11 February 2011

Otto's Scandinavian Bar


I've written a lot about South Brooklyn's vanished Scandinavian heritage in the past. I didn't think there was much I had missed. But this article, while covering a lot of the same familiar ground, turned up one toothsome tidbit that had escaped me.

I have passed by the above bar, at the corner of Columbia and Kane Streets, a couple hundred times, having no idea it was once a tavern with the glorious name of Otto's Scandinavian Bar. It was a popular watering hole, and was used as a location in the Jimmy Breslin-inspired film "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," before closing sometime in the 1980s. That would make it perhaps the last working vestige of the area's once teeming Norse population. From what I can gather, Otto himself tended bar well into the 1970s.

I found the mind-blowing picture below on the Who Walk in Brooklyn site. What fantastic signage Otto had. The painted words on the western side—"Otto's Forste Og Siste Stop—translate to "Otto's, First and Last Stop." A great motto for a bar if I ever saw one. On the north wall, I think it says "Otto Hansen," and man's full name.


Most recently, Otto's was the home of an uninspiring bar called Blue Stone Bar & Grill. It closed at least three years ago, and the space has remained dormant, though I'm told the owners of Blue Stone retain the lease. That may change soon. I've noticed that the old Blue Stone signs have been removed and the windows papered over. And today, I spied a man in a suit inside looking over some blueprints. Could his name be Otto Jr.?

12 comments:

Bob96 said...

There are 2 more traces: a former Norwegian Lutheran church at about 115 Pioneer St (Richard and Sullivan Sts), and at the VFW hall on Van Brunt/King, the WW1 memorial plaque is interesting for the almost exclusively Irish, Scots, and Norwegian names of the war dead.

Ken Mac said...

no short wave transmission! Wha?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Bob96: Yes, knew about the Pioneer St. church. Hadn't looked closely at the VFW hall plaque, tho.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Ken: I'm thinking that weird notice about short wave transmissions has something to do with the blasting that would lead to the decade-long dig of Columbia Street that went on through the 1970s and helped kill the neighborhood.

Bob96 said...

Those no blasting signs were all over, back in the day when I assume ConEd used them around the site. Pic of Otto's brings back fond memories of the exotic rumble of ship's horns from the Red Hook piers that would curl up Union St, as far as our place at 5th Ave, on a quiet night.

Frederick_F said...

I believe that the word "stop" in Norwegian also means "tankard", so there's a nice double meaning.

Ken K. said...

There's a nice exihibit about the history of Norwegians in Brooklyn at the Norwegian Christian Senior Home on 67th street between 12th & 13th Aves. No admission charge, you just have to sign in as a visitor.

They also have an annual Norwegian Festival with lots of Norwegian food & crafts.

Lou Lou Lou said...

Ken, Bob, and Brooks: Here is my explanation for the "No Short Wave Radio" signs hung above the open manhole. I believe the photo is actually a still from the film, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. In the plot of Breslin's book and Jerry Orbach's/Robert DeNiro's movie the fictional Joey Gallo gang are always improvising ways to kill off rival hoods. These schemes always backfire. One scheme in the movie that goes awry involved a gangster cousin who was a blasting specialist. The cops drive by the intended hit and send a message out over the squad car radio (remember those). Ah yes the inevitable- kapluey....another hood in a particularly bad movie rolls a seven. Rent the film from Netflix if you have a broken leg and your clicker is broken. That way you will be sure to get to this scene towards the end of the movie. Loved the book, the film cures insomnia- except the New York/Brooklyn setting.

Map of the Sidewalk said...

I think Lou Lou Lou is right. "27th Precinct", written on the car, ia apparently a commonly-used fictional precinct:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/07/06/2009-07-06_show_of_fauxce_the_cops_are_real__but_the_car_and_uniforms_not_in_bloomy_ad.html

Bob96 said...

Looks like we have a winner. Besides, the 27 would be in upper Manhattan, based on its numbering.

Anonymous said...

Hay
Iam not sure, but I think my dad own a diner on the corner of Columbia st. and Kane st. In the late 1940' the name was Casablanca, his nickname was Chris, he was from Denmark
Cheers Lars

Emil Hvitsand said...

Some more information on Otto's Bar here. (in Norwegian, but with photos of Otto himself and the interior of the bar):

http://skipshistorie.net/Otto/Otto%20Hansen.pdf