Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The 1931 Horn & Hardart Cafeteria -- No. 170 West 72nd Street

Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened their first restaurant in Philadelphia on December 22 1888.  When “waiterless restaurants” began appeared overseas around the turn of the century, Frank Hardart traveled to Europe to see them in action.  Customers chose food items from glass-doored compartments, inserted a coin and removed the food.  The concept required fewer personnel and, therefore, reduced prices.  Diners enjoyed quick service and inexpensive meals.

Horn & Hardart brought the concept to the United States.  The result was a sensation and in 1912 they branched into New York City.  Shop girls, office workers and laborers found they could stretch their meager pay in clean, attractive surroundings where five cents would buy tasty, freshly-made food.

The coin machines accepted only nickels and women "nickel throwers" were on hand to make change. Because the coins dirtied the cashiers' hands, they wore black uniforms.  

Despite the low food prices, Horn & Hardart did not scrimp on the interiors.   Marble, white tile and shining chrome were kept spotless and the cafeterias were often termed "classy."  Joseph Horn's approach to the restaurant business was simple.  "There is no trick to selling a poor item cheaply.  The real trick is to sell a good item cheaply.”

Originally the firm used the Philadelphia architects Stuckert & Sloan to design the cafeterias.  But in 1916 it turned to local firm F. P. Platt & Co. for its New York projects.  Frederick Putnam Platt took took his brother, Charles Carsten Platt, into his architectural business around 1919, creating F. P. Platt & Bro.  The brothers would design numerous automats for Horn & Hardart and as the Jazz Age engulfed Manhattan, their designs turned to the sleek and modern Art Deco.

In 1930 Frederick co-wrote an article in the Architectural Record entitled "Restaurants," which laid out the fundamentals of designing a viable food selling establishment.  Later that same year, in November, Walter J. M. Donovan leased the properties at Nos. 170 and 172 West 72nd Street to the Horn & Hardart Company.   The lease, which ran from January 1, 1931 to April 30, 1952 totaled $600,000.  On December 24, 1930 Poor’s Cumulative Service announced “In 1931 [Horn & Hardart] will erect there a new cafeteria.”

Like the other Horn & Hardart buildings designed by F. P. Platt & Brother, the 72nd Street cafeteria ignored the gloom of the Great Depression and presented an exuberant symmetrical Art Deco façade.  Cast stone and terra cotta combined in a modern two-toned design of geometrical lines and stair-stepping motifs.

The original treatment of the side entrances is evident in this 1942 photograph.  photo via LandmarkWest!

Indeed, if the Great Depression had any effect on the automat business, it increased it.  The quick and inexpensive food offered by Horn & Hardart was helpful to patrons who needed to account for every nickel.  When the cafeteria opened in 1931 the West 72nd Street neighborhood had changed from one of high-end private residences to apartment buildings and rooming houses. 

The Horn & Hardart cafeteria quickly became a neighborhood gathering place.  Bachelors found eating here convenient and economical.  And apartment dwellers could sit for hours discussing illnesses, weddings, neighborhood gossip, or the achievements of a son or grandson.  The purchase of a cup of coffee and, perhaps, a slice of pie, afforded the customer the right to settle in to read the newspaper undisturbed.

Patrons of the 72nd Street automat enjoyed a sleek, clean dining room.  photo from the John W. Romas Collection, via The Village Voice
The two-story cafeteria could accommodate at least 200 patrons; so, of course, things did not always go especially smoothly.  Such was the case on the evening of August 9, 1936.

Claire and Elaine Luzanzie were sisters who lived together in the Washington Towers Hotel at No. 2166 Broadway.  Elaine, at 28 years old, was two years older than her sister.  That Sunday night they walked to the Horn & Hardart on West 72nd Street for dinner.

Simultaneously, Mrs. Lucille Bradley entered the cafeteria.  She set her eyes on a delectable-looking slice of roast beef.  Unfortunately, Elaine Luzanzie spotted the same plate of beef.  Mrs. Bradley (at 45 she was significantly older), insisted she had gotten to the little glass door first.   Elaine, with her nickel poised, disagreed.   The dispute got out of hand and shocked patrons watched as Elaine landed a blow on Lucille Bradley’s lip.

The following day The New York Times ran a headline “Police Fail to Quell Roast Beef Dispute,” and explained that none of the three women had their anticipated dinners at Horn & Hardart that night.  Instead they were given summonses for disorderly conduct.  Although an ambulance was called and Lucille was treated for a lacerated lip, both of the Luzanzie sisters denied they had struck the woman.

The following day the women appeared before Magistrate Murphy in the West Side Court.   He diplomatically found them guilty of disorderly conduct, but gave them suspended sentences.

When the lease on the 72nd Street property expired in 1952, it was renewed.  After two decades the cafeteria had become a neighborhood destination and a financial success.   And so it was crowded on the muggy evening of June 19, 1957 as the city suffered through a heat wave.  It was the eighth day in a row with temperatures topping 85 degrees.

As the patrons chatted and dined at around 5:00 that evening, the lights suddenly went out.   The prolonged heat indirectly caused a Consolidated Edison cable to burn out.  A sub-headline in The Times the following day read “Romance at Automat.”  The cafeteria’s managers quickly placed candles on the tables in the street level dining room and closed off the mezzanine.  The newspaper opined “The customers seemed to enjoy the romantic touch.”

Neighbors were shocked and saddened when a sign appeared in the window toward the end of summer in 1967.  “To our patrons: This Automat will be closed the end of the business day on Sept. 17, 1967.  We thank you for your patronage.”

The Times lamented “For 36 years the Automat on 72d Street just east of Broadway had been the second home for the old people of the West Side.  Living alone on Social Security or pensions, they spent long hours over coffee at the Horn & Hardart.”

On the evening of September 17 those “old people” gathered for one last time.  In what The Times called “frail, uncertain voices,” they sang “Auld Lang Syne” and reminisced.  The reporter noticed a hand-written sign on one table which read “Shame, shame, shame.”

One patron, Ida Bess, told the journalist “I’ve come here for 15 years every evening.  Every evening.”

She was interrupted by Rose Katz.  “Fifteen years?  Thirty years I’m eating here.  If they go out of business, we need a nice restaurant like Horn & Hardart with fresh vegetables.”

The 72nd Street residents did not, however, get another nice restaurant quite like Horn & Hardart.  The cafeteria building continued to house a restaurant on the first floor, including a Gray’s Papaya in the 1990s; while over the decades the upper floor was home to a business school, a “physical culture establishment,” and a billiard hall.

As the 20th century became the 21st, the entire building housed the Acker Merrall & Condit wine store.  More recently it was take over as a Citibank branch.  Today the side entrances have been altered.  But the changes to F. P. Platt & Bro.’s sleek and jazzy design were sympathetically executed; leaving us with a streamlined reminder of the Automat Age in New York.

photograph by the author

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Lost 1888 Bank of America Bldg -- No. 44 Wall Street

The Record & Guide published this photograph of the newly-completed building on June 25, 1898.  (copyright expired)
The Bank of America was incorporated in 1812, established in a house formerly occupied by Francis Bayard Winthrop on the northwest corner of William and Wall Streets.  It was one of four other banks in New York City, which boasted a population of about 100,000.

By 1835 most of the residences along the once-fashionable Wall Street were gone.  That year the Bank of America demolished its old headquarters and began construction on a fine bank building designed by Isaiah Rogers.  

On December 16, 1835 fire broke out in the store of Comstock & Andrews at No. 25 Merchant Street.  High winds were blowing on that frigid night and the blaze quickly became an inferno, spreading from building to building and block to block.  Before morning 13 acres of downtown Manhattan had been burned; 528 structures were destroyed and the total lose was estimated at $17 million.  The flames had progressed within feet of the nearly-completed Bank of America building—destroying the building on the opposite side of William Street.

Isaiah Rogers produced a substantial stone bank building in 1835.  The Bank of America: A Brief Account of an Historic Financial Institute, 1918 (copyright expired)

The bank remained in its new building, “Corinthian in design,” until 1888 when it was demolished for a larger, income-producing structure.  On September 1 that year the Real Estate Record & Builders’ Guide noted “The most expensive down-town building in progress is that being erected for the Bank of America, at Nos, 44 and 46 Wall street on the northwest corner of William street…The front will be of stone, the first two stories of granite and the seven floors above of Indiana lime-stone.”

Architect Charles W. Clinton estimated that the building would be ready for occupancy about a year later.  “The façade will be in the Italian Renaissance, and the cost complete will be about $400,000,” said the article.  The cost would translate to more than $10 million today; and the style was, in fact, a handsome commercial interpretation of Romanesque Revival.

Clinton alleviated the potential heaviness of the style with vertical bandcourses; piers and arches that tricked the eye, seeming to extend a full seven stories; and a relatively delicate top floor of arched openings above a prim cornice.  A parapet of balustrades crowned the design.

The Bank took the “first floor” (not to be confused with the “ground floor”) while the upper seven stories were leased as office space.  By March 1889 the new building was nearly fully leased.  Without naming names, the Bank announced that a “corporation” had taken the ground floor, and the other tenants included “a prominent firm of lawyers” who took the sixth floor; and banking and brokerage firms on the others.

To provide its tenants with the most modern of amenities, the Bank of America building incorporated astonishing plumbing features.  On August 3, 1889 The Engineering and Building Record noted that the upper floors “are arranged as single offices, and suites, each of which is supplied with hot and cold water.  There are also public and private water-closets, urinals, etc.”

At a time when modern plumbing was in its infancy, the article reported “This building contains about 40 water-closets, 20 urinals, 50 washbowls, and 6 slop-sinks exclusive of the janitor’s apartments, which have a kitchen sink and wash-tubs with marble panels and safes, one toilet-room containing urinal and water-closet, another containing bath-tub and water-closet, another with a sink only and two wash-basins.”

Among the first tenants was the Lackawanna Steel and Iron Company, organized in a meeting in the building on March 10, 1891.  The New York Times predicted “This step is expected to go far toward producing harmony in the steel-rail market.”  In fact, the consolidation of six steel companies—the Lackawanna, the Bethlehem Iron Company, the Illinois Steel Company, the Pennsylvania Steel Company, the Edgar Thomson Steel Company and the Cambria Iron Company—may have had more to do with joining forces against the growing unions than in “producing harmony.”

Also in the building were the offices of the Carnegie Association, which handled Andrew Carnegie’s various interests.  The building teemed with journalists on July 7, 1892 following one of the bloodiest and most serious conflicts in labor history.

Members of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers went on strike in Homestead, Pennsylvania on June 30, demanding better wages.  Andrew Carnegie had earlier put Henry Clay Frick in charge of his Carnegie Steel Company.  Frick was determined to break the union and locked out the workers on June 28 as he laid plans to reopen the works with non-union men.  He hired 300 Pinkerton agents with Winchester rifles and ordered them to break through the strike lines.

The union was prepared and had assembled 5,000 armed members.  After a 14-hour battle the Pinkerton agents surrendered.  At least two dozen men were wounded and nine were dead.

On July 7 The Evening World reported “There was considerable activity in the New York office of the Carnegie Association, on the eighth floor of the Bank of America Building...The office was opened earlier than usual, and telegraph boys were kept busy all morning carrying messages to the office from the neighboring telegraph offices.”

A company representative, L. L. Schoonmaker, gave reporters an update on the still-tenuous situation.  “My latest advices from Homestead this morning indicate that the situation is quiet.  How long it will remain so I, of course, at this end of the line, cannot tell.  It is possible that there may be another outbreak, followed by bloodshed, but we hope not.”

A hand-colored postcard depicted the building on a much quieter Wall Street around the turn of the last century.

One of the Bank of America’s most significant tenants was the banking house of Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co., deemed by The Times “one of the most prominent in Wall Street.”  The firm was here before December 1892 when it experienced the first of a string of tragedies.  Hermann Stern, “a German Hebrew, thirty-three years old,” as described by a newspaper, was employed as a foreign-exchange clerk.  On December 25 he committed suicide in the house of Samuel M. Marks on Lexington Avenue where he rented a room.

At the time Charles Moehling, described by The Times as “a well-educated and highly-cultured German,” was the head bookkeeper at Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co.  The highly-private man had rented a room in the house of Dr. R. W. Muller on East 10th Street shortly before Stern’s suicide.  Two years later Muller commented “In all the time Mr. Moehling was in my house, I never exchanged five minutes’ conversation with him.  He lived entirely to himself, like a hermit, almost.”

Instead, he went directly to his room where he “passed his evenings in his room, studying.”  He contributed several lengthy articles on finance and literature to local German-language newspapers.

On February 22 1894 Moehling left Muller’s house unusually early.  Instead of traveling downtown to his office, he went to Central Park.  Around 11:00 that morning Park Policeman McKenna found the body of the 50-year old in a clump of shrubbery.  He had shot himself in the left ear with a 32-calibre pistol.

Next to the dead man was a note that read “My name is Charles E. Moehling, and I occupy a furnished room in the house of Dr. R. W. Muller, 123 East Tenth Street.  I desire that my body be taken to Charles Diehl’s undertaking shop in Essex Street.”

No one could imagine why the bookkeeper had taken his life; although Dr. Muller noted “The servant in the house said she had noticed him several times feeling his way about the house, as if he were losing his sight, and it may be because of his failing sight and utter friendlessness that led him to take his life.”

It was sadly not the end of the misfortunes suffered by Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co.  Adolf Ladenburg was the senior member of the firm.  The wealthy banker lived at No. 13 East 38th Street (“a large and richly furnished mansion” according to The New York Times) with his wife, the former Emily Stevens, and their 11-month old daughter.   He was suffering from “a painful malady” in the winter of 1896 and traveled alone to Florida for his health.

As he prepared to return home, he thought it would be nicer to travel by water rather than rail.  He crossed to Nassau where he boarded the Niagara on February 18 with about a dozen other first class passengers.

Ladenburg “seemed to be in excellent health and spirits” when he sat down to dinner that evening.  But he most likely soon regretted his decision not to take the train home.  According to ship’s officers “The vessel reached the open sea and began to roll heavily.”  A gale died down, but then “burst into a hurricane from the southwest.”

The officers reported that Ladenburg was the first to leave the table and the following day refused all meals, saying he was very seasick.  At 8:00 that night a steward asked the sick millionaire if he needed anything.  He was told simply to open the porthole, and to send someone to close it around 11:00.  When the steward returned to close the porthole, Ladenburg was asleep.

The following morning the same steward, Robert Evans, went back.  After repeated knocks on the door, he entered the cabin.  There was no sign of Adolph Ladenburg.  A search of the ship was made; but he was inexplicably gone.  Oddly enough, the bottom portion of his pajamas were found on the berth and no clothing, other than the pajama top was missing—intimating that Ladenburg was half-naked when he left his stateroom.

The body of Adolf Ladenburg was never found and the mystery of his supposed drowning was never solved.  In the meantime, following her mourning period, Emily Ladenburg did not allow grieving to interfere with her social life.

She entertained at Oasis, her country estate near Westbury, Long Island, when not in the city.  On July 15, 1902 The New York Times reported on rumors of her quiet engagement to Jay Phipps, Jr., the son of Henry Phipps, Jr., a partner of Andrew Carnegie.  Phipps’ summer home was near Emily’s.

“They have been frequently seen together riding during the past Spring,” said the article.  But it cautioned its readers, “Mrs. Ladenburg has been rumored engaged a number of times since the death of her husband, Adolph Ladenburg…Two years ago Mrs. Ladenburg was reported engaged to Ralph Ellis, Master of the Hounds.  Last year it was to Alfred Beit, the South African millionaire, and then again to Capt. Beresford, who was over here during the Winter.  She is a very handsome and attractive women, somewhat the senior of her reported finance.”

The Bank of America Building was the scene of a common high-rise fatality in 1901.  Elevators had surprisingly few safeguards and elevator deaths were nearly commonplace.  On April 30 Erik Carlsen was cleaning the elevator shafts by sitting on the top of a cab and moving the elevator slowly upward.  The New-York Tribune reported the following day “He was on the top of the elevator, which had come to a standstill between the sixth and seventh floors, when he incautiously put his head and shoulders over the side to look below.”

The elevator in the abutting shaft, separated by a few inches, suddenly descended.  Carlsen’s body was pinned between the two cars.  The operator of the second elevator, Arthur J. Perrotet, took it back to the seventh floor, not knowing what had caused the problem.

The Tribune reported “When Carlsen’s body was discovered several typewriter girls who were in Perrotet’s car fainted at the sight.”  Oddly enough, Perrotet was arrested, charged with criminal negligence.

The Bank of America continued to grow and offices in the building were continuously leased.  The ground floor became home to J. B. Russell & Co. in 1905; and the London and Brazilian Bank, Ltd. moved in in 1918.

The Trowbridge & Livingston replacement still stands.  photo by Irving Underhill, from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Then, in May 1921 the bank announced that architects Trowbridge & Livingston would replace No. 44 Wall Street with a $2.5 million, 23-story office building.  That rather eccentric skyscraper survives.

many thanks to reader Chauncey Primm for suggesting this post.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Unlikely Reidy Restaurant Remains--No. 22 East 54th Street

The monumental columns of the old Reidy's Restaurant are wrapped in bee lighting in 2016

In 1875 the four-story brownstone house at No. 22 East 54th Street was completed.  The block between Fifth and Madison Avenues was lined with similar prim and respectable houses.  No. 22 became the home of Rev. Augustine David Lawrence Jewett and his family.

The Jewett residence is the second from the left.  photo by Byron Company from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York

Born in Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, Jewett had married Elizabeth, the daughter of Rev. Dr. Richard W. Dickinson, in 1856 at the age of 26.  They had five children.

The son of Admiral David Jewett, he had graduated from Williams College in 1852, and then took a four-year theology course at Princeton Seminary.  After graduation, he spent settled at Piermont-on-the-Hudson; but “three years of labor in open-air preaching cost him his voice,” according to a Williams College history compiled in 1881.

After a year’s rest Jewett took up preaching again, spending much time with the Union soldiers at Fort Schuyler and David’s Island.  Following the war he took the pulpit at the First Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  He would not have ended up on East 54th Street were it not for a serious case of sunstroke and subsequent “nervous prostration” in September 1874.

Now essentially retired, The New York Times described him as “a man of large wealth.”  But Jewett’s life was filled with tragedy beyond the sunstroke of which the newspaper said “he never entirely recovered.”  In March 1879 the house was the scene of the funeral of Elizabeth’s mother, Margaret Coleman Dickinson.  It would be the first of many here.  By 1881 three of his children were dead.  In 1888 Elizabeth, known by friends as Eliza, also died in the house.  Her death seems to have prompted the grieving reverend to leave.

Later that year Jewett leased No. 22 East 54th Street to “the Misses Grinnell.”  The sisters lived in the house and operated the Grinnell School here.  An advertisement in the New-York Tribune on September 18, 1888 noted that their “Day School for Girls” would open on October 2.

Established in 1879 the Grinnell School provided privileged girls the instruction they would need to function in polite society.  One of the Grinnell sisters noted in 1895 “While French is the language of the school, especial attention is given to English.”  Students received classes in “art, history, literature, and science.”

The sisters remained here until the end of the 1896-97 school season, when they relocated the school to Boston.  On July 3, 1897 the Boston Evening Transcript noted “The Misses Grinnell, formerly Principals of School 22 East Fifty-fourth st., New York, will sail for Europe October 1st.  They will chaperon young ladies who desire to spend eight months in study in France and Germany.”

With the school’s departure, Rev. A. D. Laurence Jewett moved back into the 54th Street house.  By now only one son, R. Dickinson Jewett, was living.   But his return would be short.  On Friday night, April 29, 1898 Jewett died in the house “of general debility” at the age of 68.  The New York Times called him once “one of the most popular and eloquent divines in the Presbyterian Church.”

R. Dickinson Jewett leased the old family house to millionaire banker Frank C. Hollins.  Hollins and his wife, the former Celine Wismann, had four daughters—Ethel, Celine, Daisy and Beatrix—and a son, De Ruyter Hollins.

When Ethel married Arthur Keeler Bourne in St. Thomas’s Church on April 16, 1903, a reception was held in the 54th Street house.  The fashionable guests could not have guessed that all was not serene in the Hollins household.

But that would become quite clear in November 1908 when Hollins had his 34-year old son arrested.  In court he testified “that his son had squandered not less than $500,000, was running around with a crowd of dissolute men and women, had made his life miserable for five years, and was now keeping him and the rest of the family in a state of terror.”

Hollins riveted the courtroom with reports of De Ruyter’s returning to the 54th Street house on certain nights and “If he had no key he would break his way into the house.  He would demand money, and often raise such a disturbance that the police had to be called.”

The most disturbing episode occurred in 1906 when, according to Hollins’ testimony, “He broke into the house, found a loaded shotgun, and then came to me in the study.  He commanded me to march, pointing the gun at my head.  I was alone in the house, except for the servants, who were in the basement.”  The arrival of Celine and the Hollins girls defused the situation.  But another time Hollins found himself at gunpoint in the vestibule of the house; and later De Ruyter appeared in his father’s office, seized a heavy chair and demanded “Now, you give me $500 or I’ll knock your block off.”

During his trial, De Ruyter charged his father with criminal libel.  He told a reporter “Other than that I have nothing to say.  Put that in the papers.”

The ugly affair ruined the lives of the Hollins family.  Following the messy court case they moved out of the 54th Street house in 1909.  Celine and her daughters relocated to Lakewood, New Jersey; while Frank rented a third-floor room on West 138th Street.  It was there on March 4, 1909 that he committed suicide.

By now the 54th Street neighborhood was suffering the influx of commerce.  R. Dickinson Jewett, now living in Nyack, New York, leased No. 22 East 54th Street as a business building.  In the summer of 1913 he commissioned architect W. H. Spaulding to convert the house “into stores and studios” at a cost of $15,000.

Jewett apparently had a change of heart.  On January 10, 1914 the Record & Guide commented on the “new 6-story store and loft building being erected at 22 East 54th Street.” The fifth floor had already been leased to George P. Reinhard “a designer of classic interiors.”  The periodical noted “This adds another well-known decorator to this rapidly growing art centre.”

The limestone-faced Jewett Building was completed later that year.   A pair of two-story columns flanking the entrance dominated the design with an ancient temple-like feel.

Another interior decorator, H. Klingenfeld, moved in to the newly-completed building, while Patrick and Annie E McMoran took the store and basement.  Their shop, called Annie E. McCarthy, dealt in “worsteds and furniture.”

The building was threatened on April 22, 1926 when fire broke out in the Aeolian Building under construction at the corner of Fifth Avenue.  The New York Times reported “Sparks flew thickly, and it was not long before word was received that the roof of the Jewett Building at 22 East Fifty-fourth Street was on fire.”  Fortunately fire fighters responded quickly and little damaged was done.

At the time Thomas & Atwood was selling “coats for women and children” in the building.  In 1939 the Parisian “hand knitwear business” of Eileen Rice took two floors.

In 1932 an Irish restaurant named Reidy’s had taken over the ground floor space.  An anomaly in the ritzy neighborhood of high-end jewelry stores, art galleries and fur salons, the restaurant owned by Maurice Reidy offered pub food like corned beef and cabbage, calves’ liver, and prime rib.

On September 13, 1948 The Times announced that “An old East Side holding that had been in one family ownership since 1878 passed to new control.”  The Jewett Estate sold No. 22 East 54th Street to the United Negro College Fund.  An announcement explained “The penthouse and fifth floor are vacant and are expected to be occupied by the United Negro College Fund, along with the other three floors, none of which is held on lease.  The store is occupied by Reidy’s Restaurant.”

The United Negro College Fund and Reidy’s Restaurant coexisted for decades.  In 1968 The Times food critic Craig Claiborn described Reidy’s as “a long, narrow, informal place with water colors, portraits, and caricatures on the wall.  The tables are close together and some of the banquettes are not for solid comfort.  Nevertheless, the welcome is courteous and warm, the food is reasonably priced and in a town like Manhattan that has its virtues.”

But in 1978 Reidy’s Restaurant was threatened when the Robert V. Tishman and Jerry I. Speyer, general partners of Tecco Properties began assembling a 47,000-square foot building site, including No. 22 East 54th Street.  The building by now had become a commercial condominium.  The developers bought out all the owners except Maurice Reidy, who refused to sell.

The David and Goliath drama finally came to what was no doubt a reluctant compromise on the part of Teeco Properties.  In October 1979 construction on the 43-story office building began.  Carter B. Horsley reported in The Times “The tower, which will be clad in a red-and-black granite known as Canadian brown, will be built over and around Reidy’s Restaurant…which refused to sell its property to make way for the new skyscraper until recently.”

The top four floors of No. 22 East 54th Street were demolished and the new tower, designed by Swanke Haden Connell & Partners, engulfed the old Reidy’s Restaurant portion.  During construction Maurice Reidy hung a sign outside his business:  “Reidy’s Restaurant will stay at this location and will remain OPEN while the men play with their erector set.  Thank you.”

With the retirement of Maurice’s son, Bill Reidy, in July 1995, the venerable Irish pub closed.  The Times said it “will be replaced by a brewery-restaurant with Asian food that is being budgeted at $1.5 million.”  The Typhoon Brewery moved into the two floors so long occupied by Reidy’s.  New York Magazine described it in May 1997 as “amazing Thai-accented food on top and a noisy, spacious bar below.”

Today the space is home to Papillon Bistro & Bar, an upscale restaurant with little in common with its Irish predecessor.  The two-story remnant of the 1914 Jewett Building incongruously remains, jutting 10 feet from the tower's facade--there because a feisty Irish pub owner refused to surrender to powerful developers.

many thanks to reader Jeffrey Austin for suggesting this post
photographs by the author