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 5: Playing In The Dirt  

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PLAYING IN THE DIRT

In its early days, the Bowery rivaled lower Broadway as a residential and theatrical row for the upper class. Its reputation as a magnet for raunchy entertainment dates to around 1850. Following the riot at the Astor Place Opera House, which helped divide the downtown theater district along class lines, the Bowery became the center of vaudeville and burlesque, and spawned related trades in circus side shows, saloons and tattoo parlors.

After the Third Avenue elevated line was built over the Bowery in 1878, the street became identified with vice. Alcoholism, opium abuse, homelessness and prostitution existed side by side with commercial entertainment. It gave the Bowery a reputation for dangerous pleasure, and made it the destination for New York’s thrill-seeking middle classes and artistic aspirants for more than a century. From Chuck Connors and his choreographed slumming expeditions to punk rock pioneers at CBGB, the street drew those in search of illicit thrills, downscale authenticity—and sheer voyeuristic pleasure.

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