Post tagged with


Local Legends | 35 Cooper Square

35COOPER-00_Banner-Slide01Clockwise from top left: (1.) Bowery Elevated Train, circa 1896; (2.) Bowery near Bleecker, circa 1915; (3.) 35 Cooper Square in February this year; (4.) Boys on the Bowery selling chewing gum, 1910; (5.) A Union enlistee of the New York 86th Regiment and his betrothed, circa 1861. All images courtesy Library of Congress, except (3.) lower right, photo illustration by Tim Milk

Local historian Tim Milk recalls dark episodes which never quite extinguished the charm of 35 Cooper Square.

They could hardly believe the fellow, wanting to go back to his regiment. Especially considering what he had seen: the rout of the Union at the bloody battle of Bull Run. There, the heroic Lieutenant John S. Whyte, who had refused to leave his wounded commander, fell into Confederate hands. But in a recent prisoner of war exchange, he was returned home to his kith and kin in New York.

But he did not wish to retire with honors. Indeed, he was keen to “return to the fight,” he said.

And so his pals shook their heads and dragged him down to the Marshall House, a tavern at 391 Bowery, an address we know today as 35 Cooper Square. There they presented him with a sword and a sash in an affair both touching and festive. After a grand hurrah, the champagne flowed like a river long into that night of March the 21st, 1862.

This I found in the archives of the New York Times, in a curious walk down that ancient lane, the Bowery. From out of each door came someone with a tale to tell which, except for these old papers, and poor relics like 35 Cooper Square, would otherwise have vanished, lost in time.

“Time,” Stephen Hawking once said, “…whatever that is.” Even he doesn’t pretend to know. As the so-called future, it is but a mere concept. As the past, it holds everything that has ever happened, and leads all the way back to eternity. There it washes up on distant shores for no apparent reason, except perhaps for our return. Read more…

Your Voices | More on 35 Cooper

35 Cooper Square 1Claire Glass Scaffolding began to rise around 35 Cooper Square last month.

Comments have continued to stream into The Local about an opinion piece by NYU Journalism’s Greg Howard that questioned the value of preserving 35 Cooper Square.

A sampling of reactions from the weekend.

One reader, “archietexture,” wrote:

“Residents recognize that new development of dorms, luxury hotels and condos does not benefit them. But being made a symbol doesn’t mean that 35 Cooper is not historically significant. Its loss will be a tragedy, and a travesty of the Landmarks process.”

Defending the preservation of the building, “Eastvillagearts” said:

“I’m certainly not arguing for places to be frozen in time – that would be counter to the compelling power of NYC’s continuing relevance. But there are places that have been particularly important to communities that need to be preserved. There are people and organizations and businesses that helped make neighborhoods what they are today who should be helped to stay. And the truth is that continued diversity and eclecticism is part of what continues to attract new residents, visitors and investment. The irony is that the market is attracted to precisely what it tends to destroy – authenticity.”

Elliott Hurwitt considered the legacy of unchecked development:

“But the developers will leave behind an immeasurably impoverished urban environment, one with no cultural resonance whatever, regardless of what you say about the East Village harboring the next di Prima, Hendrix or Madonna. The first of these 3 could never find a haven there now, affordable urban space in NYC is OVER, so there will be no further undergrounds, no beatniks, etc., that ended a long time ago.”

“Carol from East 5th Street” said the restaurant that occupied site in recent years transcended being just a watering hole for students:

“It was much, much more to me, my family, friends and neighbors. For most Sundays since the restaurant reopened as Cooper 35 Asian Pub and for the years before when it was Dolphins, it was where we had Sunday dinner. It was where we had gatherings of family and friends for just about every important event such as birthdays, graduations, milestones in our lives.”

Another reader, J.T., offered support for Mr. Howard:

“I think this is a good editorial piece. You spoke your opinion and caused great hype, mostly negative. But I believe that is just an older generation who is not ready for change. They are mad at Generation Y who are experiencing this vast change in lifestyle from the previous generations, where history in not of great importance. Generation Y likes and has experienced much change, which the older generations just aren’t as apt about. Everyone has an opinion.”

Another reader, “Mose,” recalled the building’s history:

“these buildings are cultural treasures literally, physical manifestations of 350 years of stories set in the most remarkable place humans have ever co-existed. men and women walked through the door of 35 cooper who were on the bowery only a generation earlier and watched as washington rode by. i feel fortunate to live in a place where i get to walk past these time capsules daily, history becomes tactile and experiential. ”

Final Tenants Reflect on 35 Cooper

35 Cooper SQ.: The scrim of DeathTim Milk As the historic site at 35 Cooper Square faces the prospect of demolition, the building’s last tenants – Hisae Vilca, and her granddaughter, Rachel Lindenberg (below), who operated the 35 Asian Pub – recalled their memories of working and living in the oldest building on Cooper Square.
35 Cooper Square Last TenantsSuzanne Rozdeba

As preservationists make last-ditch efforts to keep 35 Cooper Square standing, its last tenants, Hisae Vilca, and her granddaughter, Rachel Lindenberg, retraced their own history in the little house and the pub Ms. Vilca ran on the ground floor for the past five years while she lived upstairs.

“I love everything old, including me. I love antiques, and I loved that building,” said Ms. Vilca, 77, who came to New York from her native Japan five decades ago and who customers fondly called “Grandma.” She opened the bar, a neighborhood favorite, in 2006. “I had a very sentimental attachment to the house. Some of the other people were just tenants. But for me, it was a different kind of attachment,” she said.

The federal-style house, built around 1825, is under threat of demolition after the developer Arun Bhatia began construction there on Feb. 4. A Stop Work Order has been in place since Feb. 14 because of a broken fence at the back of the site, and inspectors found two violations, for failing to publicly display a work permit and failing to properly protect the public and nearby property.

Closing day on Jan. 29 brought customers and staff to tears, Ms. Vilca said. “They were all crying. I had customers, young and old, who would come every day, rain or shine. The last day, everybody’s crying and getting drunk,” she said, “I had to go upstairs.”
Read more…