Monday, March 1, 2010

Questions for Curatorial: Basement Businesses

Curatorial Director Dave answers your questions.

Did another business occupy the basement storefront adjacent to Schneider’s saloon during the late 1860s and 1870s?

According to the 1873 New York City Business Directory, 97 Orchard Street resident Heinrich Dreyer operated a real estate office with his partner, Christian Stark, in the building’s basement storefront.

A longtime real estate agent in Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany, Hanover-born Heinrich Dreyer frequently listed commercial properties for sale in German-language newspapers such as the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung.

By 1873, Dreyer appears to have partnered with Wurttemberg-born Christian Stark. Available records indicate that in 1873, 28-year-old Stark lived with his mother, brother, and two sisters at 45 Forsyth Street.

Interestingly, the 1870 US Census indicates that Stark had previously owned a local liquor store. How did he get into the real estate business? Evidence suggests that, in 1870, his mother Catherine owned $20,000 worth of real estate. It is possible that she helped her son invest and enabled him to partner with Heinrich Dreyer.

More recent architectural probes in 97 Orchard Street's basement strongly suggests that the saloon took up the entire basement space. Therefore, it's likely that Dreyer and Stark operated their business out of the bar, which was a gathering space and often used for political meetings and social events.

Tomorrow, read about a few of the businesses that operated out of 97 Orchard in the early 20th century.

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