Thursday, July 31, 2008

169 Bowery Suicide

Back to the Bowery, where I seem to be inadvertently collecting suicide tales. First, there was a hanging in the attic of 35 Cooper Square, aka 391 Bowery. Then there was Karl Hutter, inventor of the Lightning bottle-stopper and proprietor of 185 Bowery.

Now comes a Bowery suicide tale from #169. This time, it's a lovelorn Italian musician with a pistol back in 1886. He was "so poor that life had no longer any charm for him":

new york times

The address at which the musician died was on a Bowery filled with theaters, including many Italian and vaudeville theaters. He had played at Miner's Bowery Theater, which opened in this location, 165-169 Bowery, in 1878. It was known for its "questionable burlesque productions" and amateur nights (Eddie Cantor won many here), where bad performers were hauled offstage by a hook. Some claim this is where the expression "Get the hook!" was born.

In 1922, Miner's nearly burned down and later became a Chinese opera house.

miner's posters on bowery, new york wanderer

More recently, 169 was the home of Weiss Hardware, with the most excellent signage and can-do spirit--"If You Can't Find it. We have it"-- along with questionable punctuation and capitalization.

photo: Michael Dashkin

photo: my flickr

Last week, on my walk down the vanishing Bowery, I took a couple pictures of this creamy, pistachio-colored sign, afraid it might soon disappear. Last night, photographer and fellow sidewalk pounder RK Chin informed me it was gone.

Here's what might be coming, should the real-estate agents' dream come true. Unless, of course, they just tear it down and put up another glass box. Somebody, get the hook!

listing page


Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that in the relestate ad the door is frosted over but the rest of the space is totally exposed to the street? Perhaps that's meant to be ironic.
These yunnie kids really have trouble with the idea of privacy, don't they? I suppose living in a culture where everyone looks, acts, and thinks the same, they've become used to the illusion of comunalism.

Anonymous said...

The image is missing the sight of a brown-skinned minority, standing against a wall, holding a mop.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i think you're referring to the georgica scene?

Jill said...

That's a very interesting postulation, that the rise of the glass building is because people want to expose themselves and feel like a celebrity who has no privacy.

Anonymous said...

169 Bowery was the long-time home of Weiss Hardware Manufacturing Company, Inc. Weiss Hardware was one of the larger hardware stores in the area. In addition to doing a nationwide business, the store had a factory at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn. In its heyday Weiss Hardware was an impressive store. It carried a large inventory of all kind of hardware merchandise and provided employment to a large number of people. The building now is but a mere shell that housed a once viable business.

Phil said...

More comments about Weiss Hardware at 169 Bowery. 169 Bowery is a landmark in my life. It the place where I had my first paying job and the place where I met many interesting and memorable people. This store was owned by Abe Weiss; his son, Bert Weiss, operated the factory in Brooklyn. Abe employed many relatives in various capacities. Joe Weiss, Abe's brother and a World War One veteran, was a counterman; another brother, Sam Weiss, was the company bookkeeper. Sam was also active with the Freemasons. He was also my father. Sam served as master of Arcana Lodge No. 246 in 1955 and as secretary of the lodge for twenty years. Weiss Hardware had a large and busy shipping department; during the 1960s the store was managed by Moe Kessler, who was a World War Two Navy veteran. Under Moe's supervision Weiss Hardware published a large catalog advertising the store's extensive inventory. This catalog was mailed to other hardware retailers throughout the United States. Weiss Hardware's inventory included a wide array of standards and brackets. A favorite eating place for Weiss Hardware employees was Moishe's Restaurant, located two blocks away at the corner of The Bowery and Grand Street. Now you would never know that such a busy and popular restaurant like Moishe’s ever existed, but exist it did, just like Weiss Hardware did. But although these businesses are gone, they and the people who worked in them are not forgotten, at least not by me, Phillip W. Weiss. I worked at Weiss Hardware in the 1960s. Other employees at Weiss Hardware included Leo, the two Abes, Alvin, Johnny, Joe Katz, Willie, Winnie and Rose. The store operated at a time when there was no internet and when business was conducted by phone, mail and in person. The administrative offices were located in a mezzanine area that overlooked the main floor of the store. Weiss Hardware was a successful operation which managed to stay in business for many years. It had its day in the sun. Now it is part of history. Contrary to some depictions of the Bowery being a rundown skid row, the street was the home for scores of commercial establishments, selling mostly hardware and restaurant supplies. Weiss Hardware was one of those stores.

Phil said...

A video of 169 Bowery today can be found at this link:

Phil said...

Recently I met with the grandson of the founder of Weiss Hardware and he provided a wealth of information regarding the history of Weiss Hardware and Manufacturing Company, 169 Bowery, New York City. Weiss Hardware was part of a unique business culture that existed and for a long time flourished on or around The Bowery in New York City. Now the building is empty; its doors locked; its exterior without even a placard commemorating its once lofty status as major place of commerce in New York City. This culture is now but a memory but one that should not be forgotten.

Copies of the Weiss Hardware catalogs for the years 1961, 1968, 1971 and 1972 have been posted online. An examination of these catalogs, which are virtual books, reveal the nature and quality of the inventory that Weiss Hardware sold throughout the United States. However, they are but the tip of the iceberg of the story of Weiss Hardware. So, if anyone happens to go by 169 Bowery today, please stop for a moment and remember that this building, now empty and devoid of activity, has a long and unique history and was a place where actual living people once worked, interacted and made a life for themselves.