Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Peter Weimar Saloon Building- 275 Bleecker Street


In 1818 a house was first assessed on Herring Street, at what would later become 
263 Bleecker Street (renumbered 275 in 1868).  The property was owned by Gardiner Jones and his wife Sarah Herring, whose family's sprawling Herring farm, as surveyed in 1794, spread east from Christopher Street to the Bowery.  The commodious Federal style residence was 23-feet wide and three-and-a-half stories tall.  Its peaked roof would have been punctured by one or two prim dormers.

The Joneses never lived in the house.  It was home to the Charles Oakley family in 1819.  He listed his profession as merchant in 1810 when he married Margaret Roome.  But it was his real estate dealings for which he would be remembered.  By the 1830's Oakley had become perhaps the most prolific developer in Greenwich Village.  Charles Oakley was among a group of businessmen who petitioned the Common Council in 1829 to change the name of Herring Street to Bleecker Street.

By 1833, the ground floor had been converted for commercial use, home to Apothecaries' Hall, a drugstore run by British-born Edward L. Cotton.  Patrons came here for years to purchase remedies like Gibney's Teeter & Ringworm Destroyer.  An advertisement in January 1836 promised that it was "the only certain and permanent cure for Tetter, Ringworm, and Salt Rheum.  During the last year, hundreds with joy would testify to the great efficacy of this truly valuable remedy."

On August 21, 1842, Cotton advertised two other miraculous products in the New York Herald.  One was Sharon Springs White Sulphur Water, which cured "all rheumatic, cutaneous and dyspeptic complaints, sore eyes, debility, erysipelas, scrofula, liver complaint, affection of the kidney, &c."  The other was Parr's Life Pills.  The ad boasted:

The value of this medicine in bilious complaints, blotches on the skin, cholera morbus, dysentery, faintings, foul breath, heart burn, headache, inflammation, indigestion, langour, liver complaints, piles, scrofula, and numerous other diseases, may be judged when it is known that the sale in Europe has increased to the enormous amount of 30,000 boxes weekly.

In the late 1840s, Cotton had added Dr. A. La Roy's Anti-Venereal Protector and the Washington Elixir to his offerings.  As with so many patent medicines of the period, an ad promised that either would cure a nearly endless list of complaints.

After being a neighborhood staple for around two decades, Apothecary Hall was replaced sometime before 1850 by the Ninth Ward Hat Company.  Men's headwear was not only sold in the shop, but manufactured here.

The American Advertiser, 1850 (copyright expired)

In the meantime, two families lived on the upper floors.  In 1851 they included George Detmer, who did not list a profession, suggesting he may have been retired; and Cornelia L. Barnes, who taught in the Girls Department of Ward School No. 25 on Greenwich Avenue.

The house-and-store was purchased by Peter Weimar in 1863.  He converted the ground floor to a saloon and took in boarders upstairs.  That year his tenants were Peter Wintrich, a shoemaker; John P. Meineke, a tailor; and John Frances, who ran an eatinghouse downtown at 2 Cedar Street.

It appears that Weimar converted either the second floor or the saloon's back room to a meeting space in 1870.  An advertisement in the New York Dispatch on April 3 read:

Lodge-room to Let--The newly fitted and elegantly furnished rooms No. 275 Bleecker street.  Rent only $200 per annum for two meetings per month.

The posted rent would translate to $385 per month in 2023.

The venture worked, and on January 28, 1872 a notice appeared in the New York Herald that read, "The members of Palestine Encampment are hereby summoned to meet at Eureka Lodge Rooms, 275 Bleecker street, on Sunday, 28th instant, at half-past twelve o'clock sharp, to attend the funeral of our late brother, Edward Wright."

Late in 1874, Weimar closed his saloon and sold out.  The auction listing on December 1 included "one splendid Counter 28 feet, a quantity of Chairs, round and square Tables, Ale Pumps; large lot of Glassware, French plate Mirrors, fine Pictures; also Wines and Liquors, &c."  The space would not be devoid of a saloon for long, however.

In the spring of 1876, Peter Weimar embarked on a massive renovation project.  He hired architect Thomas J. Drummond to completely remodel the property.  Drummond's plans, filed on April 21, called for the attic to be raised to a full story at a cost of $1,500 (about $42,500 today).  The resultant four-story building was capped with a modern Italianate cornice and the upper story windows given architrave frames.  (It may have been at this time that a brick front was applied, however the diamond shaped Arts and Crafts style tiles seen in later photographs would have been added around the turn of the century.)

In 1941 a constellation of Arts & Crafts tiles decorated the facade.  A fruit and vegetable store occupied the ground floor.  via the NYC Dept of Records & Information Services.

The commercial space once again became a saloon, run by George Gamberg in 1876.  It was taken over by Herman Hellmers in 1879, and by Frederick Busch in 1897.  Busch and his family lived in one of the upper floor apartments.  There were three other families living in the building that year.

The Busch family would live and run their business here for decades.  An announcement in the New-York Tribune on October 27, 1904 noted "To-Night: Meeting at Busch's Hall, No. 275 Bleecker-st."  Then, on July 31, 1920, the Record & Guide reported that Elizabeth Busch had purchased the building from Anna K. Fricke.  

The Busch family's decision to buy the property coincided with the onset of Prohibition and the resultant closing of Busch's Hall.  The commercial space, home to a saloon since the Civil War, was operated as a fruit and vegetable store by the Depression years.

The third quarter of the 20th century saw the restaurant Wild Mushrooms in the store.  It was replaced by the Italian restaurant Cucina Stagionale by the mid-1980s.  David's Teas, the first American branch of the Canadian company, moved in around 2011.  It is again occupied by a restaurant today, while upstairs there are four apartments.

The clapboards of the frame building can be seen at the rear of the top floor.

At some point the storefront was modernized and the brick facade covered with a stucco-like substance that hides most of the decorative tiles.  

photographs by the author
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