Episodes

  • What wonderful surprises await the Bowery Boys in Little Caribbean? The Brooklyn enclave in Flatbush is one of the central destinations for Caribbean-American life and culture in New York City.

    Since the 1960s, thousands of immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations have made this historic area of Flatbush (mostly east of Flatbush Avenue) their home. The streets are lined with restaurants and markets that bring the flavors of the islands to Brooklyn.

    But the story of Caribbean immigration to New York City begins many decades before.

    Tom and Greg are joined on the show today by Dr. Tyesha Maddox, assistant professor of African and African-American Studies at Fordham University, to discuss the history of Caribbean immigration into the United States (and into New York City specifically).

    Then they head out into the streets of Flatbush to join Shelley Worrell, the founder of I am caribBEING who led the effort to designate an official Little Caribbean as a vibrant cultural hub. Listen in on this mini food tour of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues and discover the secrets of this bustling neighborhood.

    Stops include: Peppa's Jerk Chicken (738 Flatbush Ave.), Errol's Caribbean Delights (661 Flatbush), African Record Center (1194 Nostrand Ave), Labay Market (1127 Nostrand Ave), Allan's Bakery (1109 Nostrand Ave), and Rain Eatery and Juice Bar (1166 Nostrand Ave).

    This episode is brought to you by the Historic Districts Council. Funding for this episode is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Benjamin Kallos.

  • Over 350 years ago today's Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush was an old Dutch village, the dirt path that would one day become Flatbush Avenue, lined with wheat fields and farms.

    Contrast that with today's Flatbush, a bustling urban destination diverse in both housing styles and commercial retail shops. It's also an anchor of Brooklyn’s Caribbean community -- Little Caribbean.

    There have been many different Flatbushes -- rural, suburban and urban. In today's show we highlight several stories from these phases in this neighborhood's life.

    If you are a Brooklynite of a certain age, the first thing that might come to mind is maybe the Brooklyn Dodgers who once played baseball in Ebbets Field here. Or maybe you know of a famous person who was born or grew up there -- Barbra Streisand, Norman Mailer or Bernie Sanders.

    But the story of Flatbush reflects the many transformative changes of New York City itself. And it holds a special place in the identity of Brooklyn -- so much so that it is often considered the heart of Brooklyn.

    FEATURING STORIES OF Erasmus Hall, the Kings Theater, Lefferts Historic House, the Flatbush African Burial Ground and the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.

    PLUS We chat with Shelley Worrell of I Am CaribBEING about her work preserving and celebrating the neighborhood's Caribbean community.

    This episode is brought to you by the Historic Districts Council. Funding for this episode is provided by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and Council Member Benjamin Kallos.

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  • Presenting "Cautionary Tales". Host Tim Harford tells tragic stories from the past, pointing out the valuable lessons in the greatest mistakes, disasters and fiascos.

    On this episode, get a front row seat as an award winning choreographer and a rock legend come close to opening the worst Broadway musical of all time. When Billy Joel agreed to let dance legend Twyla Tharp turn his songs into a Broadway musical it seemed like a surefire hit. But in previews, Movin’ Out was panned by the critics. It was headed for Broadway and was set to be an expensive and embarrassing failure. So how could Twyla turn things around and avert disaster before opening night?
    Find out in this episode. You can hear more Cautionary Tales wherever you get your podcasts.

  • The Renwick Ruin, resembling an ancient castle lost to time, appears along the East River as a crumbling, medieval-like apparition, something not quite believable. Sitting between two new additions on Roosevelt Island -- the campus of Cornell Tech and FDR Four Freedoms Park -- these captivating ruins, enrobed in beautiful ivy, tell the story of a dark period in New York City history.

    The island between Manhattan and Queens was once known as Blackwell's Island, a former pastoral escape that transformed into the ominous 'city of asylums', the destination for the poor, the elderly and the criminal during the 19th century.

    During this period, the island embodied every outdated idea about human physical and mental health, and vast political corruption ensured that the inmates and patients of the island would suffer.

    In 1856 the island added a Smallpox Hospital to its notorious roster, designed by acclaimed architect James Renwick Jr (of St. Patrick's Cathedral fame) in a Gothic Revival style that captivates visitors to this day -- even if the building is in an advanced state of dilapidation.

    What makes the Renwick Ruin so entrancing? How did this marvelous bit of architecture manage to survive in any form into present day?

    PLUS: The grand story of the island -- from a hideous execution in 1829 to the modern delights of one of New York City's most interesting neighborhoods.

    Visit the website

    After you've listened to this show, check out these Bowery Boys podcasts with similar themes:

    -- North Brother Island: New York's Forbidden Place
    -- Nellie Bly: Undercover in the Madhouse

  • Two landmarks to American art history sit on either side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge over the Hudson River -- the homes of visionary artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church.

    Cole and Church were leaders of the Hudson River School, a collective of 19th century American painters captivated by natural beauty and wide-open spaces. Many of these paintings, often of a massive size, depicted fantastic views of the Hudson River Valley where many of the artists lived.

    In this episode, the final part of the Bowery Boys podcast mini-series Road Trip to the Hudson Valley, Greg and Tom head up to the historic towns of Catskill and Hudson to celebrate a pioneering artist and his star pupil, two men who transformed the way we look at nature and revolutionized American art. They're joined on this show by Betsy Jacks on the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Amy Hausmann and Dan Bigler of the Olana State Historic Site.

    For more information on the places we visited today, head over to the websites for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Olana State Historic Site. You can also discover the natural places featured in many famous paintings by hiking the Hudson River Art Trail.

    And for images of our trip to Catskill and Hudson, visit our website.

    After you've listened to this show, check out the other two parts of this Road Trip to the Hudson Valley mini-series: On the Trail of the Croton Aqueduct and Hyde Park: The Roosevelts on the Hudson

  • Hyde Park, New York, was the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States. He was born here, he lived here throughout his life, and he's buried here -- alongside his wife Eleanor Roosevelt. But it was more than just a home.

    The Hyde Park presence of the Roosevelts expands outwardly from the Roosevelt ancestral mansion of Springwood, over hundreds of forested acres from former farmlands on the eastern side to the shores of the Hudson River on the west.

    FDR was born here in 1882, returning through his life and throughout his storied career -- as a state senator, as a governor of New York, as a four-term president. When diagnosed with polio in 1921, Franklin rehabilitated here along the dirt roads emanating from Springwood.

    FDR said of Springwood, “My heart has always been here. It always will be.”

    Eleanor raised their family here, alongside FDR's protective mother Sara Delano. She would carve out her own legacy in Hyde Park at a place called Val-Kill Cottage where her political independence and social activism would flourish.

    In this episode, Tom and Greg visit both Springwood and Val-Kill, along with two other historic places:

    -- Top Cottage where the King and Queen of England met FDR at the dawning of the World War II (and the King enjoyed a certain staple of American cuisine)

    -- And the FDR Library and Museum, America's first presidential library, where the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor lives on.

    And special thanks to our patrons! Support the Bowery Boys on Patreon.com.

  • What 19th century American engineering landmark invites you through nature, past historic sites and into people's backyards? Where can you experience the grandeur of the Hudson Valley in (mostly) secluded peace and tranquility -- while learning something about Old New York?

    Welcome to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, 26.5 miles of dusty pathway through some of the most interesting and beautiful towns and villages in Westchester County.

    But this is more than a linear park. The trail runs atop -- and sometimes alongside -- the original Croton Aqueduct, a sloping water system which opened in 1842, inspired by ancient Roman technology which delivered fresh water to the growing metropolis over three dozen miles south.

    At its northern end sits the New Croton Dam -- the tallest dam in the world when it was completed in 1906 -- with its breathtaking, cascading spillway (a little Niagara Falls) and its classic steel arch bridge, providing visitors with a view into a still-active source of drinking water.

    In the first part of this Road Trip to the Hudson Valley mini-series adventure, Greg and Tom not only trace the history of this colossal engineering project, they literally follow the aqueduct through the village of Westchester County (with some help from Tom Tarnowsky from Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct).

    WITH Nineteenth century ruins! Ancient bridges and weirs! Steep hikes and historic houses!

    PLUS: How did this elaborate mechanism help revolutionize modern plumbing? And find out how portions of this 180 year old system are still used today to distribute fresh water.

    For many historic images and photographs from out adventure, visit our website.

    boweryboyshistory.com

    And for further listening about the Hudson River and Westchester County, check out these earlier Bowery Boys podcasts:

    -- Water For New York: The Croton Aqueduct (our original show on this subject)

    -- Henry Hudson and the European Discovery of Mannahatta

    -- Literary Horrors of New York City (for the story of Washington Irving and Sleepy Hollow)

    -- The George Washington Bridge

  • We wanted to present to you one of our favorite new podcasts of the year -- and one we think you'll love. It's called History Daily. And yes, it really is history, daily!

    Every weekday host Lindsay Graham (American Scandal, American History Tellers) takes you back in time to explore a momentous event that happened ‘on this day’ in history. Whether it’s to remember the tragedy of December 7th, 1941, the day “that will live in infamy,” or to celebrate that 20th day in July, 1969, when mankind reached the moon, History Daily is there to tell you the true stories of the people and events that shaped our world—one day at a time.

    Enjoy these two sample episodes of History Daily -- the first on the formation of Barnum & Bailey's Circus, and the second on the opening of the Eiffel Tower. We love Graham's podcasts and we hope you enjoy them too. And remember to subscribe to History Daily on your favorite podcast player.

  • Frederick Law Olmsted, America's preeminent landscape architect of the 19th century, designed dozens of parks, parkways and college campuses across the country. With Calvert Vaux, he created two of New York City's greatest parks -- Central Park and Prospect Park.

    Yet before Central Park, he had never worked on any significant landscape project and he wasn't formally trained in any kind of architecture.

    In fact, Fred was a bit of a wandering soul, drifting from one occupation to the next, looking for fulfillment in farming, traveling and writing.

    This is the remarkable story of how Olmsted found his true calling.

    The Central Park proposal drafted by Olmsted and Vaux -- called the Greensward Plan -- drew from personal experiences, ideas of social reform and the romance of natural beauty (molded and manipulated, of course, by human imagination).

    But for Olmsted, it was also created in the gloom of personal sadness. And for Vaux, in the reverence of a mentor who died much too young.

    PLUS: In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Olmsted's birth, Greg is joined on the show by Adrian Benepe, former New York City parks commissioner and president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

    boweryboyshistory.com

  • This episode focuses on the special relationship between New York City and Puerto Rico, via the tales of pioneros, the first migrants to make the city their home and the many hundreds of thousands who came to the city during the great migration of the 1950s and 60s.

    Today there are more Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent in New York City than in any other city in the nation — save for San Juan, Puerto Rico. And it has been so for decades.

    By the late 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans lived in New York City, but in a metropolis of deteriorating infrastructure and financial woe, they often found themselves at the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder, in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

    Puerto Rican poets and artists associated with the Nuyorican Movement, activated by the needs of their communities, began looking back to their origins, asking questions.

    In this special episode Greg is joined by several guests to look at the stories of Puerto Ricans from the 1890s until the early 1970s. With a focus on the origin stories of New York's great barrios -- including East Harlem, the Lower East Side and the South Bronx.

    FEATURING The origin of the Puerto Rican flag and the first bodegas in New York City!

    WITH Dr. Yarimar Bonilla and Carlos Vargas-Ramos of CUNY's Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (CENTRO), Kat Lloyd and Pedro Garcia of the Tenement Museum and Angel Hernandez of the Huntington Free Library and Reading Room and the Webby Award winning podcast Go Bronx.

  • Temple Emanu-El, home to New York's first Reform Jewish congregation and the largest synagogue in the city, sits on the spot of Mrs. Caroline Astor's former Gilded Age mansion. Out with the old, in with the new.

    The synagogue shimmers with Jazz Age style from vibrant stained-glass windows to its Art Deco tiles and mosaics. When its doors opened in 1929, the congregation was making a very powerful statement. New York's Jewish community had arrived.

    This story begins on the Lower East Side with the first major arrival of German immigrants in the 1830s. New Jewish congregations splintered from old ones, inspired by the Reform movement from Europe and the possibilities of life in America.

    Congregation Emanu-El grew rapidly, moving from the Lower East Side to Fifth Avenue in 1868. Their beautiful new synagogue reflected the prosperity of its congregants who were nonetheless excluded from mainstream (Christian oriented, old moneyed) high society.

    Why did they move to the spot of the old Astor mansion? What does the current synagogue's architecture say about its congregation? And where in the sanctuary can you find a tribute to the congregation's Lower East Side roots?

    PLUS Greg visits Temple Emanu-El and chats with Mark Heutlinger, administrator of the congregation, and Warren Klein of the Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica.

    FURTHER READING

    Stephen Birmingham / Our Crowd
    Stephen Birmingham / The Rest of Us
    Michael A. Meyer / Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism
    Deborah Dash Moore / Jewish New York: The Remarkable Story of a City and a People
    Marc Lee Raphael / Judaism In America
    Steven R. Weisman / The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became An American Religion
    The Jewish Metropolis: New York City from the 17th Century to the 21st Century / Edited by Daniel Soyer

    FURTHER LISTENING

    After listening to this week’s episode on Temple Emanu-El, dive back into past episodes which intersect with his story:

    The Miracle on Eldridge Street: The Eldridge Street Synagogue

    Welcome to Yorkville: German Life on the Upper East Side

    The Real Mrs. Astor: Ruler or Rebel?

  • Richard Morris Hunt was one of the most important architects in American history. His talent and vision brought respect to his profession in the mid-19th century and helped to craft the seductive style of the Gilded Age.

    So why are there so few examples of his extraordinary work still standing in New York City today?

    You're certainly familiar with the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and the grand entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two commissions that came late in Hunt's life.

    And perhaps you've taken a tour of two luxurious mansions designed by Hunt -- The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, and Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.

    But Hunt was more than just pretty palaces.

    He championed the profession of the architect in a period when Americans were more likely to associate the job with construction or carpentry. Hunt brought artistry to the fore and trained the first official class of American architects from his atelier in Greenwich Village.

    He promoted certain European styles of design -- collectively known as the Beaux-Arts architecture -- to growing wealthy class of Americans who wished to emulate the grand and regal lifestyles of French aristocracy.

    His legacy includes prominent organizations promoting both the field of architecture and the need for effective urban design. Along the way he built hospitals, libraries, newspaper offices, artist studios, churches and even the first American apartment building.

    Join us for this look at a true arbiter of American architecture.

    boweryboyshistory.com

    And for more fascinating details about the Gilded Age, listen to our spin-off podcast The Gilded Gentleman, hosted by Carl Raymond.

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • We’re bringing you something special this week. The trailer for a new podcast produced by Pineapple Street Studios called Love Thy Neighbor.

    Hosted by journalist Collier Meyerson, this five-episode series is about two communities in the New York City neighborhood of Crown Heights: the Lubavitch Jewish community and the Caribbean-American community.

    It’s a story about immigration; white flight; the downfall of New York City’s first Black mayor, David Dinkins; and the rise of Rudolph Giuliani. But it’s also a story about Meyerson’s own journey as a Black, Jewish New Yorker and what it means to be a neighbor.

    Love Thy Neighbor is available now wherever you listen to your favorite shows!

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • New York City has an impressive collection of historic homes, but none as unique and or as joyful as the Louis Armstrong House and Museum, located in Corona, Queens.

    What other historic home in the United States has a gift shop in its garage, aqua blue kitchen cabinets, bathroom speakers behind silver wallpaper, mirrored bathrooms and chandeliers over the bed? Elvis Presley's Graceland perhaps comes close, but the Louis Armstrong House has a charming comfort and a genuine grace and modesty to it, befitting its legendary former occupants.

    Louis Armstrong is one of the most influential and most popular musicians in American history. Louis, like jazz itself, was born in New Orleans; in 1943, Armstrong moved to this house in Corona, thanks to the influence of his wife Lucille Armstrong, a former Cotton Club dancer and a fascinating personality in her own right.

    In this episode Greg charts Armstrong's path to international fame -- and then his journey to becoming a New Yorker. And he pays a visit to the house itself, a magnificent treasure on a quiet street in Queens.

    FEATURING audio of Louis and Lucille courtesy the Louis Armstrong House and Museum. And lots of music!

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • Dorothy Parker was not only the wittiest writer of the Jazz Age, she was also obsessively morbid.

    Her talents rose at a very receptive moment for such a sharp, dour outlook, after the first world war and right as the country went dry. Dorothy Parker’s greatest lines are as bracing and intoxicating as a hard spirit.

    Her most successful verse often veers into somber moods, loaded with thoughts of self-destruction or wry despair. In fact, she frequently quipped about the epitaph that would some day grace her tombstone. Excuse my dust is one she suggested in Vanity Fair.

    In this episode, Greg pays tribute to the great Mrs. Parker, the most famous member of the Algonquin Round Table, and reveals a side of the writer that you may not know -- a more engaged, politically thoughtful Parker.

    Death did not end the story of Dorothy Parker. In fact, due to some unfortunate circumstances (chiefly relating to her frenemy Lillian Hellman), her remains would make a journey to several places before reaching their final home -- Woodlawn Cemetery.

    Joining Greg on the show is author and tour guide Kevin Fitzpatrick of the Dorothy Parker Society who has now become a part of Parker's legacy.

    boweryboyshistory.com

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • PODCAST What does the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea mean to you? Religion and architecture? Art galleries and gay bars? Shopping and brunch after a stroll on the High Line? Tens of thousands of people, of course, call it home.

    But before it was a neighborhood, it was the Colonial-era estate of a British military officer who named his bucolic property after a London veterans hospital.

    His descendant Clement Clarke Moore would distinguish himself as a theologian and writer; he invented many aspects of the Christmas season in one very famous poem. But he could no longer preserve his family estate when New York civic planners (and the Commissioners Plan of 1811) came a-calling.

    Moore parceled the estate into private lots in the 1820s and 30s, creating both the exclusive development Chelsea Square and the grand, beautiful General Theological Seminary.

    Slowly, over the decades, this charming residential district (protected as a historic district today) would be surrounded by a wide variety of urban needs -- from heavy industrial to venues of amusement. One stretch would even become "the Bowery of the West Side."

    Further change arrived in the late 20th century as blocks of tenements were replaced with housing projects and emptied warehouses became discotheques and art collectives. Then came the Big Cup.

    Join us as we celebrate over 200 years of urban development -- how Chelsea the estate became Chelsea the neighborhood.

    Visit the Bowery Boys website for more information on Chelsea.

    If you like the show please rate and review The Bowery Boys podcast on Apple Podcasts

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • The strange, scandalous and sex-filled story of the Ansonia, an Upper West Side architectural gem and a legendary musical landmark.

    In the television show Only Murders in the Building, Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez play podcasters attempting to solve a mystery in a building full of eccentric personalities. Their fictional apartment building is called The Arconia, a name partially inspired by The Ansonia, a former residential hotel with a history truly stranger than fiction.

    Built by the copper scion W.E.D Stokes, the lavish Ansonia remains one of the grandest buildings on the Upper West Side. But its hallways have seen some truly dramatic events including one of the greatest sports crimes in American history.

    Today the Ansonia is still known as the home for great musicians and many of the most famous composers and opera stars have lived here. But it's the music legacy of the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse once in its basement, that may resonate with pop and rock music lovers as the launching pad for one of America's great performers.

    PLUS: The hedonistic disco delights of Plato's Retreat.

    NOTE: This show feature discussions of adult sex clubs and bathhouses. Although the show does not linger on the specifics, parental guidance is nonetheless suggested.

    boweryboyshistory.com

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • Believe it or not, we've got one more brand new Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast for 2021. Look for it on January 31.

    But for today we wanted to give you another sampling of our new spin-off podcast called The Gilded Gentleman, a look at America's Gilded Age period, hosted by social and culinary historian Carl Raymond.

    In this new episode, Carl looks at one of the most legendary figures of the period – Caroline Astor, or the Mrs Astor, the ruler and creator of New York’s Gilded Age high society in the early 1870s. In collaboration with Southern social climber Ward McAllister, Astor essentially created the rules for who was 'acceptable' in New York social circles.

    But she's also known for her battles with family members -- most notably with her nephew (and next door neighbor) William Waldorf Astor. What was behind her unusual motivations? And in what unusual way did she decide to cap her legacy at the end of her life?

    Carl is joined by Tom Miller, creator of the website Daytonian in Manhattan, documenting the history of New York City, one building at a time.

    Subscribe to the Gilded Gentleman now and you’ll get ANOTHER new episode on the life of Murray Hall, a Tammany Hall politician and operator of an employment agency for domestic help in the late 19th century.

    But Murray had a secret – one that he took to his grave. A remarkable story and one we think will move you.

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • Steven Spielberg's new version of West Side Story is here -- and it's fantastic -- so we're re-visiting our 2016 show on the story of Lincoln Center, with a new podcast introduction discussing the film and the passing of musical icon Stephen Sondheim.

    The fine arts campus assembles some of the city's finest music and theatrical institutions to create the classiest 16.3 acres in New York City. It was created out of an urgent necessity, bringing together the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the Julliard School and other august fine-arts companies as a way of providing a permanent home for American culture.

    However this tale of Robert Moses urban renewal philosophies and the survival of storied institutions has a tragic twist. The campus sits on the site of a former neighborhood named San Juan Hill, home to thousands of African American and Puerto Rican families in the mid 20th century. No trace of this neighborhood exists today.

    Or, should we say, ALMOST no trace. San Juan Hill exists, at least briefly, within a part of classic American cinema.

    The Oscar-winning film West Side Story, based on the celebrated musical, was partially filmed here. The movie reflects many realities of the neighborhood and involves talents who would be, ahem, instrumental in Lincoln Center's continued successes.

    boweryboyshistory.com

    Originally released as Episode #218, December 9, 2016

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys

  • The following is a special presentation — the first episode of brand spin-off podcast called The Gilded Gentleman, hosted by social and culinary historian Carl Raymond.

    In this debut episode, recorded at Greenwich Village's Salmagundi Club, Tom and Greg sit with Carl to formally introduce him to listeners and also to discuss the ideas surrounding the Gilded Age, a period of great wealth and great inequality during the late 19th century.

    PLUS: Subscribe to The Gilded Gentleman on your favorite podcast player and get the second episode NOW -- on the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera. With many more exciting new episodes arriving in the coming weeks.

    Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/boweryboys