name. He hired one of the upper class's hottest architects to create an apartment house, called the Stuyvesant Apartments, with many features that would have been shocking to more than a few New Yorkers of the day.

The building's first tenants were sometimes well-known, often artists and publishers, and almost all of them with a fascinating story to tell. Listen in to hear about the vanguard first renters of this classic, long-gone building.

Direct download: 131_The_First_Apartment_Building.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:04pm EDT

What mischievous phantoms and malevolent spirits haunt the streets of New York City today? In our fifth annual podcast of local ghost stories, we bring you the histories of four very haunted places from three boroughs and a small island in the harbor. 

The legend of Captain Kidd's buried treasure -- alleged to be buried in the New York region -- inspires our first ghost tale of two ambitious soldiers on a quest during a full moon. Meanwhile, out in Brooklyn, a congregation gathers at a new Catholic church, but maybe they shouldn't have built it over a graveyard. Do the spirits of dead clergy haunt the halls today?

The Palace Theatre in Manhattan has hosted the greatest names in entertainment -- and continues to play host to the undead. And finally, we hesitate to bring you the malevolent events at the Kreischer Mansion in Staten Island. What is it about this house that has inspired stories for over a hundred years, and did ghosts from a century ago have something to do with a horrifying and gory crime that took place here just a few years ago?

Direct download: 130_Haunted_Histories_of_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:47pm EDT

Manhattan's Chinatown is unique among New York neighborhoods as its origins and its provocative history can still be traced in many of the buildings and streets still in existence. Two hundred years ago, the sight of a Chinese person would have astonished New Yorkers, and the first to arrive in the city were either sailors or the subjects of tacky exhibition. 

But with the first Chinese men setting on Mott Street, a new community was born, with thriving variety shops, cigar businesses and gambling dens alongside establishments of a more sensuous nature -- opium dens and brothels. This mini-economy produced social clubs and secret societies (the legendary ‘tongs’), and rival gangs soon spilled blood along the neighborhood's quirkiest lane.

And still today, modern Chinatown hides a few dark, startling secrets of its own.

ALSO: We give you a rundown of addresses along Mott Street and other places nearby. You can use this podcast as your official walking tour of Chinatown!

Direct download: 129_Chinatown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39pm EDT

We're officially subtitling this 'Strange Tales of 1864', a series of odd, fascinating stories from one pivotal year in New York City history. With the city both fatigued by the length of the Civil War and energized by Union victories, New Yorkers were often at their best -- and their worst. The city unites around an unusual parade -- the first regiment of African-American troops -- even as it elects a pacifist mayor sympathetic to the Southern cause. A grand and flamboyant fair, uniting the community, offers up a surprising New York tradition -- the theme restaurant. Meanwhile, a local newspaper editor devises an elaborate hoax to get rich quick off the gold market.

But with the November re-election of Abraham Lincoln also comes a deadly threat -- a Confederate conspiracy aimed at New York's luxury hotels. Tune in as we recount the botched plot to destroy New York in an conflagration of 'Greek fire'.

Direct download: 1864.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:42pm EDT

The week of July 13, 1863, was indeed among the most dangerous weeks to be a New Yorker. The announcement of conscription to replenish Union troops -- and the inclusion of that incendiary $300 exemption fee -- fell upon jaded ears, and as the draft lottery neared, some New Yorkers planned to rebel.

We take you through all four hellish days of deplorable violence and appalling attacks on black New Yorkers, abolitionists, Republicans, wealthy citizens, and anybody standing in the way of blind anger. Mobs filled the streets, destroying businesses (from corner stores to Brooks Brothers) and threatening to throw the city into permanent chaos. Listen in as we tell you how the this violence changed the city forever.

Direct download: The_Civil_War_Draft_Riots.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:06am EDT

Fernando Wood, New York’s mayor at the dawning of the Civil War, was the South’s best friend. Famous during his first term for inciting a police riot, Wood drummed up pro-slavery support amongst his Irish and German constituents and even suggested New York secede from the Union itself! But once the war began and public support for the conflict swelled, the nefarious Fernando tried to have it both ways, both leading the Union cry and undermining it.

Direct download: 126_Fernando_Wood.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:55pm EDT

The famous faces on the walls of Sardi's Restaurant represent the entertainment elite of the 20th Century, and all of them made this place on West 44th Street their unofficial home. Known for its caricatures and its Broadway opening-night traditions, Sardi's fed the stars of the golden age and became a hotspot for producers, directors and writers -- and, of course, those struggling to get their attention.

When Vincent Sardi opened his first restaurant in 1921, Prohibition had begun, and the midtown Broadway tradition was barely a couple decades old. By the time the current place threw open its doors (thanks to the Shuberts) in 1927, Broadway's stages were red hot, and Sardi found himself at the center of New York City show business world.

We have nuggets from the old days -- starring John Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing and a cast of thousands -- and the scoop on those famous (and often unflattering) framed caricatures. So sidle up to the Little Bar, order yourself a stiff drink and eavesdrop in on this tale of Broadway's longest dinner party. 

Direct download: 125_Sardis_Restaurant.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:40pm EDT

Come fly with us through a history of New York City's largest airport, once known as Idlewild (for a former golf course) and called John F. Kennedy International Airport since 1964. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia wanted a new and improved facility to relieve the pressure from that other Queens airport (you know, the one with his name on it), but a greater challenge faced developers of the Jamaica Bay project -- the coming of the jet age and the growth of commercial travel.

The solution for Idlewild was truly unique -- a series of vastly different and striking-looking terminals assigned to individual airlines. This arrangement certainly had its critics, but it has provided New York with some of the most inventive architecture found within its borders.

From stained glass to zodiac sculptures, from the out-of-this-world dramatics of the Pan Am WorldPort to the strangely lifting concrete masterpiece by Eero Saarinen, we take you on a tour of the original '60s terminals and the airport’s peculiar history.

With guest appearances by Robert Moses, Martin Scorsese, the Beatles and a pretty awesome dog named Brandy.

Direct download: 124_Idlewild_JFK_Airport.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:58pm EDT

Donald Trump - financial wizard, reality star, or political distraction? The secret in figuring him out may be contained in the roots of his wealth  -- a saga that stretches back to the 1880s and begins with a 16-year-old boy named Drumpf who made his living in a barber shop. From there, the story unfolds during the early days of Queens, a borough once sparsely populated and ready for development.

Donald's father Fred built thousands of middle-class homes throughout Queens and Brooklyn and embroiled himself in some controversy regarding the remains of TWO Coney Island theme parks. The Donald built upon the reputation of his father to become a successful Manhattan developer and a flamboyant celebrity with seemingly bottomless levels of lucre. But of course everyone has their limit. 

Featuring trivia about Trump Tower, Riverside South and other Trump-labeled properties, this is the brief history of the family behind the New York's glitziest name brand.

CORRECTION TO THE PODCAST: I say the GM Building when I meant the Gulf Western Building

Direct download: 123_TRUMP.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:17pm EDT

How did Manhattan get its orderly rows of numbered streets and avenues? In the early 18th century, New York was growing rapidly, but the new development was confined on an island, giving city planners a rare opportunity to mold a modern city that was orderly, sophisticated and even (they thought at the time) healthy. With the Commissioners Plan of 1811, uniform blocks were created without regards to hills and streams or even to the owners of the property!

Join us as we recount this monumental event in New York's history -- how land above Houston Street was radically transformed and also how the city revolted in many places. What about those avenues A, B, C and D? Why doesn't the West Village snap to the grid? And why on earth did the early planners not arrange for any major parks?!

ALSO: A podcast within a podcast as we focus on the biography of one of those commissioners. Give it up for Gouverneur Morris, the casanova with Constitutional connections, a Bronx estate and a wooden pegleg.

Direct download: The_Grid.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:53am EDT

Fraunces Tavern is one of America's most important historical sites of the Revolutionary War and a reminder of the great importance of tavern culture on the New York way of life during the Colonial era. This revered building at the corner of Pearl and Broad streets was the location of George Washington's emotional farewell speech to his Continental Army officers and some of the very first government offices of the young United States of America.

As with places this famous -- where fact and legend intermingle -- many mysteries still remain, and we attempt to find some answers. Was the tavern owner Samuel Fraunces one of America's first great black patriots? Did Sam use his position here to spy upon the British during the years of occupation between 1776 and 1783? Was his daughter on hand to prevent an assassination attempt on the life of Washington? And is it possible that the basement of Fraunces Tavern once housed a dungeon?<div>

ALSO: Learn about the two deadly attacks on Fraunces Tavern -- one by a British war vessel in the 1770s, and another, more violent act of terror that occurred in its doorway over 200 years later!

Direct download: Fraunces_Tavern.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

New York City inspires cinema, but it has also consistently manufactured it. And long before anybody had heard of Hollywood, New York and the surrounding region was a movie capital too, the home to the earliest American film studios and inventors who revolutionized the medium.

It began with Thomas Edison's invention of the Kinetoscope out in his New Jersey laboratory. Soon his former employees would spread out through New York, evolving the inventor's work into entertainments that could be projected in front of audiences. By the mid 1900s, New Yorkers fell in love with Nickelodeons and gasped as their first look at moving pictures. 

We also take a look at the medium's first superstar director D.W. Griffith and how he helped hasten the move out west. But even as studios fled for sunny California weather, movie making never left New York. Find out where you can still find some relics of New York's pre-Hollywood movie career.

NOTE: As this is of course a New York podcast, we are very NYC-centric here. Our apologies to Georges Melies and to Fort Lee, NJ!

Direct download: New_York_Makes_Movies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:29pm EDT

The longest suspension bridge in the United States, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was one of Robert Moses' most ambitious projects, a commanding structure that would finally link Staten Island with Brooklyn. Today it soars above New York Harbor as one of the finest examples of architecture from the 1960s. But it didn't get built without some serious community outcry, from a neighborhood that would be partially destroyed in its wake -- Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

This is the tale of a 16th century explorer, a 20th century builder and a timeless marvel of the harbor, with a design that takes the curvature of the earth -- and one very, very large boat -- into consideration.

ALSO: The bridge's shining moment from a classic 1970s film.


Direct download: Verrazano_Narrows_Bridge.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:44am EDT