AskDefine | Define bowery

Dictionary Definition

bowery adj : like a bower; leafy and shady; "a bowery lane" n : a street in Manhattan noted for cheap hotels frequented by homeless derelicts

User Contributed Dictionary

see Bowery



  1. Sheltered by trees; leafy; shady.
    • 1906, George Gissing, "Fate and the Apothecary," in The House of Cobwebs and Other Stories,
      Such a man had no chance whatever in this flowery and bowery little suburb.

Related terms


  1. In the early settlements of New York State, USA, a farm or estate.
    • 1809, Washington Irving, Knickerbocker's History of New York, ch. 65,
      His estate, or bowery, as it was called, has ever continued in the possession of his descendants.

Extensive Definition

Bouwerij was the old Dutch word for farm (today boerderij). Stuyvesant retired to his farm in 1667. After his death in 1672, he was buried in his private chapel. His mansion burned down in 1778 and his great-grandson sold the remaining chapel and graveyard, now the site of the Episcopal church of St Mark's Church in-the-Bowery. The Bowerie was part of Eastern Post Road in the 18th century.
The Bull's Head Tavern is noted for George Washington having stopped there to refresh himself before riding down to the waterfront to witness the departure of British troops in 1783.
By the end of the 18th century the Bowery became New York's most elegant street, lined with fashionable shops and the mansions of prosperous residents. Lorenzo Da Ponte, the Librettist for Mozart's Don Giovanni, Marriage of Figaro, and Cosi Fan Tutte, ran one of the shops - a fruit and vegetable store - after he emigrated to New York City in 1806.
But by the time of the Civil War, the mansions and shops had given way to brothels, beer gardens, and flophouses, like the one at #15 in which the composer Stephen Foster lived in 1864. It had also become the turf of one of America's earliest street gangs, the nativist Bowery Boys. One notable religious and social welfare institution during this period was The Bowery Mission or more formally The Bowery Mission and Young Men's Home, which began in 1880 at 36 Bowery when it was founded by Rev. Albert Gleason Ruliffson. The mission had relocated along the Bowery throughout its lifetime. From 1909 to the present, the mission has remained at 227-229 Bowery.

Post-Depression and Revival

The new development has not come without a social cost. Michael Dominic's documentary film Sunshine Hotel (2001) follows the lives of the denizens of one of the few remaining Bowery flophouses.
Certain blocks of The Bowery serve as New York's principal market for restaurant equipment, and for lamps.

Notable establishments

Bank buildings

The Bowery Savings Bank was established when the Bowery was an upscale residential street, and grew with the rising prosperity of the city. Its 1893 headquarters building remains a Bowery landmark, as does the 1920s domed Citizens Savings Bank .


CBGB, a club initially opened to play country, bluegrass & blues (as the name CBGB stands for), began to book Television, Patti Smith, and the Ramones as house bands in the mid-1970s. This spawned a full-blown scene of new bands (Talking Heads, Blondie, edgy R&B-influenced Mink DeVille, rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon, and others) performing mostly original material in a mostly raw and often loud and fast attack. The label of punk rock was applied to the scene even if not all the bands that made their early reputations at the club were punk rockers, strictly speaking, but CBGB became known as the American cradle of punk rock. CBGB closed on October 31 2006, after a long battle by club owner Hilly Kristal to extend its lease.

Bowery Poetry Club

bowery in German: Bowery
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bowery in Dutch: Bowery (Manhattan)
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