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Dinner and a Movie, for Over 100 Years, at 143 and 137 East Houston Street

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You probably already know that New York City is a haven for movie fans. There are dozens to choose from in Manhattan alone, from the multiplexes at 42nd Street and Union Square to the basement art theaters on 12th and 13th Streets. The Lincoln Center-66th Street stop alone has at least four movie theaters within a three block radius.

My three favorite movie theaters in New York City can all be found on Houston Street. The Film Forum at 209 West Houston has been screening movies since 1970 when it was just a single projector and a few rows of folding chairs. It’s still fairly small, but it probably has the best repertory film program in New York City. For modern films, the Angelika at Houston and Mercer has a terrific selection, and I’ve always been charmed by the occasional rumble of the 6 train rolling by. But if you’re looking for a great space, it’s hard to do better than the Landmark Sunshine at 143 East Houston.* With five screens stretched across three floors, the Sunshine is a g…

Park Avenue Between 50th and 51st: St. Bartholomew's Church (PART 2 OF 2)

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Hey guys, thanks for sticking with me through this week's two-parter! If you haven't read part 1, go take a look at Manhattan's largest brewery and the first lager in America. Today we continue with our history of Park and 51st with the current structure, St. Bartholomew's Church (St. Bart's to his fellow New Yorkers.)

Park Avenue Between 50th and 51st: America's First Lager (PART 1 OF 2)

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With the huge influx of German immigrants in the first half of the 19th century, Manhattan was introduced to a wide range of new foods that would go on to become staples of the American menu. Immigrants from Frankfurt and Hamburg would bring their taste for wursts and ground beef that would evolve to the all-American hot dog and hamburger. And in 1842, two brothers from Wetzlar, Germany would introduce Manhattan to a new beer to wash it all down.

New York was no stranger to beer, of course. The earliest brewery dates back to 1633 at Bridge Street and Whitehall, and the New Amsterdam taverns that dotted lower Manhattan were central to Dutch and English society. New York is still covered with references to old family names who began as brewers: Bayard, Cortlandt, Kip, and Beekman to name just a few. In the early 1800s, New York bars predominantly served British-style beers, light on hops but heavy on malt, with a low amount of carbonation and a high alcohol content. Think of today's…

Kit Burns' Rat Pit at 273 Water Street

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"Most of our readers have witnessed a dog fight in the street. Let them imagine the animals surrounded by a crowd of brutal wretches whose conduct stamps them as beneath the struggling beasts, and they will have a fair idea of the scene at Kit Burns's."  - Secrets of the Great City, Edward Winslow Martin
Just down the block from the Hole in the Wall is a three-story brick building at 273 Water Street. Built in 1773, 273 Water is the third-oldest building in Manhattan, behind only St. Paul's Chapel on lower Broadway and the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem Heights. The first resident was a mahogany trader named Joseph Rose. Captain Rose built a comfortable two-story home with a steep-pitched roof, three fireplaces, a wooden sidewalk out front, and a dock out back where he moored his brig, the Industry. Later occupants would include tenant Abraham Walton, a vestryman at Trinity Church and a delegate to the First Provincial Congress in 1775, and son Isaac Rose, who ran an a…

The Terminal Hotel at 11th Avenue and 23rd Street

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This weekend I had the pleasure of going to the Brooklyn Beefsteak at the Bell House in Gowanus. It was an awesome event, and I probably ate more meat than any sane human being has a right to eat. Beefsteaks have been a tradition in New York since the late 1800s, when they served as fundraisers for civic and political organizations. Men (and they were always men; beefsteaks remained stag until 1920) would rent out meeting halls or cellars, stretch planks of wood over barrels, and then start cooking slices of steak tenderloin in butter and drippings.
The details differ from event to event, but the general outlines have remained the same: unlimited steak, unlimited beer, and no utensils. If your hands got too greasy from the meat, you'd wash them in a little beer and wipe them on your personalized apron. Steak would be served on slices of bread, though the bread is typically not eaten. Instead, a beefsteaker would eat the steak, then stack the bread next to him to keep track of how…

BLOCK PARTY: Doyers Street Between Pell and Bowery

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Hey guys! Welcome to Fort Amsterdam's first Block Party, where we'll explore the rich history of a single Manhattan block. This month, take a stroll down "the Bloody Angle," Doyers Street between Pell and Bowery. 


Hole in the Wall at 279 Water Street

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279 Water Street has been known by many names since it was built in 1794. It started life as a waterfront grocery run by Newell Narme. (At the time, Water Street marked the eastern edge of Manhattan, much like Beaver and Pearl before it and Front Street after.) The property changed hands many times in the 19th century, notably to attorney Charles G. Ferris, who leased the property to a host of saloons.
The most famous of these was the Hole in the Wall, owned by the aptly named One-Armed Charley Monell. Hole in the Wall was what's known as  a "pull joint." Rather than use glasses, a thirsty patron would pay three cents to drink as much as they could in one breath from rubber tubes connected to barrels of rotgut behind the bar. One-Armed Charley also kept a glass jar full of pickling juice next to the barrels. Waterfront brawlers would return from fights and deposit their "trophies" of severed ears, fingers, and noses into the jar.