photo by Anthony Bellov
While Fifth Avenue along Central Park developed with sumptuous mansions, Central Park West on the opposite side, saw the rise of residential hotels and apartment buildings. In 1884 real estate developer George W. Eggers hired architect Julius Kastner to design two flat, or apartment, buildings on the northwest corner of Central Park West and 100th Street. Completed the following year, each cost Eggers $14,000 to construct, or about $407,000 in 2022.
Faced in red brick and trimmed in limestone, Kastner's Beaux Arts design gave only slight hints that the two structures were not one. The entrance to 406 Central Park West sat within a noble portico upheld by polished granite columns and topped by an ambitious, carved pediment. A store occupied the sidewalk level, directly below blind balustrades which fronted the second floor windows. Two-story faceted bays supported by garland-carved brackets provided charming sitting areas to the third and fourth floor apartments, and balconies to those on the fifth.
Around the corner, the portico at 1 West 100th Street upheld a balcony. Rather than projecting bays, the design featured stone-and-iron balconies at the third and fifth floors. Atop the cornice sat an imposing pediment. George W. Eggers was apparently well pleased with his new buildings, and moved his family into 1 West 100th Street.
At the turn of the century, the store was home to the Park Pharmacy, operated by G. L. Walter. It would be a fixture in the neighborhood for years. (Interestingly, Walter held an excise, or liquor, license for the business.)
An advertisement described the five-room apartments as having "all conveniences." Some of the occupants of the buildings were affluent enough to be included in Dau's New York Blue Book of Society. Such was the case with John A. Bradshaw and John H. Fitzell. They were not so wealthy that their unmarried daughters did not have to work, however. Harriett E. Bradshaw taught in the girl's department of P.S. 87 on Amsterdam Avenue in 1903, for instance, while her sister, Bessie, taught at P.S. 170 on 111th Street. Three years later Harriett was earning $1,320 per year and Bessie was making $1,272--around $41,000 and $39,500 today.
At the end of the 1920's, it had become apparent that Prohibition had grossly failed. Rather than stop the production and consumption of alcohol, Prohibition had simply made it illegal. Mobsters grew rich from bootlegging, speakeasies were omnipresent, and organized crime terrorized cities with murders and bombings. Almost immediately after the end of Prohibition in 1933, James Kelly obtained a liquor license for the Central Park West store space, which he called the Boulevard Tavern.
Kelly's tavern and meeting room catered to Irish Americans. On April 15, 1939 the Irish-American newspaper The Advocate announced, "A special meeting of the Clare F. C. will take place this Friday evening, April 14, at James J. Kelly's Boulevard clubrooms."
By the 1950's. Kelly's was the headquarters for several Irish social groups, like the Sligo Association; and for Irish athletic groups like the Galway Athletic Association, the Sligo Football Club, and the Cavan Football Club. The tavern was such a well-known meeting spot for Irish New Yorkers, that it became the basis for a poem. On January 24, 1953 The Advocate published Jim Valentia Smith's verse, "The Men I Meet at Kelly's." It told the story of a "lonesome Irishman" visiting New York who wandered into the Central Park West pub. The poem said in part:
The lads I met were Irish, and some from New York Town,Who knew I was a stranger in this city of renown.They asked me where I came from, and as each one shook my handHe jumped with joy at my reply, "I came from Ireland."
The poem included a line that summed up the sense of fraternity at the Boulevard Tavern, "The men I met at Kelly's, no better on this earth / All of them of Irish blood, though some of Yankee birth."
The tavern remained, still home to several Irish groups, until about 1972. But by then the demographics of the neighborhood were changing. The retail space was divided into two. One became home to a Kansas Fried Chicken shop, and the other to the Parc West Lounge.
At 2 a.m. on September 14, 1974, two Parc West Lounge patrons, Jose Garcia and Charles White, began arguing. Garcia, who was 25 years old, left and returned with a handgun and shot White. White wrested the weapon from his assailant and shot him dead. White was treated for his superficial wound and arrested for homicide.
A year later, at around 9:45 p.m., three men, one carrying a shotgun, entered the bar and announced a holdup. As they went from patron to patron, taking cash and jewelry, a barmaid pressed a hidden alarm button. The brutal robbers "pushed, kicked and struck four male patrons," according to The New York Times. "Then they locked seven patrons and the barmaid in the restroom."
Police arrived just as one of the men was rushing out. The New York Times reported, "After a search, a second suspect was found hiding in the basement, they said, and a third behind a radiator." The four victims were injured seriously enough to be taken to Arthur C. Logan Memorial Hospital.
The Parc West Lounge was replaced by Park Lunch by 1986. Today the ground floor has been dissected again. The space where Irish Americans shared camaraderie for decades is now home to three small shops. Overall (other than the storefronts), Julius Kastner's handsome 1885 buildings are nearly perfectly preserved, including the two columned porticos--so often victims of modernization.
many thanks to historian Anthony Bellov for suggesting this post
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