the bowery

After the civil war the Bowery ceased to compete with Broadway as a commercial thoroughfare and with 5th Avenue as an elegant residential address. Its speciality became nickel museums featuring mermaids, snakes, sword swallowers, lions, dwarfs, and women in various states of undress. At the same time that the Bowery. became more closely associated with cheap entertainment it was dealt a blow by the transportation system from which it never recovered, when the 3rd Avenue elevated line was placed over it . . . The Bowery became synonymous with homeless derelicts and tramps. It was the site of cheap lodging houses, missions, and late-night saloons, and its brothels were so numerous that it became a veritable magnet for visiting sailors.

Early in the twentieth century the Bowery was even more infamous as a place of squalor, alcoholism, and wretchedness. Even prostitutes gravitated to other neighborhoods. In 1907 the street had 115 clothing stores for men, none for women. In the same year the nightly populations of the "flop houses," missions, and hotels on the Bowery was estimated at 25,000.

From Kenneth T. Jackson, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York City