Alice Sparberg Alexiou >> Devil’s Mile: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery

by Alice Sparberg Alexiou


“A fascinating cultural history of New York City’s Bowery, from the author of The Flatiron.


The Bowery, which is the oldest street in Manhattan, was a synonym for despair throughout most of the 20th century. The neighborhood’s name recalled 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.” It was so shameful for so many years that 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 in the 1990s, as New York was exploding into real estate frenzy, developers discovered the Bowery. Around 2000, they rushed in and began tearing down. Today, the bad old Bowery no longer exists, and instead, Whole Foods, hipster night spots, and expensive lofts replace the flophouses and dive bars.


In Devil’s Mile, Alice Sparberg Alexiou explores the history and future of The Bowery back to its origins, when farmland covered the areas around the boulevard and the area around it was considered outside of town. She’ll explore the years after the Civil War when the Bowery rivaled Fifth Avenue for best Manhattan addresses. And she’ll tell this story as soon as she can, before all its old buildings, and the memories associated with them, disappear.” [via goodreads]


Read The New York Times Review