Beer gardens are experiencing a small, but notable renaissance in New York City these days. Sadly they don’t even touch the kinds of massive, throbbing beer gardens that used to be commonplace. Sure, you could grab a beer at any of these German-style beer halls that dotted 19th century New York, but they were so much more than watering holes. The largest and most famous of these was the Atlantic Garden, which was a cavernous multi-storied social space were patrons would spend the better part of the day drinking, playing pool and listening to live music and of course, drinking beer. The largest of these was the Atlantic Garden, opened in 1858 on the Bowery at number 50 extending to Elizabeth Street. At a time when male and female social spheres rarely overlapped, beer halls were frequented by both men and women. The Atlantic Garden was particularly popular with German families who came to enjoy some evening entertainment together. This included an array of diversions such as a shooting gallery, pool tables, bowling allies and live entertainment. Despite the flowing beer, the crowd was relatively tame. On the lower lefthand corner of the postcard you can see a young girl sitting patiently at the end of the table as her parents chat away and another couple walking hand in hand between the tables on the right side.
As the Bowery increasingly became home to some of the most desolate populations in the city, Atlantic Garden managed to maintain its clean reputation and remained popular with locals and tourists. That is, until the locals finally left for less seedy pastures. Atlantic Garden was closed in 1902 because its main clientele, Germans and Irish, had moved away from the Bowery. This particularly vivid passage from the New York Times article announcing the closure describes the ending of an era:
Dwellers of the Bowery paused and rubbed their eyes yesterday when they passed Atlantic Garden, for the front of the famous old resort, which had stood almost unchanged on its site just below Canal Street since before the Civil War, was plastered over with Billboard in Yiddish announcing a Yiddish variety programme.”
(Yes, we still clung to that extra “me” in 1902.)
The article goes on to describe how the hall had hosted vaudeville acts, a new form of entertainment when it first opened, and specialized in novelty acts such as “‘teams’ of negro performers,” and later a “ladies orchestra.”
This past fall, it was discovered that the basement of the tavern that had previously occupied 50 Bowery and which had supposedly been George Washington’s headquarters, was still intact. Almost just as soon, it was demolished to make way for a 22-story, 160-room hotel. Hopefully plans will also include an enormous beer hall.
“Her introduction elucidated three things: Professor Reinsdorf had managed to condense her bio to a respectable elevator pitch; she had discovered her love of French literature while living in France; and she had spent the war in Germany and obviously didn’t want to talk about it.” More here.
Competing ideologies, market shares, oh, and dragons. It’s Chinese New Year in Flushing. The Chinese New Year parade in Flushing was about much more than dragons. Read my full write-up at Untapped Cities.
I have never properly paid homage to Pearl River Mart until this weekend (though I do have a vague memory of wandering in one day and scurrying out upon realizing the sheer scope of the place). Set aside two hours of your life and about $50, and just let the amazing cheap Chinese crap wash over you. Want paper lanterns in every shape, color, size and pattern imaginable? They have them. Looking for ceramic dishes for your tea, rice and even non-Asian food needs? They have tons. Sweater vests? Yes. A jade cabbage paperweight chachke thing? They have that too. Also, swords. They have fabric and beautiful paper, embroidered slippers and a silicone mustache mold for your next ice sculpture party. So yeah, everything you could ever want from a store. I bought a floral mini paper parasol for $4.50 that is making the 5-year-old girl in me very happy.
Ever find yourself starving after hours of inspiring art-viewing? Ever find yourself inching towards the museum cafeteria out of desperation? Problem solved: 10 Inspired New York Museum and Restaurant Pairings published on Flavorwire.