Category Archives: Adventures In Old New York

The Story of Bayard’s Mount, Lower Manhattan’s Missing Mountain

Bayard’s Mount, one of the highest points in Manhattan, has been gone for more than two hundred years. Where other hills and high points have been incorporated into the modern topography New York, this old hill was wiped from the map.

Bayard’s Mount used to sit at around where Mott and Grand Streets meet today, in today’s Little Italy. Indeed, back when nearby SoHo was but a dense thicket of oak and tulip trees, the Mount was the best place to view the waters of Collect Pond, the wild northern orchards, and the flat tidal creeks to the west.

A smaller hilltop, called Mount Pleasant, sat to its east and, with the introduction of Europeans, a farm road (Bowery) ran along it. Sitting atop Bayard’s Mount, a person could wile away the day watching travelers going along the Bowery, to and from the city.

A watercolor by artist Archibald Robertson in 1798, looking south, with Bayard’s Mount/Bunker Hill to the left and Collect Pond dead center.

Some reminiscences refer to Bayard’s Mount and Mount Pleasant as the same hill, and they were close enough they seem to be part of the same ridge.

After the territory went from Dutch to British hands in the mid-17th century, most of this property fell into the hands of Nicholas Bayard, and the “small, cone-shaped mount” took on the name of its landowner, who built his sturdy estate just to its north. Even by the early 18th century, Bayard’s family would still have few neighbors; swampy ground prevented much development west, while property to the east eventually belonged to James DeLancey, the governor of the colony.

Below: A later 19th century property map highlights the broken western border of Bayard’s farm. The wetlands known as Lispenard’s Meadow prevented the estate from developing further westward.

The mount took on a more serious purpose with the onset of the Revolutionary War. In March of 1776, “One third of the citizens were ordered out to erect new works; they began a fort upon Mr. Bayard’s Mount near the Bowery.” [source]

This fortification, built in anticipation of a messy battle with the British, was named after a critical battle the year previous at Bunker Hill in Boston; soon, the hill itself took on the name, and in most histories after 1776, this place at today’s Mott and Grand Streets is officially known as Bunker Hill. Notably stationed here at Bunker Hill was Nathan Hale.

There would be no significant altercations here between British troops and the Continental Army. No, in fact, the bloodshed would wait until after the war, when the hilltop would be known as a fashionable place to host your duel.

For instance, in 1787, a disagreement between two French men ended in a duel here and the death of one of them, a “Monsieur Chevalier de Longchamps” who was apparently no stranger to offense and violent response.

Below: From Montressor’s map of Manhattan, 1755, you can see Bayard’s property and both hills — Bayard’s Mount and Mount Pleasant, the elongated hill. The Bowery runs along the bottom right hand of the illustration, with Collect Pond in the bottom left corner. You can also see the grid plan of Bayard’s farm (which was ultimately adapted for the modern street plan of SoHo).


In July 1788, to celebrate the federal ratification of the Constitution, a procession marched through the city and ended its revelry at Bayard’s Mount/Bunker Hill, where “ten enormous tables laden with provisions” and hundreds of pounds of roasted ox were served to hungry patriots. Several years later, in 1795, a different gathering, angered by their governor John Jay over his (perceived) treasonous treaty with the British, burned his portrait in a bonfire here.

Another curious pastime at the hilltop was the British sport of ‘bull baiting’, where a bull would be tied to a stake and slowly tortured by angry dogs. Why this is of any visible amusement is beyond me, although its cousin ‘bear baiting’ is still sometimes practiced in Pakistan.

Below: A bit of this nasty little pastime out in Long Island as it was advertised in 1774

New York was outgrowing the southern point of Manhattan, and former deterrents for expansion — the marshes of Lispinard’s Meadow, polluted Collect Pond, and of course, Bayard’s Mount — were slated for elimination. The ponds and marshes would soon be drained, creating Canal Street, and Broadway expanded further north. (Listen to our podcast on Collect Pond and Canal Street for more information.) By then, Bayard’s was but a memory.

Beginning in 1802, workmen began levelling Bayard’s Mount and Mount Pleasant which also included moving the old Bayard family crypt which had its entrance at the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately, it was discovered that a “hermit or ragman” had moved into the vault and turned it into his very own macabre home. Remarkably, the man was allowed to live there — “he was somewhat feared and not much troubled by visitors” — until he was found one day dead in the vault.

By the time Collect Pond was completely drained (around 1811), the hills to its north had gone, replaced with land lots and the first hints of townhouses and new businesses.

Below: From an 1821 New York Evening Post, an advertisement for plots on the old Bayard farm — at Bayard Street and Mott Street, just a couple blocks south of the location of the Mount

Another clipping from an 1888 New York Evening World, recalling the landscape here:

 

Below: The approximate position of where Bayard’s Mount would have been:


View Larger Map

 

A version of this article originally ran in October 2010

The Bowery Boys’ next book appearance — June 6 at EXIT 9

We’re happy to announce that our latest appearance relating to our book The Bowery Boys’ Adventures In Old New York will be on June 6, from 7-9 pm, at Exit9 Gift Emporium, one of the coolest places in the East Village.

We’ll be at Exit9 reading some special passages from the book, giving you a couple exclusive updates and springing a surprise or two. So mark your calendars now for June 6 and we’ll see you there!

Exit9 Gift Emporium
51 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
(212) 228-0145

Village Voice

The Pirate of Pearl Street: The All-True New York Adventures of Captain Kidd

PODCAST The tale of Captain William Kidd, a respectable New York citizen and landowner, and his transformation into the ruthless pirate of legend.

The area of Lower Manhattan below Wall Street is today filled with investment bankers, business people and tourists. But did you know, over 300 years ago, that the same streets were once crawling with pirates?

In the early decades of the British colony of New York, the city was quite an appealing destination for pirates and their ships filled with stolen treasure. After all, the port of New York was far away from the supervision of the crown, providing local merchants with ample temptations to do business with the high sea’s most notorious criminals.

Captain William Kidd is a figure of legend, the most ruthless and bloodthirsty pirate on the planet. And yet, for many years, he was a respectable New York gentleman, with connected friends, a wealthy wife and a sumptuous home on Pearl Street near the original wall of Wall Street.

But Kidd sought adventure as a privateer and made a deal with prominent New Yorkers to scour British trading routes for pirates. This is the tale of how a dashing New York sea captain became branded (perhaps unfairly) as one of the most evil men of the ocean.

PLUS: Captain Kidd’s startling connection to New York’s Trinity Church! And where in New York City might one find some of Captain Kidd’s fabled treasure today?

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Google MusicStitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #228: THE PIRATE OF PEARL STREET: THE NEW YORK ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KIDD

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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The Captain William Kidd of real life (painted by Sir James Thornhill), a respectable gentleman using his years in New York who hobnobbed with the wealthiest families in town.

The Captain Kidd of legend, a figure whose not-so-noble exploits on the seas have helped masked the real story of this would-be privateer.

 

The residence of Captain William Kidd and his wife Sarah Oort Bradley Cox Kidd, at the corner of Pearl Street and Hanover Square. It was built during the Dutch period and located just a few steps from the gate to the city.

 

 

Kidd also owned several other New York properties according to the New York Times, including “56 Wall Street, 86-90 and 119-21 Pearl Street, 52-56 Water Street and 25, 27 and 29 Pine Street.”

Captain Kidd, burying his treasure (from an illustration circa 1872)

Courtesy NYPL

The arrest of Captain Kidd in Boston (from an 1872 illustration)

NYPL

A horrifying image of Kidd gibbeted and displayed along the River Thames and the site of the ‘pirates’ stairs’.

NYPL

 

Kidd had a hand in the construction of Trinity Church as he was in New York at the time.

From the Trinity Church website: “In 1696, a small group of Anglicans (members of the Church of England) petitioned the Royal Governor Benjamin Fletcher of New York, then a mercantile colony, for a charter granting the church legal status. Fletcher granted the charter in 1697 and the first Trinity Church was erected at the head of Wall Street facing the Hudson River. Although Anglican services had been held in the colony’s fort chapel, the building was the first Anglican Church on the island of Manhattan. ”

 

NYPL

The Leisler Rebellion — Drama in 1689 as Jacob Leisler and his followers sweep supporters of King James out of power. Kidd would contribute in overthrowing Leisler just a couple years later.

Courtesy Museum of City of New York

 

A fanciful reimagining of Captain Kidd in New York Harbor, presumably following the expulsion of Leisler, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.

Courtesy NYPLThe Brooklyn Daily Eagle has been quite enamored of Captain Kidd over the years. Here’s an illustration of Kidd’s ghost hovering over New York (a city still filled with ‘modern’ pirates, or so claims the article).

 

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s ‘Treasure Hunt’ for its readers, a promotion of the Brooklyn Auto Show.


Captain Kidd has been dramatized in several Hollywood films over the years. Here’s one with Abbott and Costello!

Captain Kidd in a Saturday matinee serial:

And the well-regarded film version with Charles Laughton as Captain Kidd:

 

 

CORRECTION: My misspeaking strikes again! From the final section — it is Blackbeard the pirate, not Bluebeard the pirate, who is made an example of by the English in 1718. (This has been changed in new versions of the show.

Cheers to the Free and Independent Republic of Greenwich Village!

There’s a spiral staircase inside the western half of the Washington Square Arch, which grants access to the rooftop and fabulous views straight up Fifth Avenue. Public entrance is prohibited, of course, although that didn’t stop six fearless malcontents (including the artists Marcel Duchamp and John Sloan) from breaking in to declare a bohemian revolution late in the evening of January 23, 1917.

Below: A few months after our art revolutionaries take to the arch, it was decorated in support of America’s involvement in World War I.

MCNY

The escapade was organized by Gertrude Drick, a poet mostly forgotten today but known at the time by the name Woe (as in “Woe is me”).

According to cartoonist Art Young:

“One night [Drick] discovered the blind, unlocked door of the passage and stairway which leads to the top of the arch. A few nights later she had made all the arrangements, invitations, Chinese lanterns, balloons and refreshments for her privately conducted picnics.”

Once atop the Arch, the group decorated the outdoor space with lanterns and balloons, and spent the entire night around a fire, drinking wine and tea (the beverage of revolution). They shot off cap pistols into the wintry night air.

Below: John Sloan’s classic etching depicting the event. The original is at the Met.

A radical shift in the art scene had already begun in New York,
emanating from the streets around Washington Square. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s Studio Club was nearby, as were the apartments of many artists associated with the Ashcan School, including Sloan himself.

Greenwich Village, long a magnet for the unconventional, energized this new wave of painters and playwrights as they bonded in nearby cafes and studios. It was in this spirit that the so-called Arch Conspirators, shielding their candles from the wind, unfurled an unusual parchment late that night that declared “a Free and Independent Republic of Greenwich Village.”

The only evidence of this grand proclamation the following morning was the balloons that still clung to the Arch’s violated rooftop. But the Village did become free and independent to an extent, a pocket universe of creativity for the rebellious musicians, artists, and writers of the twentieth century.

Celebrate the Arch Conspirators tonight at Judson Memorial Church at a centennial Celebration from 6-8pm, presented by Atlas Obscura and Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. More details here.

 

The above is an excerpt from the book The Bowery Boys: Adventures In Old New York, now available in bookstores everywhere

 

 

 

Two new Bowery Boys live events — this December!

Come out and join us for two events that we are co-hosting this December in association with two terrific New York institutions.

TRIVIA NIGHT WITH THE BOWERY BOYS
TENEMENT MUSEUM — DECEMBER 14, 2016
“Hosts of the popular podcast The Bowery Boys: New York City History, Greg Young and Tom Meyers, test your wits with a night of trivia. Admission is $10, and comes with two drink coupons. Teams of no more than six and no smaller than four will compete over five rounds of trivia. If you don’t come with a team, we’ll be happy to add you to one. Doors and the bar open at 6 p.m. If you haven’t arrived by 6:30 p.m. to claim your spot, the Tenement Museum reserves the right to re-sell your ticket to those waiting in a stand-by line. Prizes will be awarded to the first, second, and third place teams. The Bowery Boys’ book, The Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York: An Unconventional Exploration of Manhattan’s Historic Neighborhoods, Secret Spots and Colorful Characters will be for sale with a 15% discount. If you have any questions, contact Laura Lee at llee@tenement.org or (646) 518-3032.

Tickets: $10
Venue: Tenement Museum
103 Orchard Street, New York, NY
(corner of Delancey Street)

BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE 

 

400 YEARS OF HISTORY, LIVE FROM NEW YORK!
WITH THE BOWERY BOYS AND THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
THE GREENE SPACE — DECEMBER 15, 2016

“How do you make history accessible, relevant, and exciting for overstimulated New Yorkers today?

Though they employ very different media, one aural, the other visual, The Bowery Boys and the Museum of the City of New York share the common goal of investigating the city’s rich past and making it relevant to today’s audiences. How do you work with older forms of media — a 1923 building, a physical exhibition mounted on four walls, or a radio podcast — to render and interpret key moments of history in digestible and interesting bursts? In our hyper-connected world of instant and ever-present communication, how do you stoke people’s interest in digging into the city’s past?

Join Greg Young and Tom Meyers of the acclaimed local history podcast The Bowery Boys and Dr. Sarah Henry, chief curator and deputy director of the Museum of the City of New York, for a conversation that goes behind the scenes of the making of New York at Its Core, the museum’s new landmark permanent exhibition. Hosted by Andy Lanset, director of archives for New York Public Radio.”

Tickets: $10
Venue: The Greene Space
44 Charlton Street, New York, NY
(corner of Varick Street)

Top photo: Photographer Samuel H. Gottscho takes this image of the skyline on December 15, 1931, from River House. “View looking south over the Manhattan skyline, from the East. The Chrysler and Empire State Buildings are visible in the right background. The East River, various piers, and smokestacks are on the left.”
mny71867

Next Bowery Boys live appearance: the Skyscraper Museum!

This Tuesday, August 16,  join us at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City. We’ll be doing a reading and book signing on promotion of our book Adventures In Old New York, in particular chatting out some of the more unusual skyscraper architecture of downtown New York.

Here are more details about that event. It’s a free show but you have to RSVP and it’ll fill up fast!  Email your RSVP (with number of guests) to programs@skyscraper.org. 

All book talks are free and open to the public. The gallery opens at 6:00pm.

Some of you may be wondering — what is the Skyscraper Museum? It’s a great institution that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.  Their first exhibition opened in 1997 at a location on Wall Street. Another location of theirs at 110 Maiden Lane closed after September 11, 2001, to become an emergency information center to assist downtown businesses.

Their mission is to celebrate the history of skyscrapers and to speculate on their future.Their latest exhibit space, at 39 Battery Place, features the show GARDEN CITY MEGA CITY about the Singapore-based WOHA, an architecture firm that specializes in designing for the world’s tropical urban areas. .  Since our reading will be in the gallery, you’ll get the check out this show as well!

 

Below: Inside the Skyscraper Museum:

Courtesy Big Maven
Courtesy Big Maven

 

The latest Bowery Boys appearances — WFUV, Curbed, Brooklyn Magazine and more

OUR LATEST LIVE APPEARANCE — We’ll be doing a reading and book signing on promotion of our book Adventures In Old New York on Tuesday, August 16 at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City.

Here are more details about that event. It’s a free show but you have to RSVP and it’ll fill up fast!  Email your RSVP (with number of guests) to programs@skyscraper.org. 

All book talks are free and open to the public. The gallery opens at 6:00pm.

And yes I’m betting that we chat about famous skyscrapers this time around. Maybe even this one.

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PRESS APPEARANCES: We’ve been grateful to the many newspapers, blogs, magazines and radio shows who have reached out to us to talk about our book. Here are a few from the past 2-3 weeks that you should check out:

From Curbed New York: 10 Fascinating New York City Secrets, Courtesy of The Bowery Boys

A fun interview with Brooklyn Magazine:

Chatting with The Bowery Boys on NYC History, Podcasts and More

 

We also sat down with Sherman’s Travel to explore “The Secret Side of New York History

Q&A: The Bowery Boys Dish on the Secret Side of New York History

And finally we appeared on WFUV’s Cityscape podcast with George Bodarky. We have a marvelous time recording this at Fordham. Listen to it here or download and subscribe to it at NPR and listen to it later:

For other press notices from the past couple months, check out this post from June and of course ABOUT US in the Press in the dropdown at top.

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And finally we had a spectacular trivia event at Fraunces Tavern last week. I’ll put up some of the trivia questions next week as well. But more live trivia events to come!

 

PODCAST REWIND: Here’s Henry Hudson!

PODCAST REWIND We turn the clock back to the very beginnings of New York history — to the European discovery of Mannahatta and the voyages of Henry Hudson.

Originally looking for a passage to Asia, Hudson fell upon New York Harbor and the Lenape inhabitants of lands that would later make up New York City. The river that was eventually named after Hudson may not have provided access to Asia, but it did offer something else that attracted the Dutch and eventually their very first settlement — New Amsterdam.

ORIGINALLY RELEASED MAY 22, 2009

THIS IS A SPECIAL ILLUSTRATED PODCAST!  Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible with AAC/M4A files, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well. (This will work as a normal audio file even if the images don’t appear.)

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #5-#81), subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed, on iTunes, directly from our host page, or directly via our RSS feed.

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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For the images associated with the original blog post, click here.

A replica of Henry Hudson’s De Halve Maan (Half Moon) departing the Netherlands for New York Harbor for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909.

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Courtesy Nationaal Archief

“View of a naval parade on the Hudson River taken from a boat, showing crowds on a the piers for the “Henrick Hudson 300 Years Celebration.” The docks for the Red Star Line and the American Line are visible.”

MNY5103
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

A postcard commemorating the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. Read my article from 2009 (on the anniversary of the festival) for more information.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Join us for Curbed Facebook Live chat this Monday

Monday afternoon at 3pm, join us on the Curbed Facebook page for a live chat! It’s in the similar format as a Reddit AMA conversation but on video. We’ll be on there answering questions from our viewers about the podcast and New York City in general.

We’re also featured in a new post over at Curbed written by Zoe Rosenberg — 10 Fascinating New York City Secrets, Courtesy of The Bowery Boys — featuring some of the points of interest from our book Adventures in Old New York.

Check us out on Monday and send in your questions once the conversation goes live.

 

 

It’s Trivia Night at Fraunces Tavern! New Bowery Boys event on July 26

Here’s the announcement of our latest live event — at historic Fraunces Tavern. If you’re reading this and interested in attending, you may want to consider getting your tickets now as space will be limited. Here are the details:

 

Fraunces Tavern Museum presents TRIVIA NIGHT

Hosted by the Bowery Boys

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Doors Open / 6:00pm
Trivia Begins / 6:30pm

Ticket prices:
Members: $15 // Public: $20

Test your knowledge of New York City history with Greg Young & Tom Meyers, hosts of the award-winning podcast Bowery Boys: New York City History.

Join us for five rounds of trivia based on the Bowery Boys podcast and new book, The Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York*. Teams of five will compete against each other for prizes and bragging rights.

Purchase your tickets for Trivia Night now! Ticket price includes after-hours access to Fraunces Tavern Museum’s galleries, 2 drink tickets, and trivia night entry. Each participant must purchase their own ticket. Teams will be created at the door.

*Books will be available for purchase during this event.

Click here to purchase your tickets.