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The Bowery House, History-Rich Hostel at 220 Bowery in NoLIta


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Being such a fan of Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, I had to do whatever I could to go watch their performances before it closed at the end of March. Seeing how this past weekend was the only time I could go, I booked transportation first, but fell short in my usual routes to book accommodations, since the famous art dealer exhibition was at Javits this past weekend as well.

So, after TONS of research, I came upon The Bowery House. Depending on weekday or weekend booking, the base price for a shared bunk, with shared bathroom, starts between $55-60, post NYC taxes. This was an exceptionally good deal for me, since my goal was to book for a spot under $100. Sure this is a bit like college dorm days, but the bathrooms were neat, clean, and with really good quality bath soap, shampoo, and conditioner.

I ended up getting upgraded to a cabin, thankful for the kindness of the lady who checked me in, since she was uncomfortable with my would-be-bunkmate choice.

Although the single cabins are tiny (it is only an arm span's worth of space), the mattress and bedding are clean and comfortable. Really don't need much for weekend travel.

The only negatives for these single cabins are there is not much noise-prevention. So, if you are a light sleeper, then I cannot recommend the twin cabins; although I don't know what the others are like.

The other bonuses are that they have a nice rooftop garden, a bike rental program, and 24 hour security. You hand your key in every time you leave and pickup upon return.

It is located in a fabulously convenient neighborhood, with a Whole Foods about a block away. I walked from the hostel to Chinatown, the Village, and Soho areas with ease.

I worked with Christopher (who checked my room out) and Jamie (who upgraded my cabin), so I would ask for them first, if you do call.

I am definitely planning on a return trip at some point here.

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Don't take this wrong"¦ I have no quarrel with either Bowery House or anyone staying there.  But, in the interest of accurate history, this place's history is not as quaint and clean as all they describe ("cabins", ex-military, etc) in their history section.  The Prince Hotel (the former name of this property) was one of the notorious flop houses on the Bowery for many years, where mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted men lived in partitioned rooms with walls that were six feet high & had barely enough room for a bed (inches on each side to the walls), bare hanging lightbulbs from open electrical cords with fly paper attached to them, rats and other vermin crawling everywhere and victimization of the helpless a daily occurrence (beatings, shakedowns, loansharking and worse).  I know this because my job in the NYS Office of Mental Health from 1982-87 (in conjunction with co-workers from the Divisions of Alcohol and Drug Abuse) was to go into the shelters, flop houses, subway tunnels, etc. and find those who were de-institutionalized in the '60s and had fallen thru the cracks of the system and to try to re-connect them with services and get them into clean, appropriate living situations.  Again, I'm sure that the current owners have re-done the place & have made it a fine place to stay.  But, going to their linked web site and reading it just seemed to have left something out and whitewashed a period in NYC history that many have forgotten or would like to forget &/or misrepresent.  Sorry for this somber post"¦ I just can't look at this "hostel" with "cabins" without seeing the images.

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Steve, it wouldn't surprise me if this was a flop house, formerly, as the neighborhood is still reminiscent of it, and came with the "nice man who reeked of drink" that helped direct me to the right check-in area.

I'm glad you posted this other history of this place...and for sharing your experience. It isn't often history books show this side of reality that should be seen.

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lived in partitioned rooms with walls that were six feet high & had barely enough room for a bed (inches on each side to the walls), bare hanging lightbulbs from open electrical cords with fly paper attached to them, rats and other vermin crawling everywhere and victimization of the helpless a daily occurrence (beatings, shakedowns, loansharking and worse).

You mean like plenty of people transported by snakeheads still live?

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You mean like plenty of people transported by snakeheads still live?

Interestingly enough, the folks I was describing as living there were not Asians, brought by "snakeheads" to work and serve.  Unbelievably, from what I heard, those places were even worse, but were further downtown (at least at that point) inside Chinatown, part of a very closed community where we were never able to set foot.  The men in the Bowery flophouses back then were African American, Hispanic and white, brought there by drug addiction, alcoholism & mental illness.  The rest of these blocks were restaurant supply stores, halfway houses (the Salvation Army's Booth House, etc "¦ including the one that Norman Mailer's protege Jack Henry Abbott briefly lived in until he stabbed a waiter around the corner), city run shelters &, of course, bars (no cocktails, just straight shots and beers).

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