Bowery Now Listed on National Historic Register

Image: TBNC, BAN.
Image: TBNC, BAN.

A boost for historic preservation on the Bowery this morning. Word just came from the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors that the legendary street is now included in the National Register of Historic Places.

The two organizations submitted an application for designation after winning similar status for the Bowery at the state level in 2011.  They got the good news from the National Parks Service last week.  “It’s hard to believe that a case had to be made for the significance of one of our most historic streets and all of the folklore that surrounds it,” said Two Bridges President Victor Papa. “This isn’t just Lower East Side history—this is National history. It is now undeniably clear that the Bowery plays a central role in development of American culture.”

The new Bowery Historic District has symbolic meaning and will, no doubt, help community activists in their ongoing efforts to protect the rapidly gentrifying street from gentrification.  But the Bowery’s new historic status does not protect any building from demolition.  Most of the west side of the street was designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, but the city has refused to offer similar protection to the east side of the Bowery.

David Mulkins, chair of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors noted that  “the Bowery is NYC’s oldest street,”   encompassing a wide variety of significant landmarks including artist’s lofts, flophouses, former theaters, eighteenth- century townhouses, the Liz Christy Community Garden and the former CBGB.  A press release from the organizations highlights some of the positive impacts of the new designation:

Among the significant and potentially valuable financial benefits to property owners and in some cases business owners in National Register- listed properties are access to state and federal tax credits if an owner chooses to rehabilitate a historic property; low or zero-interest loans for restoration or rehabilitation of a building; and technical assistance.  “The Bowery nomination is unique—with a period of significance spanning 1626 to 1975, it not only recognizes the architecture and cultural history of the street, but it acknowledges the earliest planning history of New York,” states Kerri Culhane, the architectural historian who researched and wrote the nomination. “By extension, the Bowery nomination should be used as a planning tool to help guide better, scale-appropriate zoning and contextual infill to respect this vibrant and dynamic thoroughfare, which continues to make history today.”

Next month, on March 20, there be a benefit called “Vintage Bowery” to celebrate the new district.  Held at the Bowery Hotel, it will feature musicians, singers, dancers and poets helping to bring the Bowery’s rich cultural history to life.  You can view more information about the event here.

If you would like to read the full application submitted in support of the Bowery Historic District, including a fascinating historical narrative, click here.