The first attempt to change the name of the city’s oldest thoroughfare appears to have been in 1895.
A New York Times article reported a rumor that the Bowery, an English corruption of the Dutch term for farm, bouwerie, would soon be known as Parkhurst Avenue.
It had to be a joke. Parkhurst was Charles Parkhurst, a social reformer who battled the Tammany-backed gangs and saloons that made up the tacky, crime-ridden Bowery in the late 19th century.
The next try at a less low-rent moniker, according to a Times piece from 1897, was Piccadilly. Why Piccadilly? It was never explained—but the proposal didn’t gain any ground.
Another stab at a new name to shed the Bowery stigma happened in 1916. Business owners who wanted a “fresh start” suggested Central Broadway and Cooper Avenue. Dignified, yes, but very dull.
Again, the suggestions went no where. After that, Bowery merchants and residents seem to have thrown in the towel and accepted that their street would always be the city’s skid row.
[Photo: Bowery in 1910, NYPL Digital Collection]