[Photo: Vic K., Sunshine Hotel relief clerk]

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The Sunshine Hotel
Recorded in New York City, NY.
Premiered September 18, 1998, on All Things Considered.

This is an audio portrait of one of the final vestiges of the Bowery, New York's notorious skid row. In the first half of the century, the mile-long Bowery's bars, missions and cheap hotels (or flophouses) were home to an estimated 35,000 down-and-out men each night. Today, only a handful of flophouses, virtually unchanged for half a century, are all that remain of this once teeming world.

For several months in 1998, David Isay and Stacy Abramson had unprecedented 24-hour access to the Sunshine Hotel, one of the last of the no-frills establishments. "It was like stepping into King Tut's Tomb," Isay says. "The Sunshine is this fascinating, self-contained society full of unbelievable characters. While it's a profoundly sad place, it is, at the same time, home to men with powerful and poetic stories."

The Sunshine Hotel was awarded the Prix Italia, Europe's oldest and most prestigious broadcasting award, in 1999.

Producer: David Isay / Narrator: Nathan Smith / Associate Producer: Stacy Abramson / Production Associate: Suzanne Clores / Community Consultant: Charles Geter / Technical Consultant: Caryl Wheeler / Editor: Gary Covino / Funding provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Greenwall Foundation. Special thanks to the Bowery Residents Committee. Photograph by Harvey Wang.


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This piece is available in the following audio formats [23:31 min]:



The Sunshine Hotel on CD

"Remembering Nathan Smith," a page honoring the Sunshine Hotel's manager, who passed away in 2002

Update on the Sunshine Hotel by hotel manager Nathan Smith [posted Mar 13, 2001]

CD Liner notes, by producer David Isay

Charlie's Story, a Sound Portraits documentary about a flophouse resident

Flophouse, a book based on the documentary

Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories, the book that inspired this documentary

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