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Flush With History

A fancy new hotel digs in its old latrine.

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Amateur urban archaeologist Adam Woodward keeps a titanium shovel in his backpack just for opportunities like this one. He and his friend Moses Berkson spent three nights excavating the privy well behind what’s about to become the Blackwell House, a fifteen-room inn that Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode (the people behind the Maritime Hotel) are opening next door to the B Bar next month. It’s named after the family that owned the building for years. MacPherson invited Woodward to excavate, and they found two layers of artifacts. The top was formed by bottles from the late nineteenth century, mostly for whiskey and medicine, from when the area was populated by German and Irish immigrants. The next layer was twenty years older, containing expensive British imported perfume bottles, porcelain-doll heads, and handmade marbles from the rich English and Americans who lived on the Bowery during its short incarnation as an upscale neighborhood (they went down eighteen feet altogether). “The Bowery was abandoned for such a long time, there are still a lot of really old things lying around,” says Woodward, who often digs on construction sites. “There’s been so much construction and redevelopment over the past couple of years, I’m trying to get to as much of it as I can.” Woodward gave almost all the stuff he dug up to MacPherson and Goode, who plan to decorate the hotel—whose rooms will start at about $300 per night but are intended to be rented out for weeks at a time to the Nicole Kidman set—with the bottles. (“It’s modeled after a discreet Parisian hotel,” says MacPherson.) Pretty, but the construction crew wasn’t that impressed with the treasure they dug up. Says Berkson, “The construction guys were like, ‘If you find any gold, you’d better let us know!’ ”

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