My first attempt at researching 345 Grand Street brought me to an interesting blog called Coretalks.com. Click to read more, but in a nutshell, over the years the building was a dance hall and a piano showroom.
I was immediately obsessed with finding out more! Could this building have been all that was claimed?
I was able to confirm H.W. Perlman’s Piano outlet was there, but was unsuccessful locating when. After hours of research, I caved and contacted the author of the blog, David Grossman, who put me in touch with one of the previous owner of the building. Here’s what he had to say:
David's article tells you most of what I know about the building. The exterior photo from around 1900 was retrieved from NY City archives by another owner, David Rakovsky on the 4th floor. When I was negotiating to buy the building in 1999, a man named Jimmy, who had been employed as a super by the owners Alan and Alice Friedman for many years, told me there used to be a dance parlor in the place, and with nods and winks he suggested that where there was dancing, there was probably a brothel too. I have no idea if that's true as a generalization, let alone true for 345 Grand.
In any event, the dance ticket we discovered under the floorboards confirms that the 2nd floor was a dance hall, and the stairway that used to connect the 1st and 2nd floors suggests that it might have occupied both floors -- perhaps a lounge or smoking room downstairs? We Googled the performers, Little Willie and Big Sam Kaplan, and contacted a few Kaplans with a LES background but learned nothing more. We surmise that a confetti dance had the band playing a medley -- a polka, a waltz, etc -- and there's an 1889 short film cited on Google called The Confetti Dance, but no information about it.
That's about all I know, except for a few half-credible stories about Lou Reid and Blondie having (at different times) lived next door or behind us, on Ludlow.
(I am working on continuing Mr. Frazer’s research of Little Willie and Big Sam Kaplan and The Confetti Dance- stay tuned for what I find!)
While Mr. Frazer couldn't specify years, he did provide me with a ton of additional info to research, and so I did…
Not only was there a dancehall at 345 Grand, but when the building opened between Dec. 2 and Dec. 8, 1888, it did so as a “combination museum, theatre, menagerie and aquarium” in 1888.
“THE GRAND STREET MUSEUM A VERY humble east side place of amusement was THE GRAND STREET MUSEUM situated at Nos 345 and 347 Grand Street It was opened Dec 8 1888 and besides the living and other curiosities to be seen there dramatic performances were given and all could be enjoyed for ten cents.”
A history of the New York stage from the first performance in 1732 ..., Volume 2Yet another intriguing piece of New York City’s history, and folks, if you fancy yourself a new condo (FYI: according to the NY City Register, the building converted to the Grand Digs Condominium on April 8, 2003) -- some of the units are up for grabs.
By Thomas Allston Brown
‘til next time.
-A. B. Siegel
Thanks to Coretalks.com for the images.