Tearing Down Old Buildings on Bowery

187 (on left) and 185 Bowery

187 (on left) and 185 Bowery

When I learned that there’s a cluster of old buildings on Bowery slated to be torn down, I decide to walk over and take a look at them.

I probably should have written: “When I learned about the latest cluster of old buildings to be torn down on Bowery, I decided to walk over and take a look.”

That’s because buildings dating back to the early to mid-nineteenth century have been being torn down on Bowery for the last four or five years.

The contiguous set of buildings I looked at today are located at 185, 187, 189 and 191 Bowery. They were purchased by Brack Capital. Brack develops condominiums and hotels, so it seems likely that they’ll be torn down for a new condo or hotel development.

Three of the four buildings frankly speaking aren’t very distinguished-looking…No. 185 is by far the most appealing, with a dormer window, oval windows in front and wrought iron details decorating the windows.

Of course, you wonder whether architectural details or other treasures might be hidden beneath successive layers of change and renovation in the other three buildings.

It would be easier to welcome new construction if the new buildings being built in Manhattan in recent years weren’t, almost without exception, condominiums, hotels, or shops intended for a tiny fraction of extremely wealthy residents of New York or equally wealthy visitors.

At various times, going back over 150 years, there was a druggist at 191 Bowery; the American Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, Ocean headquarters No. 69, at 189 Bowery; the Germania Bank at 185 Bowery (as the bank prospered, it moved to progressively larger buildings on Bowery — the Bank’s former location at 190 Bowery got landmark status in 2005).

Searching these Bowery addresses in the New York Times archive, you encounter a vanished world of Courriers’ Union meetings, cigar stands, keno gambling dens, “Knights of Labor,” etc.

One tenant at 185 is still living in the building. Earlier this month, the New York Observer covered her story.

This entry was published on July 21, 2008 at 2:05 pm and is filed under Architecture, New York City, Urban Archaeology, Urban Planning. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Tearing Down Old Buildings on Bowery

  1. As a part-time resident of Manhattan, I’m amazed at how much the streetscape changes from year to year. I find myself muttering “Where did THAT come from?” quite frequently. And, I’m usually talking about a building as opposed to some of the street life we see daily. (I suppose I’ve become immune to most of THAT.)
    But, I actually mourn the passing of some of these old buildings, because of the little gem here or there that reminds you that “they used to do it different…”
    Manhattan is getting pretty sterile. It’s a shame. We’ll take our kids back to see the old stomping grounds, and we won’t recognize a thing… RIP Bowery…

  2. Mike_LES on said:

    189 bowery burned down last night… Definitely an insurance job. They started demo and then ran out of money, six months later and PRESTO!, it burns down.

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