The faded ghost sign for a Ludlow Street grocery

55 Ludlow Street blends right into the Lower East Side streetscape.

It’s a six-story building between Hester and Grand that probably started out as a brick tenement in the late 19th or early 20th century before getting an upgrade that smoothed out the facade and front windows.

Photos over the past few years show the first floor commercial space covered in graffiti, with no apparent occupant in place.

But one turn-of-the-century feature remains: the very faded phantom outline of a sign, “wholesale grocers,” above the first-floor entrance.

So who were these wholesale grocers, and when did they run their business?

It could have been the sign for Bernstein & Wolfson, a wholesale grocery founded by Morris H. Bernstein, 44, described in his 1916 New York Times obituary as “the mayor of the East Side” and head of one of the largest groceries in the area.

“He lived at [illegible] Orchard Street, and his death is said to be hastened by his active preparations for the celebration of his 20th year as a grocer on the East Side, which was to have taken place in Webster Hall on March 25,” wrote the Times.

A grocer’s directory from 1917 continued to categorize Bernstein as the “strictly wholesale” grocer at 55 Ludlow Street.

Bernstein & Wolfson didn’t appear to last much longer. By 1919, the New York Herald reported that the entire building at 55 Ludlow Street was leased to a candy company.

Here it is in a 1940 Department of Records tax photo…looking not far off from the way it looks today. Special thanks to Robert G. for spotting this ghost sign and taking the photos!

[Fourth photo: NYC Department of Records Tax Photo]

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6 Responses to “The faded ghost sign for a Ludlow Street grocery”

  1. Richard Arthur Says:

    And the tenement building across the street that you can see in the window reflection literally facing the sign is where The Velvet Underground formed in 1965 🙂

  2. Lisa Garber Says:

    Hoping someone can tell me whether it is possible to search an address to see the Department of Revenue tax records, and how often were the photos taken? My Jewish greatgrandparents (whom Ibhave only recently learned about) were employed as a midwife (g-gmother) and a tailor (g-grandfather) in the LES and I would like to see where they lived and perhaps also locate where he worked. Thank you for any advice and direction you can provide.

  3. ironrailsironweights Says:

    From what I can determine online, the upper floors are a single residence rather than separate apartments. In 2012 the current owner(s) bought the building for about $6 million.

    Peter

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    It’s probably worth $10 today, so a good investment and likely a nicely renovated roomy home on the LES!

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