Thursday, February 25, 2010

Questions for Curatorial: Schneider’s Saloon & LES Drinking Life

Curatorial Director Dave answers your questions.

When did John Schneider’s Saloon operate at 97 Orchard Street? When did the saloon close?

Bavarian-born John Schneider operated a lager bier saloon in one of 97 Orchard's basement storefronts between 1864 and 1886.

Schneider would not have been alone in his business. In 1865, a sanitary inspector named Dr. J.T. Kennedy visited the neighborhood on behalf of the Citizen’s Association Council on Public Health and Hygiene and counted a total of 526 drinking establishments in the 10th ward alone.

Seven years later in 1872, the police department counted a total of 726 drinking establishments in the 10th police district, whose boundaries were roughly coterminous with the 10th ward.

In 1882, the block of Orchard Street between Delancey and Broome was occupied for a total of four separate German lager beer saloons, including Schneider’s: Mr. John Kneher operated a saloon at 98 Orchard Street; Mr. Gustav Reichenbach operated a saloon at 94 Orchard Street; and Mr. Dederick Speh operated a saloon at 111 Orchard Street.

The saloonkeeper’s wife played an integral role in the operation of such establishments, from preparing the free lunch in the morning to greeting customers during the afternoons and evenings. So when John’s wife Caroline died from tuberculosis on June 8, 1885, it had a devastating effect on the business. It's likely that Caroline’s passing caused John to close the saloon about a year later. Records indicate that he and his only child, Harry, moved across the street to 98 Orchard.

John and Harry appear to have lived at 98 Orchard Street until 1892, when they moved several blocks away to 175 Ludlow Street. During this time, John was also suffering from tuberculosis. He died from the disease on May 12, 1892 at the Randall’s Island Adult Hospital, a public institution administered by the city of New York.

On June 18th, 1892, guardianship over 14-year-old Harry Schneider was officially given to his uncle, George Schneider, also a local saloonkeeper, who at the time was living at 105 Ludlow Street.

Stop by tomorrow to read more about the saloon. Schneider's business will be recreated in the "Minding the Store" exhibit in 97 Orchard Street's basement, slated to open in early 2011.

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