Tag Archives: Brooklyn Eagle

What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Nation

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread. Continue reading

Five Old and Weird News Stories

It’s In The Newspaper So I Guess It’s True

NY Tribune BannerheadHere are five brief, old and weird news stories that appeared in the New York newspapers over a hundred years ago. In many cases I wish there was a follow-up on the story. In most cases there was not. Truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

Kiss May Cause Her Death

Pittsburg, June 27 – In her anxiety to kiss her husband farewell at the Charleroi station, Mrs. Marie Antonio, of California, neglected to take the car window into account to-day and thrust her head through the glass. She is not expected to survive her injuries. –  New York Tribune – June 28, 1909 page 3

David’s Whistle Never Dry
Boy Only Stops When He Sleeps, And Then He Sings, So Now He is In the Insane Pavilion.

David Dunn’s whistle has landed him in the Pavilion for the Insane at Bellevue at last. Now the neighbors at 550 West Forty-forth Street, where the boy lives, and 610 Ninth Avenue, two blocks to the eastward where his sister lives, sleep once more in peace.

David is fourteen years old and small for his age. According to William C. McGirr, the sister’s husband, his whistle has been going almost without a break, day and night for a week. Arguments and persuasion were met only with selections from popular airs, and while David whistled he looked viciously at McGirr;s four little children. On Wednesday night McGirr took him to the West Forty-seventh Street Police Station, where they locked him up , but only for a little while, for he still whistled. The police sent him then to the rooms of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, where he whistled all night. Yesterday morning they took him to the Children’s Court and he whistled as he stood in line with the rest of the juvenile prisoners. Justice Wyatt upset the order of the cases to send him away just as quickly as McGirr could tell his story.

At the hospital he answered the routine queries with short shrill blats between his puckered lips. He whistled through his bath and once broke form the attendants and ran around the room, still whistling. The folks there wonder how they are going to stand during the week that they will have to keep him for observation. Sometimes his puckered lips relax while he is sleeping, Mr. McGirr said, but during these intervals he generally sings. – New York Times – January 23, 1903 Continue reading

This Tombstone Stopped Me In My Tracks

The Heroic Edwin Gaddis Of New York

Edwin J Gaddis Greenwood CemeteryWhen wandering through historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn it’s easy to be distracted by the grand mausoleums and elaborate memorials and pass by the more common looking tombstones.

I was struck by this simple memorial to Edwin John Gaddis who died July 23, 1883. His grave marker in section 91 of the cemetery reads as follows:

Edwin J. Gaddis,
Born October 23, 1861
Died July 23, 1883.
Drowned in Peconic Bay
Jamesport L. I.
While trying to save life
Greater love hath no man than this
That he lay down his life for his friends. John XV.13

Edwin Gaddis top tombstone Greenwood Cemetery 150811On the top of the tombstone the following words are inscribed:

Your honor, your name,
And your praises shall ever remain.
Your fame shall be eternized.

Eternized, a word not used much today means, to make eternal; immortalize.

Who was Edwin Gaddis? What was his life like? What would make someone risk (and lose) their life?  Who exactly were the people he tried to save and were they actually saved?

Besides what is etched on Gaddis’ tombstone, there is virtually no information online about his life. There were however three news items online about his death. This most complete story that answers many of the questions I asked was reported by the New York Tribune on Wednesday, July 25, 1883: Continue reading

The Restaurant Fire That Ended The Life Of Tom Stacks: The Most Unique Voice In Jazz -1936

The Tragic End of Tom Stacks, Star Crooner of The 1920’s

Tom StacksOnce you have heard Tom Stacks sing you would recognize his voice anywhere.

Tom Stacks was a tenor and a drummer appearing on hundreds of recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, primarily as a singer with Harry Reser’s band.

Stacks was a small man with an adolescent voice that sounded like he was singing with a perpetual smile.

Best demonstrating Stacks unique ability to turn a song into his own, is his rendition of a tune written by Richard Whiting and Byron Gay, Horses. If there was ever a novelty song with witty lyrics that epitomized the roaring twenties, this is it. (see lyrics at end of article)

Another song, Masculine Women and Feminine Men, a song written by Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco seems more apropos for today rather than 1926. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #48 – Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry House

Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry House and Brooklyn Bridge circa 1885

Brooklyn Fulton Ferry House and Brooklyn BridgeThis view captures the newly built Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry House, a beautiful Queen Ann style Victorian building with its ornate mansard roof.

This picturesque scene showing street railways, horse carts, telegraph poles and light fixtures are all vestiges of the 19th century that vanished long ago. The photo was taken around 1885 from the corner of Everett Street (that is the original spelling) and Fulton Street (now called Old Fulton Street) looking north toward Water Street and the Brooklyn Bridge. Besides the Brooklyn Bridge, the small hotel on the corner of Water and Fulton Street on the extreme right with the striped awning, is the only structure in this photo that is still standing.

The service that became the Fulton Ferry began in 1642. The ferry service moved location several times and Robert Fulton inventor of the steamboat, in the 1810’s secured the lease on the land at the foot of Fulton Street for East River ferry service. William Cutting established a ferry line there starting in 1819.

The Brooklyn Fulton Ferry House building was constructed in 1871 by the Union Ferry Company. Called “The Great Gateway to Brooklyn,” the Ferry House was designed by architect William Belden Olmsted a distant relative of Central Park and Prospect Park landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted.

At a time when fire laws generally prevented construction of any wooden structures, the Ferry House was built of wood rather than iron because the company believed that vapors from the sewage deposited directly into the river and the salt water would cause iron to rust! It was probably more of an economic ploy to save on building costs as iron or brick was much more expensive than wood. The three story building measured 173 feet wide and 35 feet high, with the tower reaching a height of 86 feet and the main floor containing large waiting rooms featuring every modern convenience. Even opting for the cheaper wood construction, the final cost was a lofty $138,000.

As the new Fulton Ferry House building was opening its demise was literally right behind it. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge which began in 1869 led to an inevitable and slow decline of the viability of Fulton Ferry service.

With the 1883 completion of the Brooklyn Bridge Continue reading

A Forgotten 1915 Brooklyn Tragedy: Four Boys Die In An Accident, Shattering Two Families Forever

Two Pairs of Brothers, Together In Life And Death

100th Anniversary Of The Forgotten Brooklyn Explosion That Killed Two Sets Of Young Brothers

While wandering the bucolic grounds of the Evergreens Cemetery on the Brooklyn – Queens border you come across many interesting monuments. There are Triangle shirtwaist fire victims, General Slocum memorials and many historic notables. And then there are the monuments like this one that are inexplicable on first inspection.

Zimmer inscription monument

Zimmer inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two sets of brothers each between 7 and 11-years-old all dying on March 13, 1915 and are buried together. This unique memorial has an angel, with a few fingers and toes missing, head bowed in sorrow, standing between the two columns that are connected at the top by a triangular stone with the Gospel of Luke quotation inscribed across it, “Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me”.

Oil Explosion kills boys March 13 1915 memorial at Evergreens cemeteryMy first thought was that the boys were probably cousins or related in some other way and died in a house fire.

But checking the news accounts from the following days reveals a senseless tragedy of two unrelated families children just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Zimmer boys, Henry age 11 and Herbert age 7, of 186 Warwick Street and the Higgins boys, Alex age 11 and Arthur age 8 of 174 Warwick Street were close friends and neighbors growing up a few doors from each other. Continue reading