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A Walk On The Bowery  


Back in the mid 19th century, before the American Civil War, the Bowery was one of the main centers of commerce in New York City. Right off the Bowery is Merchant's House Museum, dating from 1838, it is one of the best preserved samples of American pre-civil war urban housing, complete with original furniture, clothing, and ephemera. After the Civil War New York City boomed but the Bowery area fell into decline. At the time the Bowery was filled with workshops including several planemakers. Josiah King was at 373 Bowery (around 5 street) just to name one.

By World War Two the Bowery the street was synonymous with being down and out. Cheap hotels abounded and the street were known for winos and bums. In the 1960's and '70's the cheap housing attracted a lot of undesirable businesses including nightclubs like CBGB's, the punk haven at 4th street and the Bowery.

By the time I went to school on the Bowery the punks had taken over and the area got a reputation as being home to a lot of musicians. It was pretty common to see Joey Ramone eating pizza on 9th street, or Patti Smith or other rising stars of the genre hanging out with time on their hands.

Now the resurrection of the Bowery is complete. The winos and SROs are long gone. The streets are clean. CBGBs succumbed to high rents. The area is marked by modern mid-rise apartment construction with a distinctly European architecture slant. The store in the photo caught my eye. MISHA NICOLE is a trendy upscale clothing store and the windows were carefully dressed with fashionable clothing and (surprise, surprise) beat up power tools. My first reaction on seeing the chop saw in the windows was - If it was a Festool Kapex it would be under warranty and nobody would abandon it to a window display. My second thought was that using tools to sell women's clothing confirms that the whole tool thing gives a rugged industrial look that would help me with the ladies if I had that look.

Sorry for the poor picture, I could not do anything about the reflection on the glass. If you want to take a walk on the Bowery, Google Streetview can give you a small sanitized taste. We start the trip in front of where CBGB's was looking down the Bowery.

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Tags:Historical Subjects,Misc.
Comments: 4
My favorite building on the Bowery is 190, an old bank building covered with grafitti across street from the New Museum is now. I always thought it was abandoned until I came across this article a couple of years ago. Then my mind exploded. Every basement should have a safe deposit room!
09/09/2011Joe Cunningham
I have a couple Marten Doscher rounds that also have a Reed & Auerbacher (Bowery New York) imprint on them . From what I gather Reed & Auerbacher was a hardware business located at 229 Bowery. The Bowery Mission is right next door at 227, and began the same year that Marten Doscher started making planes, 1879. But that sounds like that time period was when the Bowery was synonymous with down-and-out.

One of my favorite buildings anywhere. Not sure if this gem on Bleeker is officially in the Bowery, but it fits your description of booming NYC. I love the angels as damselflies in a garden. The naturalism, romanticism and artistry of the time all concentrated in this Bleeker St. facade.

Carving, anyone?
10/02/2011Fritz Nelson 
Actually Joe, The Bowery Mission occupies both 229 and 227. The ground floor, where the hardware business once was, is now home to The Bowery Mission's feeding operations - a large dining room, kitchen, walk-ins and pantry. Upstairs are classrooms, dorms for homeless men and a health clinic.
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