When Avenue B was the “German Broadway”

A lot has been written about the East Village’s late–19th century incarnation as an enclave called Kleindeutschland, aka Little Germany.

Tompkins Square Park was the center of this vibrant neighborhood.

And while “Avenue A was the street for beer halls, oyster saloons, and groceries,” Avenue B was the neighborhood’s commercial artery, known as the “German Broadway.”

“Each basement was a workshop, every first floor was a store, and the partially roofed sidewalks were markets for goods of all sorts,” states  All the Nations Under Heaven: an Ethnic and Racial History of New York City.

I wish some trace of Avenue B’s German past still existed.

Instead, I’ll just imagine the shops that probably occupied the lower level of 45-47 Avenue B, built in 1880.

And I’ll imagine that the Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in the City of New York still worshiped at this church on Avenue B and 9th Street, built in 1847 and home to the Lutherans since 1863.

The photo, from the NYPL Digital Collection, dates to the 1930s, but the church was torn down in 1975.

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13 Responses to “When Avenue B was the “German Broadway””

  1. The Day | Remembering Gen. Slocum, Little Germany - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] Ephemeral New York remembers when Avenue B was the “German Broadway” and reprints a photo of Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, at Ninth Street. The Local toured Little Germany back in Sept. 2010. [...]

  2. ronfwnc Says:

    Sometimes a single event forever changes a neighborhood, and it’s my understanding that the tragic General Slocum fire and sinking was such an event for this one. Most of the victims were residents of Little Germany, and entire families perished in the disaster.

    • Rachel Says:

      And that was how Yorkville became Germantown. It’s my understanding that after the Slocum, the remaining family members could not stand living downtown with all the memories of the deceased so they moved uptown. I grew up on East 86th street when just about every storefront was either a German restaurant or bakery.

      • ronfwnc Says:

        My father’s family settled there when they arrived in 1940, and I remember the tail end of that era in Yorkville. Remember the Ideal Retaurant? It was like eating an inexpensive, wholesome meal in any German city. Not much left of that period.

      • BabyDave Says:

        The Ideal! And Bremen House, and the Hofbrau House. Do you remember the name of the rather large grocery store on the south side of 86th Street, probably between Second and Third Avenue?

      • petey Says:

        i’m from 84th street and the congregation of the general slocum outing moved to the st mark’s church still on 84th between 1st and 2nd: http://www.zionstmarks.org/ourhistory.htm

        german yorkville hasn’t disappeared, schaller and weber’s and the heidelberg are still very much in business,the lutheran st mark’s and the RC st joseph’s (where pope ratzinger visited) still offer german services. yorkville certainly is not as german as it was but it was never exclusively german, i’m irish and grew up mostly with irish and hungarians.

  3. EV Grieve Etc.: Mourning edition « NYC Real Estate News Says:

    [...] Avenue B’s past as the “German Broadway” (Ephemeral New York) [...]

  4. Matt Says:

    Hi Ephemeral NY, I love reading your updates and have been following your site for more than a year.

    I actually just wrote an article about Little Germany on my own blog, if you are interested:

    http://ventilateblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/kleindeutschland-when-new-york-was-the-3rd-largest-german-speaking-city-on-earth/

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Hey, thanks Matt–I urge everyone to check out the link above. A more extensive post on the Kleindeutschland.

  6. Real Estate News NYC via Tigho | EV Grieve Etc.: Mourning edition - Real Estate News NYC via Tigho Says:

    […] Avenue B’s past as the “German Broadway” (Ephemeral New York) […]

  7. Caring for the East Village’s babies and derelicts | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] 1901, the nursery, now funded by benefactors, moved to larger quarters at 93 St. Marks Place, the heart of the city’s Kleindeutschland. There, Curry helped care for 200 children of poor mothers who had to work and had no safe place to […]

  8. These tenements are always ready for July 4th | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] to be outdone, this tenement on Avenue B (aka, the “German Broadway”) and East Fourth Street wears its patriotic colors (plus a little gold) […]

  9. Phil Says:

    I just saw your article and thought I would share with you that Trinity Lutheran still does worship on the corner of 9th Street and Ave B. It hasn’t left.

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