The Bowery Boys: New York City History
The Bowery Boys: New York City History
Bowery Boys Media
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The tides of American history lead through the streets of New York City — from the huddled masses on Ellis Island to the sleazy theaters of 1970s Times Square. The elevated railroad to the Underground Railroad. Hamilton to Hammerstein! Greg and Tom explore more than 400 years of action-packed stories, featuring both classic and forgotten figures who have shaped the world. 
#367 The Ice Craze: How the Ice Business Transformed New York
New York City on ice — a tribute to the forgotten industry which kept the city cool in the age before refrigeration and air conditioning. Believe it or not, ice used to be big business. In 1806 a Boston entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor cut blocks of ice from a pond on his family farm and shipped it to Martinique, a Caribbean county very unfamiliar with frozen water. He was roundly mocked — why would people want ice in areas where they can’t store it? — but the thirst for the frozen luxury soon caught on, especially in southern United States. New Yorkers really caught the ice craze in the 1830s thanks to an exceptionally clear lake near Nyack. Within two decades, shops and restaurants regularly ordered ice to serve and preserve foods. And with the invention of the icebox, people could even begin buying it up for home use. The ice business was so successful that — like oil and coal — it became a monopoly. Charles W. Morse and his American Ice Company controlled most of the ice in the northeast United States by the start of the 20th century. He was known as the Ice King. And he had one surprising secret friend — the Mayor of New York City Robert A. Van Wyck. PLUS: The 19th century technologies that allowed American to harvest and store ice. The Iceman cometh! Support the show: See for privacy information.
Jul 15
54 min
#366 North Brother Island: New York's Forbidden Place
There are two mysterious islands in the East River with a human population of zero. They are restricted. No human being lives there.  One of these islands has been witness to some of the most dire and dramatic moments in New York City history. North Brother Island sits near the tidal strait known as Hell Gate, a once-dangerous whirlpool which wrecked hundreds of ships and often deposited the wreckage on the island's quiet shore. In the 1880s the island was chosen as the new home for Riverside Hospital, a quarantine hospital for New Yorkers with smallpox, tuberculosis and many more contagious illnesses. Greg takes the reigns in this show and leads you through the following tales featuring North Brother Island: -- A bizarre incident -- involving a body found in the waters off the island -- which first put the place on the map; -- The nightmarish city policy of 'forced exile' to battle the spread of disease in the city's poorest quarters; -- The tragic crash of the General Slocum steamship; -- The complicated struggles of Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary; -- The implausible tale of a 1950s rehab center for teenage drug addicts. Visit the website for images and videos of North Brother Island.   Support the show: See for privacy information.
Jul 1
41 min
Rewind: The Historic New York City Hall
New York City Hall sits majestically inside a nostalgic, well-manicured park, topped with a beautiful old fountain straight out of gaslight-era New York. But its serenity belies the frantic pace of government inside City Hall walls and disguises a tumultuous, vibrant history. There have actually been two other city halls — one an actual tavern, the other a temporary seat of national government — and the one we’re familiar with today is nearing its 210th birthday. And the park it sits in is much, much older! Join us as we explore the unusual history of this building, through ill-executed fireworks, disgruntled architects, and its near-destruction — to be saved only by a man named Grosvenor Atterbury. PLUS: We look at the park area itself, a common land that once catered to livestock, British soldiers, almshouses and a big, garish post office. This is a reedited and remastered version of episode #93 featuring an all-new, very special 'Choose Your Own Adventure' challenge at the end. Support the show: See for privacy information.
Jun 25
40 min
#365 Do The Right Thing (Bowery Boys Movie Club)
We're sliding into Summer 2021 -- ready for great music, hot dancing and breaking into fire hydrants -- and so we’ve just released an epic summertime episode of Bowery Boys Movie Club to the general Bowery Boys Podcast audience, exploring the 1989 Spike Lee masterpiece Do The Right Thing. Lee electrified film audiences with Do The Right Thing, documenting a day in the life of one block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn on one of the hottest days of the summer.  Inspired by both Greek tragedy and actual events in 1980s New York, Lee's film observes the racial and ethnic tensions that boil over at an Italian-American owned pizzeria serving a mostly African-American clientele from the neighborhood. Listen in as Greg and Tom recap the story and explore some of the historical context for the film — the incendiary nature of New York summers, the realistic portrait of everyday life in Brooklyn, and the true-life murders on which Do The Right Thing is based. PLUS Support the Bowery Boys Podcast on Patreon and get another episode of the Bowery Boys Movie Club, exploring the brand new film In The Heights and its fascinating local angles. Another film with great music, hot dancing -- and breaking into fire hydrants! Support the show on Patreon   Support the show: See for privacy information.
Jun 17
1 hr 3 min
#364 The Very Gay History of Fire Island
The third and final part of the Bowery Boys Road Trip to Long Island -- the gay history of Fire Island! Fire Island is one of New York state’s most attractive summer getaways, a thin barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean lined with seaside villages and hamlets, linked by boardwalks, sandy beaches, natural dunes and water taxis. (And, for the most part, no automobiles.) But Fire Island has a very special place in American LGBT history. It is the site of one of the oldest gay and lesbian communities in the United States, situated within two neighboring hamlets -- Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines. During the 1930s actors, writers and craftspeople from the New York theatrical world began heading to Cherry Grove, its remote and rustic qualities allowing for gay and lesbians to express themselves freely -- far away from a world that rejected and persecuted them.  Performers at the Grove's Community House and Theater helped define camp culture, paving the way for the modern drag scene. In this episode, Greg and Tom head to Cherry Grove -- and the Community House and Theater -- to get a closer look at Fire Island's unique role in the American LGBT experience. And they are joined by Parker Sargent, a documentary filmmaker and one of the curators of Safe Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove, a new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, highlighting photography from the collection of the Cherry Grove Archives Collection. FEATURING: The Great Hurricane of 1938! The Invasion of the Pines! The indescribable Belvedere! And the surprising origin of Fire Island's name.   Support the show: See for privacy information.
Jun 3
1 hr 1 min
#363 The Sunny Saga of Jones Beach
Our new mini-series Road Trip to Long Island featuring tales of historic sites outside of New York City. In the next leg of our journey, we visit Jones Beach State Park, the popular beach paradise created by Robert Moseson Long Island's South Shore. Well before he transformed New York City with expressways and bridges, Moses was an idealistic public servant working for new governor Al Smith. In 1924 he became president of the Long Island State Parks Commission, tasked with creating new state parks for public enjoyment and the preservation of the region's natural beauty.  But preserving, in the mind of Moses, often meant radical reinvention. The new Jones Beach featured glamorous bathhouses, proper athletic recreations (no roller coasters here!), an endless boardwalk and even new sand, anchored to the coast with newly grown beach grass. Sometimes called 'the American Riviera', Jones Beach made Moses' reputation and became one of the most popular beach fronts on the East Coast. But more than that, Moses and the Jones Beach project transformed the fate of Long Island's highways (or should we say parkways).  PLUS: Greg and Tom hit the road to give you a tour of Jones Beach up close -- from one end of the boardwalk to the other! AND The overpass bridges of Southern State Parkway. Did Moses develop them with low clearance to prevent buses (i.e. transportation for low income families) from coming to Jones Beach? Get a Bowery Boys tee-shirt from our official Tee Public store! Support the show: See for privacy information.
May 20
1 hr 6 min
#362 Gatsby and the Mansions of the Gold Coast
The first part of our new mini-series Road Trip to Long Island featuring tales of historic sites outside of New York City. In this episode, relive a little Jazz Age luxury by escaping into the colossal castles, manors and chateaus on Long Island's North Shore, the setting for one of America's most famous novels. The world is perhaps most familiar with Long Island history thanks to the 1925 classic novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a tale of romantic yearning and social status during the Jazz Age -- set specifically in the year 1922, in the grand and opulent manor of its mysterious anti-hero Jay Gatsby.  A house so large and so full of luxury that it doesn't seem like it could even be real.  And yet hundreds of these types of mansions dotted the landscape of Long Island in the early 20th century, particular along the north shore. This area was known as the Gold Coast. In this episode, we present the origin of the Gold Coast and stories from its most prominent (and unusual) mega-mansions. Lifestyle of the (very old) rich and famous! PLUS: A road trip to Planting Fields Arboretum, the lavish grounds of the old W.R. Coe estate. Hidden rooms, bizarre murals and curious gardens! Support the show: See for privacy information.
May 6
1 hr
#361 Landmarks of Coney Island (Extended Funhouse Mix)
Coney Island is back! After being closed for 2020 due to the pandemic, the unusual attractions, the thrilling rides and the stands selling delicious beer and hot dogs have finally reopened. So we are releasing this very special version of our 2018 show called Landmarks of Coney Island — special, because this is an extended version of that show featuring the tales of two more Coney Island landmarks which were left out of the original show. The Coney Island Boardwalk — officially the Riegelmann Boardwalk — became an official New York City scenic landmark in 2018, and to celebrate, we are headed to Brooklyn’s amusement capital to toast its most famous and long-lasting icons. Recorded live on location, this week’s show features the backstories of these Coney Island classics: — The Wonder Wheel, the graceful, eccentric Ferris wheel preparing to celebrate for its 100th year of operation; — The Spook-o-Rama, a dark ride full of old-school thrills; — The Cyclone, perhaps America’s most famous roller-coaster with a history that harkens back to Coney Island’s wild coaster craze; — Nathan’s Famous, the king of hot dogs which has fed millions from the same corner for over a century; — Coney Island Terminal, a critical transportation hub that ushered in the amusement area’s famous nickname — the Nickel Empire PLUS: An interview with Dick Zigun, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island and founder of Coney Island USA, who recounts the origin of the Mermaid Parade and the Sideshow by the Seashore. Support the show: See for privacy information.
Apr 29
1 hr
#360 The Botanical Gardens of New York City
Nature and history intertwine in all five boroughs -- from The Bronx River to the shores of Staten Island -- in this special episode about New York City's many botanical gardens. A botanical garden is more than just a pretty place; it's a collection of plant life for the purposes of preservation, education and study. But in an urban environment like New York City, botanical gardens also must engage with modern life, becoming both a park and natural history museum. The New York Botanical Garden, established in 1891, became a sort of Gilded Age trophy room for exotic trees, plants and flowers, astride the natural features of The Bronx (and an old tobacco mill). When the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opened next to the Brooklyn Museum in 1911, its delights included an extraordinary Japanese garden by Takeo Shiota, one of the first of its kind in the United States. The World's Fair of 1939-40 also brought an international flavor to New York City, and one of its more peculiar exhibitions -- called Gardens on Parade -- stuck around in the form of the Queens Botanical Garden. PLUS: Gardens help save New York City landmarks -- from an historic estate overlooking the Hudson River to a stately collection of architecture from the early 19th century in Staten Island. Support the show: See for privacy information.
Apr 22
59 min
#359 The Magic of the Movie Theater
In celebration of 125 years of movie exhibition in New York City -- from vaudeville houses to movie palaces, from arthouses to multiplexes. In the spring of 1896 an invention called the Vitascope projected moving images onto a screen at a midtown vaudeville theater. The business of movies was born. By the late 1910s, the movies were big ... and the theaters were getting bigger! Thanks to creators like architect Thomas Lamb and impresario Samuel 'Roxy' Rothafel, theaters in Times Square, New York's prime entertainment district, grew larger and more opulent.  Even by the 1940s, movie theaters were a mix of film and live acts -- singers, dancers, animal acrobats and even the drama of a Wurlitzer organ. But a major court case brought a change to American film exhibition and diversity to the screen -- both low brow (grind house) and high brow (foreign films and 'art' movies). Today's greatest arthouse cinemas trace their lineage back to the late 1960s/early 1970s and the new conception of movies as an art form.  Can these theaters survive the perennial villain of the movies (i.e. television) AND the current challenges of a pandemic? FEATURING: The origin story of all your favorite New York City movie theaters. Support the show: See for privacy information.
Apr 8
1 hr 3 min
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