The Bowery was a synonym for despair throughout most of the 20th century. The very name evoked visuals of drunken bums passed out on the sidewalk, and New Yorkers nicknamed it “Satan’s Highway,” “The Mile of Hell,” and “The Street of Forgotten Men.” For years the little businesses along the Bowery—stationers, dry goods sellers, jewelers, hatters—periodically asked the city to change the street’s name. To have a Bowery address, they claimed, was hurting them; people did not want to venture there.
But when New York exploded into real estate frenzy in the 1990s, developers discovered the Bowery. They rushed in and began tearing down. Today, Whole Foods, hipster night spots, and expensive lofts have replaced the old flophouses and dive bars, and the bad old Bowery no longer exists.
In Devil’s Mile, Alice Sparberg Alexiou tells the story of The Bowery, starting with its origins, when forests covered the surrounding area, and through the pre-Civil War years, when country estates of wealthy New Yorkers lined this thoroughfare. She then describes The Bowery’s deterioration in stunning detail, starting in the post-bellum years. She ends her historical exploration of this famed street in the present, bearing witness as the old Bowery buildings, and the memories associated with them, are disappearing.
"Walks readers through the cultural history of the Bowery—from creation to its vanishing remnants that remain today."—am New York
"With the Bowery as the common thread binding together centuries of stories, Devil’s Mile introduces us to the wide-ranging cast of characters—among them functionaries, farmers, artists and toughs—responsible for making Bowery history, then and now."—Kerri Culhane, architectural and urban historian and author, The Bowery National Register of Historic Places Nomination
"New York historian Alexiou enlivens the street’s history with insightful portraits of the street’s denizens. A very valuable addition to any urban-history collection."—Booklist (starred review)
"This anecdote-laden urban history of New York City’s Bowery by Alexiou makes for addictive reading. The chapters on the city’s tumultuous early days are top-rate urban history, yet Alexiou hits her stride in describing the 19th century, when the Bowery was 'America’s center of sin.' Astutely written and smartly researched, this is a fascinating micro-take on New York’s cycle of boom and bust." —Publisher's Weekly
Reviews from Goodreads
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