Place in History

The Bowery Hall of Fame

Years: 2001-2002
Project: A modular mini-museum set up on the Bowery.
Summary: The Bowery Hall of Fame is a museum in miniature, assembled from the remains of a Palace Hotel lodging house cubicle, pilfered cultural artifacts, local propaganda, and bits of historical documentation. Inside this tiny dwelling you will discover strange and wonderful facts about the Bowery, its inhabitants, its structures, its apocryphal history and its unknowable future. From the nineteenth century slumming expeditions of George Washington Chuck Connors, the Mayor of Chinatown, to the modern-day exploits of urban professionals, this museum offers the visitor an explicit view of the world's most famous down-and-out boulevard. Built at a moment of profound physical, social and economic change along the Bowery, the Hall of Fame represents a portal into twenty-first century New York, a place defined by its past yet persistently unfettered by it.

  Page 4: 295 Bowery: Suicide Parlor To Urban Renewal Lot  

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

295 BOWERY: SUICIDE PARLOR TO URBAN RENEWAL LOT

“By popular accord, the very worst dive on the Bowery in the 1890s was McGurk’s Suicide Hall….McGurk’s was nearly the lowest rung for prostitutes.…hence the suicide craze that gave it its name and, incidentally, its grisly allure as a tourist attraction.

“In October [1899], for example, Blonde Madge Davenport and her partner, Big Mame, decided to end it all, and so they bought carbolic acid, the elixir of choice, at a drugstore a few doors away. Blonde Madge was successful in gulping it down, but Big Mame hesitated and succeeded in spilling most of it on her face; the resulting disfiguration resulted only in her getting permanently barred from the place.”

-- From Luc Sante, Low Life

“On February 11th 1999 we were notified that the City of New York intended to destroy the city owned building at 295 Bowery where my neighbors and I have lived for over a quarter of a century.

“If McGurk’s is turned to dust and supplanted with blank high rise market housing, official power will have buried its past in order to expunge it. Then it will be as if it never happened. No one will ever have to notice these deaths, mysterious folk reason that this building has stubbornly remained notorious for a hundred years, a landmark of gossip and legend repeated in every nook about the city of New York, an eerie and appalling specter never dealt with, formally and publicly never acknowledged.”

-- Kate Millet, 295 Bowery resident:

Next Page
©2017 Place in History