Posts Tagged ‘Third Avenue street’

When New Yorkers tried to rename Third Avenue

March 25, 2013

Thirdavenuesign1956 was a crucial year for seven-mile Third Avenue.

That’s when the last piece of steel from the Third Avenue El was dismantled (below at 34th Street in the 1930s), bringing sunlight and broad views to a thoroughfare long known for its shadows and grime.

And right about when the El was finally removed, some residents and real estate officials called for Third Avenue to be given a more glamorous name.

“[Borough President Hulan E. Jack] said that at least five new names had been suggested,” wrote The New York  Times on February 17, after a ceremony marking the removal of a steel column.

ThirdavenueelAmong them were The Bouwerie, United Nations Avenue, International Boulevard, and Nathan Hale Boulevard (the Revolutionary War hero was reportedly hanged at today’s Third Avenue and 66th Street).

“One atomic-minded New Yorker had offered Fission Avenue,” stated the Times.

Borough President Jack was against a name change, though he did propose renaming the Bowery “Third Avenue South” to get rid of the Bowery’s “connotation of drunken derelicts and broken dreams.”

In the end, of course, Third Avenue remained Third Avenue . . . and the Bowery now connotes boutique hotels.

[Photo: New York City Municipal Archives]

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.


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.

The curious case of two neighboring tenements

May 24, 2012

Did these two buildings, on Third Avenue near 57th Street, start out as twins?

They’re about the same size and width, and it makes sense that both began their life a hundred years ago or so as typical five-story walkup tenements, the kind New York is famous for.

Unfortunately at some point—the 1950s? 1960s?—the one on the left underwent a serious facelift and had its lovely windows and ground-floor space modernized and uglified.

The only old photo I could find captures the building on the right—a classic Berenice Abbott shot from 1936, when the ground level of this now-restored beauty housed an antique shop.

[Photo link courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery]

A shout to Third Avenue on a Harlem facade

April 2, 2012

It’s a crucial north-south avenue that spans 120 blocks and many neighborhoods. But Third Avenue in Manhattan gets little love—except on the facade of this tenement off 104th Street.

The lettering was probably much easier to see from the Third Avenue El, which ran at least in part along the avenue from 1878 until 1955.

Curious about what it was like to ride the el? This 1950s video clip takes you along for all the noisy, rickety twists and turns. It’s great footage of a very different East Side.