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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 89, no. 2295]: March 9, 1912

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031148_049_00000633

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MARCH 9, 1912 THE CHANGING CHARACTER OF THE BOWERY. Its Notorious Reputation is Now a Thing of the Past and a Mercantile Development is Looked for—Tall Building to Replace Atlantic Garden. 1'N the next few months two famous landmarks of the old Bowery will have disappeared and the part which they played in the life of this well known thoroughfare avIU have become but a mat¬ ter of local history. The Atlantic Gar¬ den, at 50 Bowery is now being demolished to make room for a business structure and the Thalia theatre adjoining, is being offered by the owners for sale and the present occupancy will not be continued after July I of this year. These two structures have been intimately associa¬ ted with Bowery life for half a century and the business carried on Avithin their wails has been typical of the activities which made the Bow¬ ery known throughout the country. Their passing is in keeping with the changes which this thoroughfare is now un¬ dergoing and furnishes an ex¬ cellent illustration of what may be looked for on the Bowery of the future. For years the Bowery has been knoAvn principally as the amusement center for the low¬ er East Side and a large ma¬ jority of the buildings were de¬ voted to enterprises of this na¬ ture. A few of the places, notably the two above men¬ tioned, have been harmless and respectable in character _but unfortunately for the reputa¬ tion of the street, by far the greSiter number catered to the lowest tastes of an extremely cosmopolitan population and were low, vicious and degrad- ing. To such an extent was this true that for years the najne Bowery was associated in the minds of most people with saloons, dives ani3 gamb¬ ling houses and a quarter of a century ago enjoyed a notor¬ iety e(jualed only by that of the Barbary Coast in San Fran¬ cisco. During the civil war and for some years alter. Park Row jtist south of Chathajn Square, and the lower part of the Bowery were the favorite resorts for the crews of deep sea sailing vessels and botli sides of the street were lined witli saloons and disreputable dance hails. The Old Five Points at Mulberry Bend was then at its worst and the char¬ acter of the entire section was such that few citizens not in¬ habitants of the district cared to venture there except in broad daylight. At tills time the tenement district of the lower East Side was mainly populated by Ger¬ mans and Irish. Besides be¬ ing an amusement center the Bowery also supported a num¬ ber of fairly substantial busi¬ ness houses and the street in older days was somewhat of a ehopping center for the East Side. The flrst tailors to offer custom-made clothing at popu¬ lar prices were located here but later when this form of tailor¬ ing was found to be popular and profltable most of them migrated to other central thor¬ oughfares of prominence. The 'Clothing business has always been well represented on the Bowery buC in recent years the class of business has stead¬ ily deteriorated until most of the shops handle only the cheapest grades of ready-made new clothing or deal in second¬ hand garments. The change in pouulation which- has occurred on the East Side has made the Bowery much less of a shopping thor¬ oughfare than it once was "When the Italians and Rus¬ sian Je-ws began to settle there in large numbers most of the Irish and German inhabitants moved either to the West Side or further uptown along the East River. The new population brought with it the idea of push-cart selling and this trade rapidly developed. The Jewish element contained a large number of shop¬ keepers and these opened stores in the tenements on the side streets where none had been before. Many of these merchants were content to operate on so small a basis that their profits brought them in no greater incomes than they could have obtained as factory workers. As these Wm. H. Gompert, NEAV 12-STY LOFT BUILDING AND e-STT TENEMENT SITE OF ATLANTIC GARDEN. stores multiplied anfl the push-cart busi¬ ness assume(3 large proportions much of the miscellaneous trade of the Bowei-j- was diverted and stores catering purely lo local trade Avere not well supported; at present there are a vast number of small stores m the side street tenements all the way over to the river and the push¬ cart business is so extensive that both sides of many streets are entirely filled with these travelling shops and every con¬ ceivable kind of small merchandise is harLdled. Ihis new population did not af¬ ford much support to the saloons or dance halls either, and these were forced to rely upon custom from out- 'Sid© the terrHoi-y. As time went on public opinion be¬ came strong enough to cause the authorities to place restric¬ tions upon the various forms of illegal or immoral business and within tlie last decade the lines have been so tightly drawn as to practically ex¬ clude these places from the Bowery. Within the last flve years the thoroughfare has been so thoroughly cleaned up ■that at present it Avould be very difficult to flnd any resort of this character on the Boav- ery. Even Park Row, where the worst places flourished, is now entirely free from vicious re¬ sorts and the Old Five Points is no longer even tough, Chinatown still exists but in a very much subdued fashion and there is some attempt being made to do away with it en¬ tirely. Several plots have re¬ cently been bought there fcr future improvement and a plan is on foot to haA-e the City run a diagonal street from the Majihattan Bridge terminal down to Worth street, which would take away a portion of Chinatown. Since the police have held the reins so tightly over this spot, Chinatown has lost much of its popularity as a sight-seeing resort and has become less profitable than for¬ merly. iVIany of the inhabi¬ tants have moved to New Jer¬ sey or are scattered in other parts of the City and it may well be possible that Chinatown will practically cease to exist after a few years more. In spite of the fact that the Bowery and adjacent tei-ritory has almost entirely lost its old character and become a very respectable thoroughfare from a moral standpoint, it has pro¬ gressed but very little in a mercantile way and does not yet have the position which its natural advantages entitle it to hold and niodei-n structures suitable for manufacturing purposes are conspicuous hy their absence. The present o\\'Tners for various reasons have steadfastly refused to im¬ prove their holdings and until recently there has not been a sufficient demand from tenants seeking quarters here to induce operators or investors to buy plots for improvement. When resorts of an illegal character were common on the avenue, rents were much higher than they are now, and in many instances, property sold for a higher price than it will today. The buildings are antiquated structures from three to flve stories high and incapable of producing any considerable revenue. Stores will rent fairly well and there are not many i,..y.:,n f ■^^^ncies but the upper porllnn Architect, ^f the buildings can Only be tUR rented at nominal figures. Un¬ der the old order, the upper