Dave Brubeck 1920-2012: Jazz Impressions of New York

Renown jazz pianist Dave Brubeck died this morning, just a day before his 92nd birthday. The fourth entry in his ‘Jazz Impressions’ series, recorded in 1964, featured music evoking the ‘urbane personality’ of New York City. The recording also featured his well-known quartet line-up, including Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello. From that album,… Read More


New York University: A noble idea takes root in the Village, a school for the metropolis, but not without growing pains

Hogwarts of Washington Square: The beautiful and supremely ostentatious University Hall at the northeast corner of the park, circa 1850. [NYPL] PODCAST They once called it the University of the City of New York, an innovative, non-denominational school located in a intellectual castle on the northeast corner of the Washington military parade ground. Today it’s… Read More

The Bowery Boys Washington Square Park Audio Tour: a stroll through New York history, now on sale everywhere!

Today marks a big new step in the evolution of The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast and website as I present our first item ever for sale — a special one-hour audio history tour of Washington Square Park. In this one-hour tour, I present over 200 years of history relating to one of… Read More

Don’t douse the glim! Four infamous dancehalls and dives which made the notorious reputation of Bleecker Street

“There are no lower outcasts in New York than the women who nightly creep out of the darkness and swarm the pavement of Bleecker Street…” L. Hereward, Eclectic Magazine, 1893 Sure, the Bowery was a rough and rowdy avenue, but one looking for more alternative adventures in the late 19th century might have found themselves… Read More

Mysterious Stories

I Sit On Your Grave: New York’s Hidden Burial Plots

Here’s a chilling thought for the Halloween season: if you’re visiting one of New York’s many amazing parks and squares, most likely you’re standing on land that was formerly used as a cemetery or potter’s field. And in some cases they even left the bodies behind! If you’re fluent in your New York history, you… Read More

Mistresses and misnomers: the story of Gay Street

There are few streets in Manhattan as beautiful as Gay Street, that preciously bent path in the West Village that’s been the home to speakeasies and scandals, linking Waverly Place to Christopher Street. Due to its proximity to Christopher, the original heart of New York’s gay and lesbian culture, it also happens to have one… Read More

Greenwich Village, when it was green and a village

Above: Macdougal Alley in 1936. The plantation home of New Amsterdam director-general Wouter van Twiller would have been situated very close to where this picture was taken. (Find the alley here.) NAME THAT NEIGHBORHOOD Some New York neighborhoods are simply named for their location on a map (East Village, Midtown). Others are given prefabricated designations… Read More


Where are New York City’s oldest living trees?

The oldest living New Yorkers outdate all the skyscrapers, the highways and the parks in which most of them live. They have seen generations of New Yorkers come and go. And at least one of them even remembers the region’s original indigenous people. We’re talking about the native trees of New York City, those that… Read More

At last! Washington Square Park returns

The Washington Square arch, in quieter times The newly symmetrical, freshly renovated Washington Square Park took down the security fences yesterday, finally allowing people back in to enjoy one of Manhattan’s oldest parks. Gothamist has photographs from the park’s grand re-opening yesterday. You might also like to check out our podcast on Washington Square Park… Read More

Beware Jack The Tripper, scoundrel of the Square!

Washington Square Park, in a 1910 painting by William Glackens While perusing some archive New York Times articles in preparation for this week’s podcast, I came across this unusual piece from May 12, 1892, recounting the futile search for a “maliciously mischievous fellow whom the police want,” a felonious fop tripping ladies in Washington Square… Read More

Bowery Boys Recommend: Belle of New York

BOWERY BOYS RECOMMEND is an occasional feature where we find an unusual movie or TV show that — whether by accident or design — uniquely captures an era of New York City better than any reference or history book. Other entrants in this particular film festival can be found HERE. Sometimes a movie can tell… Read More

Jane, stop this crazy thing!

(Jacobs, as seen in Canada) We finally made it over to the Municipal Art Society’s exhibit on the extraordinary Jane Jacobs, community leader and civil planner whose theories on a successful urban landscape are currently fueling community activism today. Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York is part-bio on Jacobs, part inspection of her… Read More

Snug Harbor: strange garden oasis (Part 1)

(The front entrance to Sailors Snug Harbor, a far more robust little dock back in the day, I’m sure) Sailors Snug Harbor — or Snug Harbor Cultural Center as its called today — is one of Staten Island’s top attractions, yet few people outside of SI really know much about it. If you recall our… Read More

Washington Square Park: the pictures

Here’s some pictures illustrating a few ideas from our podcast this week. The lovely cluster of residences along Washington Square’s north side called ‘The Row’ (they always look better with snow on them): Early Washington Square was a military parade ground. The unveiling of the Washington Arch in 1888 was so successful that a permanent… Read More