Posts Tagged ‘Kleindeutschland’

The brothel above an 1880s Gramercy saloon

August 15, 2014

There’s a wonderful bar and restaurant near Third Avenue on 23rd Street.

The wood and glass entrance is lit by amber lanterns; chandeliers inside cast a glow onto the tin ceiling. Everything about the bar radiates that enchanting, old New York feel.

Klubesrestaurantfacade

Now it’s known as the Globe. Not too long ago, it was the Grand Saloon. Reportedly it’s been a food and drinking establishment since the 1880s.

KlubesrestaurantchandelierClearly it’s been called many things over the years. Yet the name it had at least a century ago still emerges like a ghost above the entrance: Klube’s Restaurant.

Who was Klube? Sometime before 1912, a German immigrant named Charles (or Carl) Klube bought the place with a partner named Klinger.

Klube and his wife operated the restaurant as part of hotel, which occupied the top three floors of the building.

The hotel, called the St. Blaise, wasn’t just your standard neighborhood lodging house—it was actually a 15-bedroom brothel.

City of Eros, by Timothy J. Gilfoyle, references it in a passage on Manhattan’s various East Side houses of assignation.

Klubescloseup “More modest hotels like the Delevan, the German Hotel, and the St. Blaise were subdivided row houses that resembled parlor houses from the outside,” wrote Gilfoyle.

“They had between 15 and 50 rooms that were used by prostitutes who frequented the hotels and nearby saloons.”

At some point, the St. Blaise name faded away, and Klube established Klube’s Steak House here. It went out of business in 1965, but in 1950, The New York Times described it as a “homey little German restaurant.”

No word about what happened to the brothel above.

Mystery creatures guard a St. Marks Place door

February 17, 2014

Are these statues the faded remains of lions? Dogs? Or mythological creatures, like griffins?

Stmarkscreatures

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At 73 St. Marks Place between Second and First Avenues stand these crumbled visages of some aggressive animal, now weathered and faceless.

They’re embracing shields—a fierce touch.

Imagine the foreboding welcome they offered visitors who approached this basement doorway on St. Marks, more than a century ago the main drag of Kleindeutschland.

This was the city’s former Little Germany neighborhood until the early 1900s, resplendent with beer gardens, theaters, libraries, churches.

And shooting clubs—like this one across the street, its emblem still on the facade.

Caring for the East Village’s babies and derelicts

February 3, 2014

SaracurryIf you’ve spent any time on St. Marks Place between First and Second Avenues in the past year, you may have noticed that the block has been renamed Sara Curry Way.

Who was Sara Curry? This young transplant came to the city in the late 19th century and witnessed a tragic accident that strengthened her resolve to make working with poor children her life’s mission.

Born in Utica in 1863, Curry was orphaned as a child and went to work in a local factory.

There, she “studied the problems of other girls who worked long hours for a living,” her New York Times obituary noted. “In her spare time, she devoted her energies to helping them.”

SaracurrywaysignA wealthy New York City resident heard about her efforts to help working women upstate.

He arranged for Curry to come to New York in 1894 and help run a nursery for poor working mothers at the Mariner’s Temple, a circa-1795 Baptist Church on Henry Street. That led her to do missionary work in Chinatown with the disadvantaged, and then, in 1896, her true calling.

“One day, on seeing a child crushed by a truck, she resolved to devote her life mainly to children,” stated the Times.  The child was one of thousands of “street Arabs” who roamed the city in the late 19th century, because their parents worked or they had no homes to go to.

Littlemissionarysdaynursery2014“With only enough money to pay a month’s rent and immediate necessities, she rented a room at 204 Avenue C, which became her first nursery, and in it she cared for a dozen babies.”

In 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 bring their young children.

Called the Little Missionary’s Day Nursery , it was an homage to Curry’s small stature and nickname “Little Angel of the Missions.”

“Miss Curry never lost sight of social conditions in the children’s background, wrote the Times.

“She made thousands of visits to their parents, visited the sick, served Thanksgiving dinner by the hundreds.”

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Sara Curry died in 1940. But her nursery school still exists on St. Marks Place.

[Top photo: Little Missionary’s Day Nursery; bottom: Good Housekeeping, 1904]

An 1880s shooting gallery on St. Mark’s Place

May 23, 2013

Stmarksshootingclub1893kingsNo, not that kind—an actual shooting gallery.

It’s a remnant of Kleindeutschland, the “Little Germany” that encompassed the East Village from the 1840s through the early 1900s.

The shooting gallery was at 12 St. Mark’s Place, east of Third Avenue. A bas relief carved into the facade gives away the building’s original purpose: it depicts an eagle, crossed guns, and a symbolic target, with the words Einigkeit Macht Stark (“unity is strength”) carved above.

This was the home of the Deutsch-Amerikanische Schuetzen Gesellschaft, or German American Shooting Society.

Built in 1888, it housed a saloon, lodge rooms, bowling alley, and a small shooting range in the basement (club members did most of the actual shooting in Queens).

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“By the 1880s, shooting became a middle class pastime, and most halls had moved to the suburbs along with many residents of Kleindeutschland,” states a Landmarks Preservation Committee report.

Stmarksshootingclub2013“However, the German-American Shooting Society Clubhouse remained an important link to the old neighborhood despite the migration.”

“It served as a headquarters for meetings of twenty-four such groups, and was the site of fund-raisers for the construction of rifle ranges and travel to Germany for international shooting contests.”

The Shooting Society owned it until 1920, and in subsequent decades, it served as a Ukrainian Culture Center and St. Mark’s Bookshop.

Today it’s a yoga studio . . . of course!

[Top photo: King’s Handbook of New York City, 1890s]

A Gramercy beer garden inspired by a castle

March 21, 2013

ScheffelhallNew York doesn’t have many German Renaissance-style buildings inspired by castles in the Alps.

But there’s one at 190 Third Avenue, and it’s an unusual, curious reminder of the area’s once-thriving German immigrant neighborhood.

Plus, it has a literary reputation, and rumors swirl that it served as a spy hangout too.

The back story begins in 1896, when the original building, near 17th Street, was bought by a German-American intent on turning it into a beer garden.

Remodeled to resemble Heidelberg Castle in Germany, Scheffel Hall (the name comes from a German balladeer) catered to German natives living in the upper reaches of Kleindeutschland, then centered in the East Village.

Scheffelhallcloseup

After changing hands in 1904, Scheffel Hall became Allaire’s, a full-fledged restaurant, then a German-American music hall, a rathskeller, and later the jazz club Fat Tuesday’s until 1995.

“Its patrons have included a number of leading politicians and writers, notably O. Henry who used Scheffel Hall as the setting for a short story in 1909,” states a Landmarks Preservation Committee Report from 1997.

ScheffelhallinsideH.L. Mencken also hung out there, as did other literary figures in Gramercy.

And then there’s the espionage angle: Allaire’s was reportedly a gathering place for German American spies during World War I, reports New York Architecture.

Today it’s a Pilates studio, but that’s okay. The owners haven’t touched the facade, and the dark woodwork and detailing in the interior remains.

When Avenue B was the “German Broadway”

June 18, 2012

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.

Three ways of looking at East 86th Street

April 23, 2012

Few city neighborhoods have changed in the past 100 years as much as Yorkville, the center of German immigrant life through much of the 20th century. This new Kleindeutschland was a hub for German food, culture, and politics for decades.

This photo shows the main drag, 86th Street, looking east from Lexington Avenue; it was published in the wonderful book New York Then and Now.

The book tells us that the six-story building on the right, behind the middle of the second car on the Third Avenue El, was the Yorkville Casino, a popular social center.

Sixty-one years later, here’s the same view of 86th Street. High-rise apartment buildings have replaced walkups, movie theaters, and the Casino, and street traffic has increased dramatically—no more Third Avenue El to whisk passengers above ground.

Here’s the same view today: fewer tenements, more high-rises, lots of chain stores, same amount of traffic. It’s still called Yorkville on maps, but it’s less of a distinct neighborhood than ever.

Where was New York’s “German Play Ground?”

November 24, 2010

While browsing the Museum of the City of New York’s Byron collection online archive, I came across the photo from 1903.

Interestingly, instead of going by the park’s real name, it’s mysteriously labeled the “German Play Ground.”

Must be Tompkins Square Park, which was heavily German at the time—so much so that the neighborhood was known as “Kleindeutschland,” or Little Germany.

Of course, lots of neighborhoods were German, such as Bushwick, known for its breweries. But here, I think the winding paths and benches give it away.