Friday, February 22, 2008

61 Fifth

I have often passed 61 Fifth Avenue and wondered about its history and its future.


my flickr

It has been vacant for awhile, fire destroyed much of it. Recently, 10th Street refugee Danal moved in next door and now #61 is under contract, according to Massey Knakal. We don't know what it will be, but we know what it once was.


photo source

Massey Knakal's description says, "The previous tenant was 61 Cafe, a restaurant/bar with dining areas and roof access. Built in 1938, 61 Fifth Avenue was originally the home to Schrafft's restaurant."


the candy window in 1940

The Schrafft's chain demolished the previous building. Here it is being torn down in 1938. According to the verso of the photo, this building went back to the early Dutch days and was part of the Brevoort estate. Minetta Brook once went streaming past. When Schrafft's took over, the March 18, 1938 Times headline said "Restaurant Chain Will Enter Washington Square Area for the First Time."


Photo: NYPL

I wonder if the neighbors were upset. Of course, Schrafft's had already been around for 77 years at that time, but it does force us to think about the way capitalism repeats itself, like a neurotic in the throes of a repetition compulsion. Sometimes, that notion is almost comforting.

In the 1980s, the Schrafft's building was occupied by Texas expatriate fave Lone Star Cafe, complete with giant iguana on the rooftop.



I'd like to see the building restored. Unfortunately, according to MK, "The building is neither landmarked nor within any historic district making the as-of-right development the highest and best use for the property. The development opportunity at 61 Fifth Avenue has vast potential. The location alone sets the site apart as there is tremendous demand in the end-user luxury condominium market in this thriving neighborhood."

And what's the asking price? $17,500,000.

Maybe some modern-day Brevoorts will turn it back into their private mansion. And then, in about 2108, the great-grandchild of Schrafft's and grandchild of Starbucks will claim the property for their Washington Square chain. Until 2208, when someone will lament the passing of that future chain--but we don't have to go that far with the whole "cycle of capitalism" thing, because by 2208 New York City will be controlled by blood-sucking, night-dwelling humanoids.

As we know, they're already among us...


Gossip Girls in front of 61 Fifth

23 comments:

Sally Tomato said...

OMG! I look out my office window at that building - I never knew it was a Schraffts!

honey west said...

I think this location also did a brief stint as a "Brew Burger" in the late 70's before becoming the Lone Star. Recently it was a generic Korean deli. I work near this location & walk by there on my way home. The fire that happened here about 2 years ago really looked suspicious, everything was incinerated, it looked like a bomb has gone off. I was wondering if there would ever be some kind of investigation, but that doesn't seem to happen anymore in bloomberg's real estate kingdom.

kingofnycabbies said...

Forgotten NY's recent piece on the building.


http://www.forgotten-ny.com/SLICES/lonestar/lonestar2.html

Mark said...

In the 70's, the Riese organization, which bought out Schrafft's, turned it into a Brew Burger...a very strange chain where you could have a burger served on a pewter plate, a glass of beer, and rum raisin ice cream. Those were your choices.

I was sitting in The Lone Star eating dinner on July 13, 1977 and I watched the lights go out all up and down Fifth Avenue...the second Major Blackout!!

I love this building and wish something would be done to return it to it's former limestone elegance, but you know that won't happen.

stevie said...

Mr. Fuji's Tropicana... Anyone remember that?

Bobby said...

This was by no means a generic Korean Deli. You walked past the salad bar, up a flight of stairs to a closed door which contained another flight of stairs. Up those you were led to one of the best evenings of your life: a little hidden Korean Karaoke bar. they had outdoor seating which made you feel like you were in a friends backyard from Queens that was somehow transplanted into Manhattan. Though having a very small grasp on the english language, Ken the bartender was one of the coolest motherfuckers I ever did meet. Not only did he load us up on free soju (which is like a korean vodka that grants the drinker with super-powers, but unfortunately the next morning the powers will dissipate and you're left feeling like dry dog-shit on a winter sidewalk)but he would smoke joints with us patrons and hang around generally laughing his ass off. Man, that place was fantastic and always basically vacant besides my friends and I. When you drank too much, you simply walked back down stairs and ordered a cheap ham and swiss hero...then walk on back up.

Greg said...

There's no way the previous building went back to the Dutch colonial days. The grid was not even platted until the early 19th century - if it was part of a big estate there is no way it would fit perfectly into a grid plan superimposed 200 years later.

Anonymous said...

I see at Google Books that the writer Ford Madox Ford lived here in 1935.

I could have sworn that the picture looked like the Ethan Allen that is/was on Fifth Avenue, but I've finally figured out that that is at/probably was at 71 Fifth Avenue.

Was there a rug merchant there circa 1991? With the front window full of little cold-painted Austrian Vienna bronzes with little scenes of Arabs milling around on Persian carpets? Or am I thinking of the Ethan Allen shop?

Anonymous said...

Anyone got an update - has it been sold, pulled down etc I have asked my brother to check it out as I no longer live in NY and he does, but he lives in mid town and says he is too busy to go look for me......

Jeremiah Moss said...

61 5th is still standing. no changes yet.

Anonymous said...

My dad used to work as an electrician for Schrafft's carrying a heavy tool box from store to store all over town. My mom & I would come from Jersey to shop and meet him. I remember ice cream sodas and small boxes of chocolate "cigarettes". I wish they were still around.

King Grandiosity said...

I'd like to point out that Cafe 61 burned approximately two days after it was shut down for health code violations. Perhaps that has something to do with why it's stayed vacant for two years.

POZZIBLE said...

For a brief moment Mr. Fuji's Tropicana was the hottest club in town in the early Nineties. I remember dancing the night away with my friends Roger and Todd and sashaying down the stairs past the gigantic wall mirror in the wee hours having a ball. A brief Google research shows that the neighbor's didn't quiet enjoy it as much as we did: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C02EEDD163AF934A15751C0A962958260&sec=&spon=

Anonymous said...

Wow...great posts and even better memories. I had the honor of enjoying Schraffts, Lone Star Care (where I saw Sly Stone...) and Mr. Fuji's Tropicana. This location is one of the best in NYC and it would be a shame to see yet another overpriced condo venture. We middle-class, hard working ORIGINAL New Yorkers are being driven out of our city by certain forces disrespectful and without consideration to the very people who built this city. A perfect example of these forces at work is Sty Town and it's greedy and predatory landlords. I hope they lose their butts on that overpriced and cursed deal.

May Tischman rot in hell...and whoever started the fire at 61 Fifth...you know who you are...you too can join your brothers at Tischman. You are destroying the fabric on NY, which was never only for the wealthy, but is becoming such now. The Mayor? How about the poor citizens of Gaza Mr. Mayor...you know, the ones who are NOT Hamas or Hamas supporters...I know, according to Israel, all Palestinians are dogs...I have heard this from NY Jews as well.
Shame!!!!!!Oh, Mr. Mayor...exactly what was the price you paid for your new digs? You have NO CLUE about the rest of us who work hard every day just to see the fat cats get fatter. Money does not beget class.

We want out city back...!!!!!!

Peter said...

It has been torn down! So too has the old warhol factory on 32nd st. This City has no real appreciation of history.

carolyn said...

So the Lone Star building is gone... I went there when it was Brew Burger, Lone Star and Mr Fuji's and I went to Parsons down the street, so I got to wave to Iggy every day - where is he now I wonder? Sad that my New York is fading away, but I am grateful for the memories here and other sites. Keep up the great work1

Anonymous said...

Yes, good old Mr. Fuji's...I was one of the owners of that 61 5th incarnation. It will always hold a special place in my heart, although I know that we pissed off quite a few neigbors. My partner and I had gone to the original Lone Star auction (that's how we knew that the Riese Bros. were renting the place). The old Iguana on the roof was sold to some eccentric down south as a lawn ornament (!)For what it's worth, Vin Diesel had worked the front door at Mr. Fuji's as a bouncer, Liev Schreiber as a bartender...good times, albeit a little crazy...sad to see it go...

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks for writing about Fuji's. i wonder where that iguana is today. still on some eccentric's lawn, i hope.

Oneinamil7 said...

To Anonymous : You were one of the owners of Mr. Fuji's? Did you know Mark Morgan then? I'm or was a very good friend of his & I just wanted to talk to someone that knew hi9m at the time of his death. My email is Oneinamil7@cox.net if you should ever read this

Anonymous said...

I got engaged at the Lone Star and still married 26 years later

Cristy said...

I used to hostess and cocktail in "Fugi's". One Halloween, an older couple walked in to look at the decor by Michelle Savoya. The older man was then blind and his wife was describing the interior to him. They told me they used to frequent the place when it was still "Schrafft's".
I was assaulted by a drunk customer during St. Patrick's day. Mark made sure they got the guy and that I was safe. I just had a fractured nose.
I loved the "lobster sandwich" and the menu was fabulous! Great times there!
Maxwell was one of the waiters when we opened.

Cristy said...

By the way, was Mark still with Patty? I'd love to be in touch with her. cristysycip@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

"this building went back to the early Dutch days and was part of the Brevoort estate. Minetta Brook once went streaming past."

Not this building, but this property. Which is really to say the land was once part of a farm. It's pretty useless newspaper fluff that had nothing to do with the building being torn down nor the land that it was sitting on.