Newark's "Bowery"

by Charles McGrath


We had a street Down Neck named Bowery, which in Dutch means, "farm“, but in the early 1900's it was renamed after Father Fleming (pastor of Saint Aloysius Church) to Fleming Avenue.

We never had a section in Newark with the same infamous name as the Bowery of New York. The Bowery was the home for many lost souls. Most of these men were either alcoholics or mentally compromised. They would sleep in doorways, staircases and I guess just about anyplace where they dropped in a stupor.

I'm sad to relate that most of us at that time would look upon them as a humorous site. I remember driving with my parents to Bowery Street to look at all the bums lying around the area. They were shown in the theatres during the Newsreel and also in magazines like Life to make us laugh. Speaking for myself I'm ashamed to say that I laughed at what I now know to be a diseased or a special person.

In 1990 I worked in that area for Verizon and I was pleased to see that those conditions no longer exist on Bowery Street.

Did we have a Bowery (like) area Down Town (circa 1940's)? My answer to that would be yes. As I remember we had a flophouse area on the south side of Market Street between Lawrence Street and McCarter Highway.

The Market Hotel was located at 291-93 Market Street. I believe it was a three or four story wooden clapboard building. I think a room or at least a bed was advertised for 50 cents a night. Underneath the hotel was the Grace and Hope Mission. Going up Market Street was the Comet Hotel (270 Market Street).

I worked as a messenger in 1950 for Art Photo and Engraving Company. They made all the engraved plates that were used to print the pictures in the Newark Evening News. So it seemed like I was in that area at least once a day.

I remember a policeman taking away a bottle of "Sneaky Pete" from an alcoholic and breaking it on the curb of Beaver Street. That was right in front of the Newark Evening News.

Sneaky Pete was slang for a pint bottle of cheap muscatel with grain alcohol added to pump up the proof to 40. It cost around 35 cents and was a flat bottle, which would fit in one’s back pocket.

The Market and the Comet Hotels along with all its guests are long gone. But for a short period of time we could say that Newark had its own Bowery.


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