The Bowery: The Strange History of New York's Oldest Street

The Bowery: The Strange History of New York's Oldest Street

by Stephen Paul DeVillo


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The Bowery: The Strange History of New York's Oldest Street by Stephen Paul DeVillo

From peglegged Peter Stuyvesant to CBGB’s, the story of the Bowery reflects the history of the city that grew up around it.

It was the street your mother warned you about—even if you lived in San Francisco. Long associated with skid row, saloons, freak shows, violence, and vice, the Bowery often showed the worst New York City had to offer. Yet there were times when it showed its best as well.

The Bowery is New York’s oldest street and Manhattan’s broadest boulevard. Like the city itself, it has continually reinvented itself over the centuries. Named for the Dutch farms, or bouweries , of the area, the path’s lurid character was established early when it became the site of New Amsterdam’s first murder. A natural spring near the Five Points neighborhood led to breweries and taverns that became home to the gangs of New York—the “Bowery B’hoys,” “Plug Uglies,” and “Dead Rabbits.” In the Gaslight Era, teenaged streetwalkers swallowed poison in McGurk’s Suicide Hall.

A brighter side to the street was reflected in places of amusement and culture over the years. A young P.T. Barnum got his start there, and Harry Houdini learned showmanship playing the music halls and dime museums. Poets, singers, hobos, gangsters, soldiers, travelers, preachers, storytellers, con-men, and reformers all gathered there. Its colorful cast of characters includes Peter Stuyvesant, Steve Brodie, Carry Nation, Stephen Foster, Stephen Crane, and even Abraham Lincoln.

The Bowery: The Strange History of New York’s Oldest Street traces the full story of this once notorious thoroughfare from its pre-colonial origins to the present day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781510726864
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 546,806
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Stephen Paul DeVillo has spent a lifetime exploring the history and lore of his native New York City. An experienced historical tour guide, he is the author of The Bronx River in History and Folklore. DeVillo lives in the Bronx, New York.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Chapter 1 The Great Bouwerie 1

Chapter 2 Taverns and Tea Water 13

Chapter 3 Bowery Bunker Hill 26

Chapter 4 Pleasure Gardens 36

Chapter 5 Humbug 54

Chapter 6 The Mighty Mose 66

Chapter 7 Dead Rabbits and Plug Uglies 78

Chapter 8 Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts 96

Chapter 9 Women in Tights 108

Chapter 10 Suicide Hall 120

Chapter 11 Living Curiosities 140

Chapter 12 The Mayor of the Bowery 153

Chapter 13 Nickel Kickers 162

Chapter 14 I'll Never Go There Anymore 173

Chapter 15 Boulevard of the Forgotten 199

Chapter 16 Sneaky Pete 212

Chapter 17 Operation Bowery 221

Chapter 18 A New Bowery? 228

Acknowledgments 238

Source Notes 240

Bibliography 245

Index 251

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