This past holiday weekend, New Yorkers flocked to Coney Island for the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the fireworks display, and to enjoy the beach and boardwalk. For some, though, traveling all the way out to the end of Brooklyn with beach chairs and coolers is daunting, which is why it’s sad to learn that back in the 19th century, there was another amusement destination in the city, at the site of present-day LaGuardia Airport.
Bowery Bay Beach (later named North Beach) opened in 1886 on the shores of Bowery and Flushing Bays. Built by noted piano manufacturer William Steinway in partnership with brewer George Ehret, it included beaches, swimming pavilions, a huge beer hall, zoo, and the Gala Amusement Park. At one time it was more popular than the parks in Brooklyn, earning it the moniker “the Coney Island of Queens.”
So what happened?
For those of us who came to the city within the past decade, it’s hard to imagine East 14th Street without its stretch of bulky NYU dorms, big-box supermarkets, and mini-chain restaurants. But of course this wasn’t always what the area looked like. In the late 19th century, the area centered around Irving Place, was full of entertainment venues like the Academy of Music, the city’s opera house, Steinway Hall, Tammany Hall, and the City Theatre movie house. And at the heart of it all was a restaurant that catered to both the theater crowd and the German population of the East Village–Luchow’s.
Luchow’s was established in 1882 at 110 East 14th Street at Irving Place when German immigrant August Lüchow purchased the café/beer garden where he worked as a bartender and waiter. It remained in operation for a full century, becoming an unofficial neighborhood and city landmark, until it was replaced by NYU’s University Hall dormitory.
Read the full history here