Posts Tagged ‘Bowery Skid Row’

How things looked one wet night on the Bowery

October 8, 2018

A shapely woman holding (posing?) with an umbrella in front of a brightly lit store window. A statue outside a cigar store.

Car lights up ahead, under the hulking steel tracks of the elevated train, making the Bowery appear darker and more ominous than usual.

And in the background beyond the cigar store are at least two men, forced by the rain and probably circumstance into the shadows of New York’s most blighted skid row at the time.

This is how John Sloan saw the Bowery one wet night in 1911.

The magic of old Cooper Square by moonlight

June 2, 2016

Here is a moonlit Cooper Square under a starry sky looking north around 1905.

It’s not a square but a triangular park, a juncture of elevated train routes and avenues, a place where old neighborhood boundaries shifted (like the early 19th century Bowery Village) and new ones (Noho, anyone?) popped up.

Coopersquareatnight2

It’s a carnival of history. On the right are modest Federal-style homes with dormer windows, built in the 1820s. Cooper Union’s 1858 Great Hall hosted presidential hopefuls going back to Abraham Lincoln.

A sketchier, pre-boutique hotel Cooper Square in late 1980s was also the site of a peddlers’ market of sorts, where the desperate put out anything they could find (or steal) for sale in an empty parking lot.

What if the city really did rename the Bowery?

August 23, 2012

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]