‘Windows on the Bowery,’ the entire set of posters at the Cooper Union. Photo courtesy of The Cooper Union by João Enxuto
The Cooper Union partnered with the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors present “Windows on the Bowery,” a historic signage project displaying a series of 63 posters in the windows of corresponding buildings on Bowery Street. From Chatham Square all the way to Cooper Square, the Bowery has been the home of many firsts, such as the first New York streetcar and the birth of punk-rock. These firsts, along with other entertaining histories about each building, are present on all of the posters.
So, why did the Alliance approach Cooper Union with the need for a reawakening of Bowery history? Awareness.
David Mulkins, President of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, explained to us that “the lack of contextual zoning on most of the street combined with a ferocious wave of real estate speculation” has created a perfect storm of architectural proportions.
Despite its dignified status in the National Registers of Historic Places, the Bowery has seen the demolition of historic structures, the introduction of out-of-place nouveau architecture, and an overall disregard for future preservation of the street’s “historic character.”
The Bowery’s historic character dates all the way back to the 17th century, when it changed from a Native American trail to a Dutch farm road. Within the next 200 years, the street and surrounding area would become known as the home of George Washington‘s post-British evacuation victory march, America’s first streetcars, first baseball club, first free university, first community garden and Manhattan’s first free black settlement.
Because of hard times in the later 20th century, and the Bowery’s affordable rent costs, many artists moved here, making it more like the area it is known as today. These artists were the ones who spawned influential movements such as abstract impressionism, beat literature and punk rock.
The ‘Windows on the Bowery’ project aims to preserve the street’s unique integrity, from 200 year-old architecture to punk rock, and in so doing, foster generations of artists to come.
Courtesy of The Cooper Union / Photos by João Enxuto
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