How the Bowery Neighborhood Fell from Grace

October 2, 2015 by  
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By Phineas Upham

The Bowery neighborhood truly went from rags to riches and back again, following the trajectory of the entire state prior to the Civil War. When the Dutch settled the area, they immediately recognized the value in farming. The Bowery neighborhood was something of a town at the cross roads, with a road leading to Albany and Boston crossing paths at the site.

Its early history was marked by much of the same trials and tribulations most farming communities go through. The population was small, but people were happy and prosperous for the most part. They’d learned to take advantage of old Lenape trade routes and hunting grounds, which enabled them to work the lands and move their goods efficiently.

The area began to see growth in the form of more shops, Churches and places of business. Bowery attracted wealthy patrons too, becoming a den of high society to rival Fifth Avenue.

Unfortunately, the Civil War ended that growth and prosperity. The area that had once had theaters and live music had brothels and pawn shops by the 1870s. The neighborhood also became a haven for the underground gay community, including an illicit prostitution trade.

By the early 1900s, it was a place mostly inhabited by men. It’s most prominent features included cheap clothing stores and even cheaper places to eat. It was a working class neighborhood on its way downhill, and sliding quickly. By the 1940s, it was akin to New York’s version of modern day skid row. Crime was rampant, homelessness remained a problem until the 1970s, and the revival of this neighborhood has been slow.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.