Thursday, April 01, 2010


There is a secret tunnel they say, the tomb of a dead railroad car flipped over on its side like an iron whale and buried beneath Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue since 1861. Since then it has been the source of a flurry of folklore stories, hauntings, legends, and lurid secrets.

Some say Civil War spies buried the mysteriously missing pages of John Wilkes Booth's diary down there in a brass box. Others claim the tunnel holds weaponry from the notorious Smoky Hollow gang, bootlegging treasures, clues of 19th century espionage, and plenty more.

In 1861, Walt Whitman wrote a column in the Brooklyn Standard where he describes "the old tunnel, that used to lie there underground, a passage of Acheron like solemnity and darkness, now all closed up and filled up, and soon to be utterly forgotten, with all its reminiscences..."

The tunnel was rediscovered in 1981 by engineering student-turned-Brooklyn's own Indiana Jones, Bob Diamond. Diamond spent years in search of the tunnel and its supposed secrets. After scouring ancient engineering documents, obtaining city permissions, and crawling on his belly through 100ft of Brooklyn soot he was finally rewarded when he was poked through a hastily constructed brick and cobble wall and felt a blast of cold air rushing out from the 120 year old cave.

Currently there is a documentary is in the works exploring his great find and this amazing story. This trailer is pretty good insight to the story...

The tunnel was originally commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt's LIRR in 1844 when the nuisance of train-related pedestrian bloodshed was gumming up his all important train schedules. A small army of Irish workers did the digging, known later as sandhogs, using the cut and cover method and in truth, it became New York's very first subway.

By the 1850's the tunnels usefulness was waning so a contractor named Electus Lichtfield was hired to fill in the tunnel once and for all, but these being the glory days of New York construction corruption, graft and all around corner-cutting, Lichtfield does not such thing. Instead, in the interest of making a grand ole' profit, he walls in the tunnel on both ends, covers up the other entrances with cartloads of brick and dirt, and get some his "friends" at City Hall to confirm that the tunnel was gone forever...

Bob Diamond's incredible story of rediscovering the tunnel eventually uncovers Lichtfield's scam but his great con turned out to leave something of a legacy for New Yorkers in search of a little intrigue. Still, there are two areas of the tunnel that have not been opened up and Bob Diamond believes that Booth's diary and other lurid artifacts may still be entombed there. Diamond is now the official curator of this great piece of NYC archeology and occasionally runs tours of the defunct tunnel that Whitman called "dark as the grave, cold, damp, and silent."

There is a great collection of in-depth tunnel-related articles here:

You can also read the story at Curious Expeditions:


Friday, December 18, 2009


BARKING IRONS is very proud to announce our latest collaboration with Nashville guitar-picking man, Justin Townes Earle. Kin to the legendary Steve Earle, Justin will make believers out of every audience he encounters with his exceptionally crafted early country-blues sound. JTE is extremely well-versed in American music and folklore; he is a student of American roots and it shows brilliantly in his ability to craft original songs that sound like they were penned in 1919.

Upon our first meeting, Barking Irons was smitten with this strange character and his funny-sounding guitar as we chewed the fat over Civil War stories and the tales of American infamy.
It wasn't long before we decided that our respective minds would collaborate on something bound-to-be-great.

Barking Irons created this super-soft, vintage quality tee for JTE's Nov-Dec tour with Dan Auerbach. It is titled, "Holdin' Smoke" which came from old bluesman slang for someone whose stylings just cannot be touched by another. Only 200 were produced and that will be it for this particular style so get them while you can: available on JTE's road show.

"JTE Holdin' Smoke" on Dusty Black, by Barking Irons (2009)

MB is proud to be reporting on this masterful collaboration between two kindred spirits with penchants for sartorial excellence. JTE and Barking Irons have just nicked the surface with this one, stay tuned for more cool exciting things happening on this front.

Check out some JTE tunes

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


The year 2009 is drawing to a close. Before it does, The Mulberry Bend would like to recognize that it was this year that stood as the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's historic arrival into Hudson Bay. He did this of course on his good ship The Half Moon on Sept 12th, 1609.

Manhattan was a very different place back then. More like The Hamptons actually, without the sweater shawls & khakis. Sound enchanting? We have no doubt that it was. Which is why the Dutch decided to move right in. Legend tells of men wading into the waters and plucking whole lobsters with their bare hands. Now if that doesn't make you wonder, perhaps a trip over to The Mannahatta Project will set wind in your sails.

Although it's been around for a little while now, The Mannahatta Project founded by Dr. Eric Sanderson, an Californian ecologist, now offers downloadable data and resources. Information about Mannahatta's once strong biodiversity and the over 55 ecological communities that once thrived in on this island is there for the plundering. Furthermore, if pictures and maps are your speed, you can mess with The Mannahatta Project's 10 different layers of time on the Google Map based overview of the island. That means you can type in your address and rewind time to see what once existed where you do now. Whatever it was, it was probably cleaner and looked a hell of a lot better than you do anyway.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Have you ever found yourself half-drunk and impatiently waiting for your cash to spew out of an ATM and wondered about this wacky little symbol here?? It's okay... Mulberry Bend has.

This story begins in 1799 amidst the bitter rivalry of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Following a cholera outbreak in the then fledgling New York City, Burr won a crucial contract to drain fresh water ponds on Manhattan Island in order to supply fresh water to its inhabitants. This led him to found the Manhattan Company.

Hamilton had established the first corporate bank in New York, Bank of New York, in 1784 and enjoyed many years of fat profits without any competition. This irked Burr so much that he insisted that his newly established Manhattan Company obtain a clause in its charter that would allow it to become a bank, adding another layer to their fierce rivalry ... and we all know how that ended.

A. Burr - one hell of a model American !

Burr laid pipe all over Manhattan... literally. Always the cost-cutter, he hollowed out pine logs to carry the water to where it needed to go. Ultimately, Burr did a terrible job draining the water from Manhattan which led to awful public health and structural problems down the line but that's a different story. Have a look at his handy work:

See where this is headed?? Over the centuries the Manhattan Bank went thru several mergers and in 1930 John D. Rockefeller Jr. threw his hat in the ring and the bank became the largest in the nation. In the 1960's the bank decided that they needed a graphic logo - pretty revolutionary at the time - so they hired Chermayeff & Geismar Associates to whip something up.

They wanted something that would suggest security, organization, protection, equality, etc. but the designers also thought that they could make their clients happy by taking note of the venerated history of the bank which dated back to 1799. So they used Burr's old pine logs as the inspiration for the abstract image that would go on to become one of the most genre-defining corporate logos of the age.

To this day workers will occasionally unearth hollow pine logs during excavations like this one at Coenties Slip. It seems as though the ubiquity of the Burr's pine logs translates nicely to the evil corporate omnipresence of Chase logos in our fair city today.

Oh Burr, you always get the last laugh!



Friday, November 20, 2009


"The Town is taken by its rats--ship-rats. And rats of the wharves. "
~Herman Melville

Saunter down Water Street near that movie set-like section underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and keep thine eyes peeled for a squat brick building that the postmen call #273. That is where the 'lore of a local man named Kit Burns took on its infamy.

Burns ran a well-kept tavern, buzzing with all manner of waterfront types of late 19th century New York. The bar men made good business but the real attraction was the fighting pits that earned the "Sportsman's Hall" its far-reaching reputation. Rats are plentiful along the East River so ol' Burns-ey had no difficulty procuring droves of the wily beasts while his dogs, terriers and ferret chasers, furnished their particular brand of entertainment.

A burlap sack of rats (10-stone) is emptied into the pit which is set up like an amphitheatre of sorts with vile men crowded in on the rough-hewn benches. The dog then goes to town making bloody work of as many rats as he can in the given "time," which is set by the screaming, stomping, blasphemously elated men who gamble upon this venture. Burns' dogs are the gladiators of the night and highly-regarded and even smothered with heroic affections in victory.

One eye witness recalls that some men would, "catch up the dog in their arms, and press it to their bosom in a frenzy of joy, or kiss it as if it were a human being, unmindful or careless of the fact that all this while the animal is smeared with the blood of its victims. The scene is disgusting beyond description."

Rat pits were actually a common attraction in old New York, a miniaturized gladiator affair with all the pomp and primal affections of the ancient Colosseum but none have gained such infamy as Kit Burns' Sporting Hall. We all would do well to remember the crass, ungodly beginnings of a town as tony and cosmopolitan as our modern day New York, Mulberry Bend is here to help.

Sorry for the absences friends, MB will be back up and running now so be sure to come back for more lurid tales...


Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Last night MB witnessed an enthusiastic screening of the new documentary film, "Captured" in an event space on the Bowery. The film chronicles the life work of LES artist and consummate man-of-many-hats, Clayton Patterson, who tirelessly etched scenes of pre-gentrified Lower-East-Side life into a vast compendium of photos, films, and art for over 30 years. Like a modern day Herodotus, Patterson labored, often risking life and limb, so that us future generations and revelers of the L.E.S. could witness the blood that was spilled on this ground before our time.

Clayton is victorious as a Lower East Side hero and the film does a good job of picking through his vast collection of divisive if not outright disturbing video footage, but the PBR guzzling audience seemed to walk away unaffected by the woes of lower-east-siders of the last generation. At one point rioters raid the lobby of a upscale apartment building on Tompkins square -a mere neanderthal to today's Avalon or Ludlow monstrosities - in a gesture of angst toward upscale gentrification, but how does one expect the current inhabitants to react to this? As you might expect, the tragedy felt by the LES dwellers of the 70's & 80's was lost on more than a few.

The precious footage that Clayton has rescued from anonymity however, is CAPTURED's greatest gift. The LES as ghetto; a lawless, shameless, bubbling miasma of crime, art, newness, fear, and infamy. MB has often wondered what New York might have looked like during the 1863 Draft Riots and the tapes of the Tompkins Square Riot might be just about as clear a window as we can get into what happens when peace in our city takes a holiday.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The brothers Followill, proud sons of Tennessee, may be hitting their stride in 2009 with a breakneck touring schedule, a string of huge singles, and more fan power than ever before.

On Thursday, the Kings of Leon will take on a sold out MSG -their biggest US show to date and the buzz is palpable here in NYC.

In July, the KOL dropped in on the Barking Irons Bowery digs (as reported by MB) to discuss some new art work that Barking Irons had made expressly for the Kings of Leon. After the guys happily approved the work, Barking Irons set out to produce a limited edition run of three ultra-soft, beautifully made t-shirts to be sold on tour with the band. It is MB's distinct pleasure to showcase them here now:

<<< align="left"> YOUNG LOVERS - ONLY BY THE NIGHT

Each tee was produced on a super soft washed cotton picked by Barking Irons and sported an artful inside neck label for ultimate comfort and an added graphic punch. The KOL by Barking Irons tees are available for $34 at the Kings of Leon webstore and on tour only.

The whole band was super thrilled with the final outcome. Some joker even caught Nathan wearing TRICERATOPS on his day off (alterations his):

In addition to wearing their own gear, every now and then the Followill boys will end up on stage wearing one of the original Barking Irons pieces that they picked up on their visit to the Bowery.

We wish these boys the absolute best. Believe it or not, the KOL were an integral part of the founding of Barking Irons when back in 2003 their album "Youth & Young Manhood" fueled many a late night of screen-printing in the Bowery basements. Funny that...

Stay tuned for more KOL / Barking Irons collaborations to come.