The Bowery House: flophouse chic in Downtown New York

The challenge: finding a cool place to stay in a cool New York neighborhood at a cool (read: reasonable) price. The harsh fact: if you’re looking for a real hotel be prepared to clean out your credit card, hotel prices in New York are ruthless. What we did: we stayed at The Bowery House, a hostel that combines shabby, chic and übercool in a hip NY area.

We love a good hotel (or in this case: a hostel) with a great story to tell so when we bummed into The Bowery House we knew straight away this one was right up our sleeve.

First of all, the location was perfect: right on the spot where Chinatown, Soho, Noho, Nolita and East Village all cross. Second: the concept and history is amazing. And third: The Bowery House is a real find if you’re looking for a bargain.
Bowery House the living room

The concept

The Bowery House is a stylish hostel with the vibe of a boutique hotel. True, the bathrooms are communal and there are only a couple of real rooms available so you’ll probably end up staying in one of the cabins (no ceiling so not for the light sleepers, there’s a good reason why reception provide earplugs). But:  the decoration is upscale (Italian marble), the bathrooms have heated flours and rain showers, bath products are luxurious, sheets are made from Egyptian cotton and the towels are Ralph Lauren.

Still not convinced? How about a fantastic living room with  big flat screen TV and comfy leather Chesterfield sofa’s and best of all: a fab roof terrace with Italian furniture (and great views). Ow, and we paid 69 dollar for a cabin, so how’s that for a bargain?

Bowery House roof terrace

The history

The building dates back to the 1920s. It used to be known as The Prince Hotel and was one the so-called flophouses to accommodate soldiers who were returning home from World War II or those who had run out of luck and had no where else to stay. The Prince Hotel wasn’t supposed to be a place for permanent residence; people slept in small cabins with little space, it was a kind pit stop before moving on, but many guests never left and made the cabins their home. Those days the Bowery area wasn’t a pleasant place to be; it was known as New York City’s Skid Row, a neighborhood for the poor and desperate where gambling, prostitution and lots of other seedy and shameful attractions were part of daily life.

Trivia: America’s earliest street gangs are supposed to be the Bowery Boys (mid-19the century, long before The Prince Hotel was built).  The Bowery Boys were the inspiration for the gang that battle the Dead Rabbits in the Scorsese-movie Gangs of New York. The leader was Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, a role played by Daniel Day-Lewis.

From flophouse to hip house

Since the 1990s the Bowery-area has been reviving and today it’s considered a hip & cool neighborhood. Grill, co-owner of the Click modeling agency, bought the flophouse; he had planned to create a dormitory-style housing for models and actors, but he never succeeded. Enter real estate entrepreneur Mr. Kunkel and Alessandro Zampedri, a former Italian race car driver who survived a spectacular crash in Indianapolis 500. The two had big plans to turn The Prince Hotel into a sexy hotel-like hostel et voila: in 2011 The Bowery House as we know it was born, design and luxury combined with the cabin-like rooms from the old flophouse. The hotel is supposed to be a ‘living museum, a designer experience of the formerly flophouse’.

The verdict

The Bowery House is a very cool place to stay: it’s well designed and decorated, the price is a bargain and it’s location couldn’t be better. atmosphere is great, and the lounge roof terrace is a wonderful hangout with great panoramic views. Downsides are the thin walls (think: listening to your neighbor snoring) and the small (really small, we felt a bit sorry for the poor soldiers who used to stay here all those decades ago) cabins.

Bowery House cabin

There’s hardly any room to put your belongings, and even the beds are on the small side. The cabins are in fact just places to crash and sleep, the living room and roof terrace are the places to be if you want to relax and hang out in comfort and style. Overall the place is very clean, and the staff is fantastic.

Would we stay here again? Yes, without a doubt, although we would go for the bigger Prince Room: double bed, more space, more comfortable but still very inexpensive. Our original plan was to book this room, but is was already taken. Lesson learned: book well in advance. 

Need more pics? Here they come:

 

10 comments

  1. We have shied away from NYC simply because of the price, although the hotels are lovely they are expensive even compared to London prices.

    I love the look of this place though, there is a certain classic feel to it that really appeals and I can imagine on a warm day that roof area is fantastic; a great place to sit outside with a bottle of wine before heading back out for the evening.

    Thanks for sharing this I will be keeping this in mind next time we have a discussion about NYC.

  2. I am a big fan of cool hostels around the world and something like this would always be my first choice when choosing accommodation. Interesting history as well! Best boutique hostel/hotel I’ve found so far was Lavender Hostel in Budapest, you won’t believe it’s real 😀
    -Sianna

    1. Hi Siana, just checked out the Lavender-website, indeed a really special hotel. Tx for the tip! 🙂

  3. That does look like a pretty funky place! Thanks for sharing the info, even though I probably wouldn’t sleep in a hostel with two kids in tow, but that looks exactly like the place I liked to stay at when I was traveling in the B.C. times (before children). Everyone should experience sleeping in a hostel at least at one point in their lives!

    1. I know! We used to stay at hostels all the time, but the last couple of years we ‘moved over’ to hotels and resorts. Still, staying at The Bowery House was a fun experience, took us right back in time.
      Love it how you turn B.C. into ‘before children’! 🙂

  4. I thought my hostel days were over but this does look appealing, as does the price tag. I hope to make it to NYC one day soon so I’ll keep this in mind. Thanks for the tip off. Look like an eye mask might come in handy though.

    1. No more hostels for us either, but for this one we made an exception. We were fascinated by the history of the house and the neighborhood, and our travel budget was fascinated by the price tag. 🙂 And it’s true: an eye mask does come in handy.

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