Posts Tagged ‘Ruppert’s Brewery’

The Marx Brothers’ Yorkville tenement home

June 1, 2009

In 1890 the Marx family—father Sam, who worked as a tailor on Lexington Avenue, mother Minnie, brothers Harpo, Chico, and Groucho, plus Minnie’s parents and a female cousin—moved to a tenement apartment building at 179 East 93rd Street.

Once brothers Gummo and Zeppo were born several years later, 10 family members were stuffed into one apartment, which they paid $27 a month for, according to Groucho’s autobiography, Hello I Must Be Going.

Marxbrotherstenement

At right is the Marx Brothers’ building today, more or less part of the affluent Carnegie Hill neighborhood. Back in the 1890s, however, it was in the middle of gritty breweries in working-class Yorkville. In his book, Groucho recalls his neck of the Upper East Side around 1900:

“We were surrounded by three breweries where we lived. When I went to school I could smell the malt. We used to go over to Park Avenue, where old man Ruppert lived in a big house with a fruit orchard, and we’d steal his apples and pears. There was a spiked fence about eight feet high, and dogs. We might have been dog meat, but we were very young, and we sure did like those apples and pears.”

Old man Ruppert was the owner of Ruppert’s Brewery, which spanned four blocks in the East 90s and is now the site of Ruppert Towers apartment complex. 

Today, neighborhood preservationists are trying to extend the Carnegie Hill Historic District so it includes the Marx Brothers’ building and isn’t vulnerable to demolition

Marxbrothersearly

An early photo of the Marx Brothers. That must be Harpo on the left, but it’s hard to tell for sure who the other three are. Groucho on the far right?