The mystery of an East Village lager beer sign

I’m not the first old sign enthusiast who came across this beauty of a beer sign on the tenement at 317 East Fifth Street.

Grieve wrote it up back in January, and I’m sure other fans walking along this quiet East Village block noticed the ancient signage, too.

“S. Cort Wines & Lager Beer” the faded outline reads on the left side of the store, over a large window supported by what appears to be a Corinthian-like column.

Looks like the same words appear on the right side of the storefront, which is divided by the building’s stoop.

Apparently workers who were recently renovating this ground floor storefront between First and Second Avenues uncovered evidence of this old East Village liquor store.

Or was Cort’s actually a bar—one that poured many a growler for locals as well cops from the Ninth Precinct a few doors down?

The tenement was constructed in 1867, but the basement-level store wasn’t put in place until 1893, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation via an update at EVG.

But it’s still a mystery when this establishment operated.

Considering the fact that Cort is a German name, it wouldn’t surprise me if S. Cort’s dates back to the turn of the century, when today’s East Village was 19th century New York’s Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany stronghold.

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16 Responses to “The mystery of an East Village lager beer sign”

  1. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    It was right next door to the 9th Precinct, the place was always packed with cops. In the 1950s-60s drinking was a constant; a cop would stop by in uniform, have his fill and continue his patrol. Drinking was the norm. Anyway, the precinct was a block away from the start of the Bowery. My dad never went in that bar, too many drunken cops for him, he drank along the bars on Ave A, 7th-8th St, across from Tompkins Square Park. Ukrainian/Polish drunks, that was his place.

  2. greg chown Says:

    I’m interested in the different tavern/bar licences issued over the years. For example, McSorley’s only sells light or dark beer that I assume they have a licence to brew themselves. Rudy’s has an old licence that allows them to stay open until 4:00 am and allows smoking on the patio and then there’s the Circa Tabac bar where you can still smoke inside.

  3. Richard Kenyon Says:

    Please expand the first picture, the one of the entire front, and check out the “saddle” worn into the top step on the right hand side of the step. This tells me that the door has always opened from the right side to the left, and how many people have stood there to open the door since 1867, each one making their own contribution to wearing away the surface of the top step.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      You have a great eye, and now I see people standing there too: kids, delivery guys, dates, drunks…the whole range of East Village humanity over the past 150 years.

  4. The mystery of an East Village lager beer sign | News for New Yorkers Says:

    […] Source: FS – 898253 The mystery of an East Village lager beer sign […]

  5. greg chown Says:

    Toronto has similar complicated rules as well. I think it has to do with when the licence was issued and if the licence is then “grandfathered’ allowing the establishment to continue as before.
    There are no new licences issued for a “tavern” i.e beer, wine. and liquor but no obligation to serve food.
    The two oldest Taverns in Toronto, The Black Bull (1835) and the Wheat Sheaf (1848) do serve food but are not obligated to do so.
    The Horseshoe Tavern does not serve food.

  6. Marilyn Says:

    Was it a bar or a liquor/beer store? Some posts suggest a bar.

  7. Tony Says:

    Same location was a restaurant in the 40’s.
    Hopefully the link below will work to show the pic.;sort:borough%2Cblock%2Clot%2Czip_code;lc:NYCMA~5~5&mi=0&trs=1

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I love these tax photos but I wish they were a little sharper…I can’t make out anything. But thank you for the link!

  8. Ian Schoenherr Says:

    I’ve been squinting at this and it turns out that the lone “s” isn’t a capital but a terminal letter, and the capital “C” is really a “G” – so the name on the sign isn’t “S CORT” but “LOUIS GORT”.

    I don’t know if it was a saloon or a shop, but Gort seems to have occupied it in the early to mid 1890s – until it was foreclosed on and sold at public auction on April 21, 1896.

  9. Helene Farrar Says:

    My Mother grew up in this building in the 40’s to Jo’s on the 2nd floor on the right. There was an Italian shopkeeper on the bottom right named Mus. Lacente…

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