views updated May 17 2018


BOWERY. The Bowery is a neighborhood in lower Manhattan most often associated with the poor and the homeless. The modern street bearing that name begins at Chatham Square in Chinatown and continues north to Coopers Square where it merges into Third Avenue. The street's origins date back to the seventeenth century, when it was named Bouwerie (farm) Lane because it was a primary route of egress from the Dutch-controlled city of New Amsterdam to the farm of its governor, Peter Stuyvesant. In 1673, a mail route using this road was established between New York City and Boston. At the end of the American Revolution, on 25 November 1783 (long celebrated as "Evacuation Day"), the Bowery provided the main route by which the last of the occupying British army marched down to the East River wharves and departed. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Bowery neighborhood had become a center for popular entertainment and was home to an assortment of theaters, saloons, brothels, and dance halls. At the same time, it became the center of the "b'hoy" movement, in which multiethnic, working-class young men affected a new image by wearing loud clothing, greasing back their hair, and frequenting the cruder nightlife centered around the Bowery. Petty crime and prostitution followed in their wake, and by the early twentieth century, most respectable businesses and entertainment had fled the area. Throughout most of the 1900s, the word "Bowery" was synonymous with the homeless and indigent. However, beginning in the 1990s, significant changes came to the Bowery. The once-squalid area became home to a new generation of artists, clothing designers, trendy cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.


Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harlow, Alvin F. Old Bowery Days: The Chronicles of a Famous Street. New York: D. Appleton, 1931.

Faren R.Siminoff


views updated Jun 27 2018

Bowery a street and district in New York associated with drunks and vagrants. The name derives from the fact that it once ran through Peter Stuyvesant's farm, or bouwerie, as it was called by the Dutch settlers.

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