Something gigantic is coming to Bowery and Delancey. With the New Museum arrival and the protested EV/LES rezoning, the Bowery has become more valuable, and therefore more threatened, than ever before.
Now Rob Hollander of Save the LES sends notice of a Real Deal report that condo/hotel developer Brack Capital just bought a townhouse at 185 Bowery, adding to their clustered purchases of 187, 189, and 191. Like dominoes in a row, all four are expected to fall.
photo: dylan stone, nypl
Brack is responsible for 15 Union Square West, a boutique hotel on Grand St., and other developments in the city. It is rumored they will demolish the four low-rises for a luxury hotel. Here comes yet another giant tower, to go with the one right behind it and all the rest.
Today in #187, resident since 1980 Roberta Degnore still hangs on, the only one left and a possible roadblock to the wrecking ball. She recently told The Observer, "I’m alone in this freaking building on the Bowery, and if I scream, nobody will hear me.” (Take the money and run, Roberta--look what they're doing to Hettie Jones.)
Assuming these buildings are as old as they look, there are more stories here. #189 once had a saloon in the front and a German men's keno parlor in the back. In 1867, it was raided by the police in a "Descent upon a Bowery Keno Hell."
The Illustrated New York of 1888 tells us that #191 used to be R.H. Luthin's wholesale and retail drug house (formerly Cassebeer's drugstore) where they carried Vitalized Cordial, Wild Cherry Syrup, and Sarsaparilla. There was also "a small cigarstand and a place for the sale of hot-corn" on the site.
By the 1930s, these were all flop hotels--The Puritan at #183, The Savoy at #185--with beds and rooms from 20 cents to 50 cents apiece.
It's the townhouse at #185 that is clearly the architectural gem of the bunch. It also has the most tragic story.
According to the 1884 edition of New York's Great Industries, this address was the home of Karl Hutter's Lightning Bottle-Stoppers, Lightning Fruit-Jars, and Bottlers' Supplies. Here you could see a "full assortment of his stoppers and attachments, also siphons made of French glass, with pure metal heads, bottle-filling machines, lightning bottle-washers, siphon-filling machines, corking machines," and more.
Mr. Hutter made a fortune on his lightning bottle-stopper, which "revolutionized beer bottling." You can see its descendant today on bottles of Grolsch.
photo: robert k. chin
Even with all his wealth, prized Oriental rugs, and society club memberships, Mr. Hutter could not overcome the "acute melancholia" that led to his suicide in 1913. The Times reported that Mr. Hutter filled his bathtub with water, removed his clothing, got inside, and shot himself in the head--all in his "sumptuously furnished apartment" on Central Park. He left a note, saying, "The pain and agony endured in this world cannot be more than that to be endured by the soul in the next."
There are eight million stories in the naked city. These four buildings about to vanish from the Bowery have been some of them.