Manhattan’s Oldest Street: Part 2
The Bowery has so much history, no wonder it’s the most diverse street in New York City, according to New York Historical Tours' Kevin Draper (whom we snapped with fellow tour guides, Eastern Consolidated's Adelaide Polsinelli and Carlos Olson). The southern end is best known as the eastern border of Chinatown, but the corridor also is where the term “melting pot” originated, thanks to the African-American, Irish, German, Italian, and Jewish immigrants that settled here in different decades. Kevin also tells us that mix of cultures and their entertainment produced tap dancing. (And here we thought it was a form of revenge against downstairs neighbors.) See Part 1 of our tour here.
By spring 2016, a 22-story, 229-key hotel from Chinese developer Alex Chu will rise at 50 Bowery next to the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge where the Revolutionary War-era Bull’s Head Tavern once stood. Kevin tells us that when Gen. George Washington’s forces originally were pushed out of NY, the chase went north up the Bowery. In 1783, on Evacuation Day (the day the British left New York, the last city they occupied), the Continental Army’s victory parade symbolically marched back down the Bowery. Washington and his men had a few drinks in Bull’s Head on the way to Fraunces Tavern Downtown for the official dinner and receipt of Britain’s surrender papers. (The practice is still in use today among real estate dealmakers, now known as a “closing dinner.”)
High-rise hotels have been popping up along the Bowery. One of the first was a block north at Hester. Chinese developer William Su put up the 16-story, 106-key Wyndham Garden Chinatown at 93 Bowery in 2012. And in that sliver of empty space just south, Michael Kang is putting up a nine-story office building. Most new development is happening on the eastern side of the street, which allows 85-foot-tall construction. Building heights on the west side are more limited because the street has been landmarked in bits and pieces, says Adelaide, largely as part of the Martin Scorsese-led movement to preserve Little Italy.
Smaller hotels have existed here for quite a while to serve the dense population, she says. Another result of the density is vertical retail, which became a big trend throughout the rest of Manhattan in the 2010s but has been in Chinatown for decades.